EVERY week for the last few months, the Scotsman has published a longform essay on the key issues surrounding the Scottish independence debate. As the polling date approaches, we’ve collated these essays in one place so that our readers may access the broad scope of opinion from politicians, campaigners and voters on both sides of the debate.
by Louise Batchelor, 16 Apr
“After leaving BBC Scotland five years ago, I joined the Scottish Greens. It was my first opportunity to join a political party and years of reporting environmental degradation and injustice made them the obvious choice. Scottish Greens also support independence. As the party says: “Bringing political and economic structures and decision-making closer to the Scottish people is a core Green principal and ambition.””
But it’s one thing going along with the party line – quite another making a public stand. Like most folk, I’m pretty brave in company.”
by Douglas Alexander, 23 Apr
“As present-day Scots, we are connected with a tradition of literature, culture, faith and philosophical thinking that has shaped not just our nation and our United Kingdom but has also contributed a great deal to what we now call liberal democracy across the globe.
“And our Scottish identity, the recognition of our past contributions across the globe, and the warm reception with which Scots are treated will not be altered by the referendum result in September. Because the heart of our story lies as far back as the conundrum of the Scottish Enlightenment; that extraordinary struggle between two views of the human condition.”
by James Macmillan, 30 Apr
“In 2010 the Canadian academic Susan Wilson unearthed some correspondence in the National Library of Scotland between MacDiarmid and Sorley MacLean, his friend, fellow poet and fellow radical political thinker. In these letters, as late as 1941, it is revealed that MacDiarmid regarded Hitler and the Nazis as potentially more benign rulers than the British government in Westminster.
“He was known for his controversial views as a young man. In two articles written in 1923, Plea for a Scottish Fascism and Programme for a Scottish Fascism, he appeared to support Mussolini’s regime. But the revelation of ambivalent, even pro-Nazi, sentiments during the Second World War has come as a shock.”
By Angus Robertson, 7 May
“When it comes to stability and security, the white paper underlines that as a northern maritime nation, Scotland will have the capabilities and commitment to work together with neighbours and allies. We will have the conventional vessels and aircraft based in Scotland to take our responsibilities seriously. This was underlined in a speech given to the Brookings Institute by First Minister Alex Salmond in Washington DC.
“Even with the limited powers of devolution, the Scottish Government has been making progress, recently launching a Nordic Baltic policy statement, jointly hosting a conference with the Norwegian government and regularly meeting with ministers from across the region.”
by Alistair Carmichael, 14 May
“At the risk of sounding immodest, can I suggest that if there was such a game as Scottish Top Trumps, you would definitely want me as one of your cards.
“I was born and raised on Islay, I went to a Scottish state school, graduated from a Scottish university, practised Scots Law, am a member of the Church of Scotland, and I have a relationship with green vegetables which can only be described as “troubled”.
“I’m Scottish; and it is precisely because of that rather than in spite of it that I’m fighting as hard as I possibly can for us to remain part of the UK.”
by Kevin Pringle, 21 May
“The decision we took in the last referendum in 1997 – to have a Scottish Parliament, and to invest it with limited taxation powers – enshrined Scotland’s status as a self-governing country. We may have forgotten some of the rougher edges and harsher words of that debate, and younger people may find it surprising, but whether or not Scotland should have ANY devolved powers was just as heated and controversial a debate as the one we are having now about independence. Indeed, I sometimes think the only substantive difference is that it took place before the advent of social media.
“Many of the arguments from the No campaign then were the same as the No campaign now, centring on the economy and affordability, and were sometimes delivered by the same people.
“Just a week before the 1997 referendum, William Hague said that “devolution would make no difference to schools, to hospitals, to jobs or to business. The tartan tax would lead to foreign investors saying no to Scotland.””
by Blair McDougall, 28 May
“I have been lucky enough to have lived or worked in almost all of the great cities of the UK. When I think of the people I lived beside in London, or worked alongside in Liverpool, Manchester, Cardiff or Hull, I don’t think of people with alien values. I see friends and family with the same hopes and fears as people in Aberdeen, Edinburgh or Glasgow.
