We’ve had a wee glimpse of what life would be like if Tom Harris won the leadership of Scottish Labour over the last couple of weeks – and it isn’t a pretty sight.
The debate on the future of our nation, which should be full of vision and detail, currently has neither. If it’s left to Labour and the SNP, or more specifically Harris and Salmond, all we’re going to have for the next five years is sterile, macho posturing in a series of manufactured squabbles. It makes me want to run into the middle and shout “STOP!” The independence referendum itself will not take place for at least three years – I’m actually not sure I can cope with this sort of nonsense for that long. That’s not to say I think Westminster should call a referendum unless there is a very clear indication that the Scottish people want them to.
It’s actually doing my head in. What would an independent observer see? A diverse nation deciding its future – but the main voices heard are two white middle aged men shouting at each other and not listening to anything the people are saying.
If I see another Tom Harris #riggedreferendum tweet I’m likely to scream. Mr Harris has decided that the SNP are trying to rig the result by giving 16 and 17 year olds the vote. For me, it’s simple. I’ve always been in favour of votes at 16, the principle is right – if we take their money in taxes, we need to give them a say in the spending of those taxes. It really is that simple. I might remark in passing that this is one long standing SNP policy that they could have passed for Council elections in minority Government with Green and Lib Dem backing.
But rather than actually going to find some young people and discussing their vision for the future of Scotland and explaining his – you know, good old fashioned civilised debate – Tom Harris decides to insult every young person in the country by suggesting that somehow their votes aren’t valuable. His assumption, too, that they’d all vote for independence is not a huge amount of help to those of us who don’t want to see independence.
The SNP are little better. Yes, I see a better, more secure future for Scotland as part of a federal UK, but I’d really, really like to understand and learn more from them about their reasoning for independence and how it would work in practice. I don’t want to hear about dry constitutional stuff going back hundreds of years – I want to hear about how my pension would work under independence, how much money we’d have to spend on schools and hospitals, how I’d still get my Child Benefit, exactly how these databases would be split and, crucially, how much it would cost. If Anna had a job in England, would she be chucked out on the day Scotland became independent? I mean, would Scotland be accepted as a member of the EU from Day One? If so, then she’d be fine under EU rules, but would she need a work permit and how would she go about getting it. And if there were a majority Tory Government in England (or even a Labour one given the stuff they’ve been coming out with on immigration recently), would she be subject to some sort of quota? I could go on. I will – but I need to head into town now as Anna’s Winter boots won’t, however much I might like them to, buy themselves.
Rather than actual detail from the SNP, we’re getting attacks on Westminster at every single opportunity combined with vague, idealistic utterances about the utopia that an independent Scotland would be. I wouldn’t buy a house without checking it didn’t have dry rot,solid foundations and that it was put together properly. I can’t imagine the people of Scotland will want any less detail on the future of their home nation.
This debate could be so much better. Scotland deserves calm, reasoned, engaging debate on its future. Of course emotions will play a part – but game playing and negativity should not be tolerated. I include my lot in that too. Mike Moore is the most reasonable person on the planet, and I can’t criticise anything he’s said so far in all of this. Danny Alexander, on the other hand, needs to take a wee bit of a look at how he’s coming across. I didn’t particularly feel comfortable watching him, in his penguin suit at the CBI dinner ( I mean the bow tie, not that he was actually dressed as a penguin – it wasn’t Gregory’s Girl), tell Scotland that we couldn’t make ends meet as an independent country. I know you can’t go to these events in jeans, but it just looked all wrong.
I don’t agree with independence, but that doesn’t mean to say that I think that the idea is inherently incompatible with liberalism and I don’t want to hear that from any of our lot. There is a superior, narcissistic sort of insular looking nationalism that is pretty ugly and we do sometimes see that from the SNP. I agreed wholeheartedly with the release of Megrahi but this from Kenny MacAskill on the day made me wince:
“In Scotland, we are a people who pride ourselves on our humanity.