Ben said this yesterday (the bold is mine):
To me, the Scots Independence debate seems to have shown a yearning not so much for separation, but rather for a state and a country that means something – for a better democracy.
I think we can (and definitely should) all share that aspiration, but the idea that Scotland by cutting loose will be free from the denationalising forces of global wealth and power that bear down on us and our governments is fanciful – if anything it will be more vulnerable to them, as will the rest of us. [...]
This I agree with, though with a number of caveats I shall outline in a minute. He goes on to assert:
[...] There will be positive aspects in coming to terms with the reduced status that separation will bring, but they are nothing that could not be achieved within the union.
First, the caveats I mention. Yes. The smaller you are, the more likely you are to find yourself vulnerable to globalising forces you may not be able to resist. However, having said that, it’s clear that the United Kingdom, as it stands, is in thrall to – has been in thrall to for decades now – those globalising forces which look to play off one nation’s workforces against another nation’s standards of living. And instead of encouraging the payment of living wages, successive governments have subsidised large companies by an infrastructure of tax credits and other dependency-creating measures – all designed to weakly and ineffectually serve the hopes and working pride of generations of working people. Just because you’re as big as the UK (as it has been to date) doesn’t mean you can necessarily make a different sociopolitical landscape out of what the globalisers want the world to toil under.
Nor that our politicians are going to be big-hearted or courageous enough – or even have that persistence and cognisance of a broader vision – to want to make that important difference Ben is clearly looking for.
Equally, just because you are smaller doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t take firm stances against the kind of destruction of living standards taking place at the moment. Iceland is an example of how small can sometimes mean humongous; and although I’m not saying we should necessarily follow their lead in the substance of such matters, I am saying we should be prepared to accept that size doesn’t have to be a question of numbers – it can also be a question of how assertively we exhibit our principles.
The second quote I took from Ben’s piece, where he argues that the positives we surely all desire can exist without but also within the Union, hits the nail, perhaps unconsciously, on the head: if I were in the unenviable position of voting in this election, I would still be wavering I can tell you. For me, nothing at all that the “No” camp has said has convinced me that the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. Whilst Tories and Lib Dems have laid waste over the past four years to what once was a gloriously eccentric, fudging and generally socially responsible body politic, there is little left in public discourse – as mediated by our politicians, anyhow – which I find myself currently treasuring or wishing to rescue.
If the “Yes” camp wins in just a few days’ time, it will be because too many people have not been convinced by a “more of the same” argument. An argument, in fact, which could have been couched in quite other terms: “Take this opportunity by the scruff of the constitutional neck to implement a total overhaul of everything we do – and are!”
But no. The “No” camp simply believes in “more of the same”, precisely because the “No” camp has spent the last four years destroying all the evidence and practice of what truly made the United Kingdom united.
They have lost all contact with “what we used to be”, precisely because they have turned that “what we were” into that “what we used to be”. With awful intentionality and deliberation, and with a clear ideology designed to disembowel everything which did clearly, naturally and beautifully bind us together in a constructive cultural dissonance.
We once were “better together”, of that I am sure – but not any more, I’m pretty clear. Not in the light of historic child abuse; not in the light of historic police corruption; not in the light of media-led manipulation of democracy and its institutions; not in the light of a socialism by stealth which actually – in the end – turned out to be the anteroom of a neoliberalism by shock and awe.
My advice for what it’s worth, then, to those with a right to vote in this referendum?
Vested interests will always use fear to defend their positions. Voters’ sacred task is to filter their own from vested, & vote accordingly.
And that’s really the society we should be yearning for.
And that’s really the legacy we should be wishing to rescue with this damnably conflicted vote.