“I recognise the things that make the different parts of our Union unique, but this diversity is a reason to come together, not to split apart. The jumble of talents, identities, cultures and creativity strengthens us all for being part of it.”
by Tommy Sheppard, 4 Jun
“My name is Tommy Sheppard and I’m voting Yes. That’s not something I would have said a few years ago. For more than two decades, I was an active member of the Labour Party: a parliamentary candidate, a councillor for eight years, and a full-time official for three.
“All my adult life, I’ve believed in what used to be called social democracy: strong public services paid for through progressive taxation; government economic action to temper capitalism, including some ownership in key sectors; tolerance and equality at home and a foreign policy to combat global poverty.”
by Gavin Hewitt, 11 Jun
“A key matter of personal concern to everyone is the future currency of Scotland. Much has already been said on the subject; but it is absurd, and dangerous, to reject the stated position of the three UK parties likely to form a future UK government that there will be no sterling currency union. The UK rejection is not a bargaining chip.
“The UK position is absolutely consistent with its position on the euro. Lack of a currency union will cost England, Wales and Northern Ireland additional transaction costs when trading with Scotland, but they will be proportionately a fraction of the costs falling on those living and working in Scotland. Scotland might adopt the pound unilaterally, but in so doing would lose all control over monetary policy.
“It seems that the Scottish Government doesn’t want to address the currency issue properly because it would have to spell out to the electorate what that would mean for their wallets.”
by Jonathon Shafi, 18 Jun
“Britain is run for the rich, by the rich. The intersection of Westminster and corporations and wealthy individuals is empirically identifiable. For example, Monitor is the name of the group set up to help oversee and enforce the entry of the private sector into the NHS in England. Out of the nine members on Monitor’s senior management board, three worked for KPMG and two for City consultancy firm, McKinsey.
“Both firms have previously won contracts for private finance schemes, and are winning big contracts as a result of NHS reforms. Companies are dividing up the NHS for private profit, and it is government policy to do so. In the House of Lords, 142 peers linked to companies involved in private healthcare were able to vote on the health bill that opened the way to sweeping outsourcing which McKinsey helped draw up.”
by George Robertson, 25 Jun
“The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is one of the greatest alliances the world has ever seen. It would be a Scottish and indeed global tragedy for it to break up.
“When the polls open on 18 September, we in Scotland will face the lifetime choice between voting for a vague, uncertain vision – or remaining in a remarkable country where our distinctive Scottish identity remains secure and our interests are guaranteed by the united strength of our United Kingdom.”
by Isobel Lindsay, 2 Jul
“What has been most marked about the current campaign is that the real driving force has been on the ground, not from the political or media elites. This doesn’t mean that the big players don’t count, just that there is great energy and ability out there which has been triggered into action by the referendum. The No side has the three Westminster parties, a big initial poll lead, overwhelming print media support and most of big business opinion.
“But the activists on the Yes side decided to do their own thing. It was a handful of young leftists who decided in 2012 to organise a Radical Independence conference (and charge for it) and some of us were very surprised when 800 people turned up. This has developed into a distinctive campaign on the ground.
“It was a handful of young people with an arts background who decided to set up National Collective, which has been a source of great material and creative events. It was a small group who set up Business for Scotland, now with a large membership. The list of groups for Yes is a long one – academics, health service workers, lawyers, trade unionists and many more – and these have been largely self-starting.”
by Adam Tomkins, 9 Jul
“Scots see in the SNP leader an effective champion for Scotland and this – not his constitutional politics – is what they like about him. The only English politician able at the moment to play a similar role is Boris Johnson, the mayor of London. He defends and celebrates London’s interests, nationally and internationally, in much the same way that the First Minister does for Scotland. Thus a Tory mayor is able to win office in Labour London, as a Nationalist First Minister has in unionist Scotland.”
by Patrick Harvie, 16 Jul
“The UK Government argues that its power to access your phone and internet data is a vital part of keeping you safe. But it’s hard to deny that the Bill represents an unprecedented open acknowledgement of the change that we’ve only read about in leaks and unguarded admissions before now; that state surveillance is no longer a matter of targeting suspects who are known to pose a threat, and that the Government now sees fit to apply it routinely to the entire population, regardless of that antique notion of the presumption of innocence.”
by Ruth Davidson, 23 Jul
“The vision that we all share after a No vote is one of a more powerful and more balanced Scottish Parliament, backed up by the strength and stability of the whole United Kingdom.
