By Alan Bissett
We’re used to being told about the apocalypse which might visit us after Scottish independence, but what’s talked about far less - deliberately, of course - are the enormous risks of a No vote.
While the No campaign can only speculate about what might befall an independent Scotland, we can be fairly sure about the future of the UK based on its current climate.
Economically, the UK is going through a slump more protracted than the Great Depression. While we should not place much faith in the prognosis of ratings agencies, it is still telling that the UK has just lost the AAA credit rating which affects its international borrowing rates and which we were told by George Osborne the ‘debt reduction’ was supposed to protect.
Moody’s, the agency which downgraded the UK, has predicted that the UK’s economic growth will remain ‘sluggish’ for the foreseeable future. Despite this evident failure, Osborne has promised to ‘stay the course’, which in the real world means further savage cuts to the public sector and the living standards of ordinary people.
Labour, it’s worth noting, have also pledged to ‘ruthlessly’ pursue cuts, so there’s no point looking to them, or the busted Lib Dems, for an alternative. So the future of the UK is one of bleak austerity, of which the stealth privatisation of the NHS and the coalition’s hated ‘Bedroom Tax’ are only the beginning.
It’s worth pointing out that 91 per cent of Scots MPs voted against the Bedroom Tax - which alone shows our inability to protect ourselves against Westminster - but that Labour’s Alistair Darling, Gordon Brown and Ian Davidson, major voices in the ‘Better Together’ campaign, were not among them.
Politically, Westminster is heading to the right. UKIP coming second place in the Eastleigh by-election, ahead of the Tories, will mean a great deal of anxious re-positioning by the other parties before the next election. Cameron’s promised referendum on an EU exit is a sign of things to come.
It also means, of course, that Scotland now has less chance of staying in the EU if it votes against independence than if it votes for it, the very opposite of what Better Together has been saying all along!
So while the Tories chase UKIP voters, Labour chase Tory voters. Ed Miliband’s recent pledge to help the ‘squeezed middle’ is carefully packaged Tory language, designed to appeal to Daily Mail readers.
References to low-earners, the working class or the unemployed are absent from Labour rhetoric, meaning that it’s inconceivable that we’ll see a party in Westminster which can deliver for the majority of working people.
Finally, we should ask ourselves why neither Westminster nor the Better Together campaign have revealed an alternative to independence, despite the neutral Electoral Commission insisting that they do so.
There have been veiled references to ‘enhanced devolution’ with absolutely no detail about what this will involve. This means Westminster has no intention whatsoever of granting Scotland anything in the result of a No vote, for the simple reason that it won’t have to.
Cameron fought to exclude Devo Max from the ballot paper for a reason. At the moment, the threat of independence is the only bargaining chip that Scotland has with Westminster. If we vote No, the sole message that London will hear is: do whatever you like to us, because we don’t care enough about ourselves to stop you. This could actually mean a reversal in devolution.
The West Lothian Question, whereby Scots MPs can vote on English-only affairs, and the Barnett Formula, which determines the extent of Scotland’s ‘grant’ from the UK, have long been bugbears for right-wingers in Westminster.
Feeling pressure from UKIP, it’s very possible that the Tories (or even Labour) may seek to ‘correct’ these imbalances. At the very least, Scotland will see a lowering of its block grant - under the guise of ‘deficit reduction’ - meaning there will only be so much Holyrood can do to protect Scotland’s NHS and public services.
Whatever might happen, at least with independence Scotland can control its response to a crisis. With a No vote we cede that control to a government in another country which does not have Scotland’s best interests in mind.
That is not democracy and it does not make sense.
Courtesy of the Scottish Socialist Voice