Nigel’s Notes - Referendum is not about policy

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The question is “should Scotland be an independent country?” not “could Scotland be an independent country?”.

Even David Cameron accepts that we could be. But the issue is bigger and different from normal elections; and I know from doorstep conversations that this is causing some confusion.

We are unused to discussing where policy decisions should be made; elections are about what those policy decisions should be. Of course it helps if electors have trust in those proposing their preferred policy and generally speaking I suggest that we actually vote for a party which we think best represents our overall views on government policy. So we judge a party on what it has recently achieved if it has been in office, and on what it proposes to do in the future provided we think this is credible.

But this referendum is not about policy – not least because the No campaign have steadfastly refused to suggest any. It is not about who personally makes our national decisions, but where those decisions are made. It is not about David Cameron, Alistair Darling, Alex Salmond, Jim Murphy, Johann Lamont, John Swinney or anyone else.

The decision is whether to allow the Westminster Government to continue to manage all our financial and international affairs in the context of the United Kingdom or whether we want those things to be in the hands of the Scottish Government at Holyrood.

It is the contention of those who support independence that the best decisions for Scotland will be made by those who live and work here, for the pretty obvious reasons that we are most affected by them and will have to live with the consequences.

It seems to me that the referendum has been good for our democracy. We are having a national debate about the future in a way which we have not seen in my lifetime and which can only be good for us as a society. The result will be a national milestone whichever way it goes.

Either we will have opted to be a normal independent nation or we will have affirmed our desire to be part of the union. This is a question which has not been democratically decided before. Whatever the outcome it will be our job as MSPs to get on with it.

I note that we are able to conduct this kind of debate in a free society rather than at the point of a gun. Only someone who is totally media blind will not see that his is unusual in today’s world.

As we approach the Armistice events later in the autumn we would do well to remember that this freedom came at a terrible price. I’d be grateful if those who deface posters and are tempted to throw eggs would remember that the price of freedom is not just eternal vigilance but a recognition that others are entitled to hold a different opinion.

I find it remarkable that the No campaign parties periodically talk about more powers for the Scottish parliament. Not only can they not agree about what they might be but they are the parties who quite specifically talk a third option off the ballot paper. The reality is that more powers don’t help much.

If we want to tackle the economic and social scourge of inequality the we need to be able to mange all the tax powers, to create jobs, and welfare payments to protect our most vulnerable. It we are to carry ourselves in the world then we need to be making our own decisions about diplomacy and our defence capability and foreign involvement.

The referendum is about whether we want to act as a normal nation, or remain beholden to the rest of the UK. It is our choice.