For our own part, the Conservatives strongly believe that a Scottish Parliament, in charge of spending tens of billions of pounds, should be in charge of raising sums too. Future first ministers and finance secretaries should have to look taxpayers in the face and tell them how much of their money they want to take, and what they want to spend it on. Until now, no first minister has had to consider the hard-pressed Scottish taxpayer before deciding spending policy.”
by Billy Kay, 29 Jul
“One of the problems of Scots not being educated in their own history, art and literature is a debilitating cultural cringe which has developed – the Catalans call the same phenomenon the “slave mentality”. Most people of my generation, for example, were taught to look down on their native languages, be they Scots or Gaelic. MacDiarmid’s great quote “Tae be yersels and tae mak that worth bein/Nae harder job tae mortals has been gien” sums up the dilemma perfectly. It is difficult to be fully and confidently yourself if major cultural institutions like the media or the education system have given little prestige to your culture all your life. “Given that, Don Roberto’s description of some Scottish people as “born without imagination” is perhaps harsh. It is though, perfectly apt in describing the career politicians of the Unionist parties, whose main vision has little to do with the welfare of their people, but all to do with an ermine-clad future for themselves as servants of the British state.”
by Colin Kidd and Gregg McClymont, 6 Aug
“Scots, it is now too widely believed for comfort, are a colonised nation, ruled over by a dominant caste of English colonisers. Or “Westminster” in the language of Yes. This is not only largely nonsensical as history, but offensive and insulting to many non-white, non-European peoples who did, in fact, find themselves oppressed or even dispossessed by the “British” Empire.”
by Adrian Wooldridge, 13 Aug
“The Nordics spent almost 50 years after the war trying to perfect the People’s Home. By the early 1990s Sweden’s government gobbled up three-quarters of national wealth and Sweden’s top-rate tax payers handed over almost all their income in taxes. But the People’s Home became increasingly dilapidated: Sweden went from being the fourth-richest country in Europe in the early 1970s to the 14th richest in the early 1990s, behind Britain and Italy. And the Home collapsed completely in a succession of crises in the early 1990s that saw banks collapse and interest rates rising to 500 per cent. Since then the Nordics have introduced a radically new economic model that owes more to Thatcherism than to socialism.”
by Canon Kenyon Wright, 20 Aug
“Don’t be fooled by the various vague promises of more devolution. The press called me the Godfather of Devolution. Well, as the Godfather of Dev, I tell you this – the child has grown up and outgrown devolution, no matter how Max, for two reasons. Firstly, because it leaves crucial constitutional and economic areas to be decided by London. Secondly, because devolution is power by gift; or, perhaps, it is really power on loan, for gifts can’t be taken back. Power devolved is power retained. To the road of fear, with its illusion of security and real threats to Scotland’s future, we say: “No thanks.””
by Johann Lamont, 27 Aug
“The most surprising thing has been [the SNP’s] willingness to continue sharing sovereignty with the UK. On so many areas, they concede the necessity to keep sharing with our friends and neighbours, most notably on currency and monetary policy, but they seek to enfeeble Scotland rather than strengthen us. Their independence comes at the price of less representation and less influence not more.
“They also want to share financial regulation, have a common energy market, UK-wide lottery funding, UK-wide research funding, the same lender of last resort, Ministry of Defence shipbuilding contracts, the Bank of England and open borders. In fact, whenever the Nationalists are hit with a tough question, the answer always seems to be to keep things the same.”