A selection of images including the cover to Titanic Terastructures, A Quiet Afternoon 2, Thirty Years of Rain, New Maps, Shoreline of Infinity, K-Zine, Flotation Device and Magical Crime Scene Investigation.
In the centre are two painted images, one of a frazzled ginger haired woman drinking tea and one of a Sikh gentleman holding a bucket and sword and facing pink tentacles

Politics, an argument with myself

Been quite some time since I posted here so sorry. Even more sorry that when I do post it is going to be on politics.
In the next few weeks everyone in Scotland gets a vote. Probably the most important single vote that I will ever take part in. I’ve tried to sit on the fence for as long as I can (admittedly with some dangerous leaning in the Yes direction) but now I have to definitively choose and I want to set down my reasons. If nothing else to go over the arguments and prove to myself I’ve made a reasoned decision. So here you go. Please do comment, politely, if you think I have something wrong, this is too important to decide on wrong information.

Who am I?

My politics are to the left. Not massively, I was more inclined to vote Lib Dem than anything until they turned out to have the backbone of a sea cucumber (could have abstained on student fees at the very least). What you would probably call a woolly lefty, willing to pay taxes for education or welfare I shall hopefully never need.
I can see the argument for some privatisations but find the artificial markets of the power or rail systems laughably horrible ways to turn taxes into private profit.
This very much makes me ripe for an anti-Tory option but I have tried not to base my choice on anti-anything. I want to vote FOR something. Be positive and I’ll be interested.

What do I want?

I want a positive choice. I’m a big, daft optimist when it comes to it and if I have two good options I can dither all day. From where I stand I can only see one positive (over-played, everything will be fine, trust me, positive, but positive) option. I’ll come back to that.
One of the questions I have to ask myself is what would I consider a positive future? Especially a positive future from a No vote.
First I need to consider what I don’t like about the current system, which is of course negative and so something I’ve shied away from. But needs must when the devil vomits in your porridge.

Democracy

Small word, means a lot of different things to different people. To me it is about the will of the majority being enacted. In a UK context this means it is, due to First Past The Post distortions, a slightly right wing majority getting a generally low tax, reduced government, business orientated parliament. Which is right and correct as that is the majority will. Yes, you can split the country into sections and find the parts, such as Scotland and the North of England, that didn’t vote for that, but they are not the majority in the system the UK uses. So democratically they have to put up with it until the next opportunity to convince people to change to their side.
If you are in that section that does not get the government you want there are several options. Armed revolt is not very democratic so we’ll ignore that. Campaigning to shift the electorate your way is an option. It’s difficult to do under the archaic First Past The Post system but possible and I applaud all those who beaver away doing so. It has been seen to lead to a concentration on the ‘floating voter’, however, and they are in the current centre ground of UK politics, which is to the right of me.
You could attempt to change the electoral system. Be it one Queen, one Vote or some form of PR. But the current system is firmly entrenched and doesn’t like the idea of a rules change they may not have as good an understanding of.
Another option, beloved of attention seekers, is to flounce off if the vote goes against you. ( Or more likely, threaten to flounce then oddly fail to do so.) In a way independence feels a bit like this; ‘Vote Left or we’re taking our ball and going’. But at the same time, if I want to live in a Scandwegian style country and everyone else doesn’t would it not be more polite for me to leave everyone in peace and go? Is it right for Scots to try to change the way England vote/think or should they be left with their democratic views while we leave to follow our own?

Social Choices and Tax

Being a dodgy lefty I’m all for higher taxes to pay for public services. Also for full collection of those taxes. The current UK government seems very keen on lowering (or not collecting) taxes and I completely disagree with this. Yet, if England democratically votes for this why should I try to stop them?
Compounding this is the Barnett Formula, i.e. Scotland gets a fixed percentage of UK public spending. Yes they get to spend it how they like but if Westminster cuts budgets (to cut taxes) Scotland either follows suit or puts up the small percentage of taxes they can to try to cover the difference. This being a much smaller amount of financial jiggery pokery than they could if they had full tax powers.
Also, if Scotland had the power to actually make companies pay their full tax they might not need to put up taxes or cut services at all.

Immigration

This is a biggy for me. Scotland needs more people of working age. Partly because of an aging population, partly because the current economic model of London First encourages people to go south. That will still happen after Independence but the option to have a more lax systems than Westminster’s ‘Put up the fences, beware the foreigner and his straight banana’ will help to mitigate it. Also different policies will hopefully reduce the numbers going south and so also help.
Finally, a country that is more open to the world will (and I know I’m being possibly over-optimistic here) become more tolerant and hopefully Scotland’s long running issues with bigotry will abate (to some degree, there will always be rockets).

The Economy

Most politicians couldn’t see the financial crash of 2008 coming from three months away. I believe neither side on their glorious or apocalyptic predictions.
What I believe will happens is much as now. Work will continue, taxes will be taken and benefits will be paid. In fact there may well be a wee boom from the work required to split up services. Then slowly north and south will drift to wherever their electorates dictate. I don’t see the economy as a deciding factor. How much I am paid is unlikely to change unless significant tax changes occur, which could easily happen after a No (Westminster cuts budgets, Holyrood ups Income Tax to make up the shortfall) as a Yes.

What would be my ideal future?

Oddly enough, in the UK. But a UK that is also fully involved in the EU and a UK with a complete devolution solution. Give England (or its regions) an equivalent parliament to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland while also giving them all the same powers. A proper federal UK with every section treated equally. Not Scotland getting more because it shouts while Cornwall is left to fall in the sea.
This UK would use PR at every level of government and investment would be spread evenly as no one region would have a greater call on the centre.
This is not going to happen.
So, is there an option like this available? Or perhaps something that will galvanise a move towards it?
Why yes, Scottish Independence.
While not my first option by any stretch, it does offer a closer approximation than anything else currently on the table. It has PR. It is in the EU. It is likely to be more towards my personal political standpoint.  There are many things not ideal about it but it is the best of a bad lot and, to my mind and many English people I have spoken to (ah Worldcon waffling) and read (that Billy Bragg thing), it will help England to change in similar, positive ways.
These are my positive reasons that will make me vote FOR independence on 18th September. I know I also have the gut feelings and the cheesy Scots romanticism of wailing bagpipes pulling me that way but I am happy that I am not just voting on the heart or voting AGAINST something.
Whatever you decide, I hope you also vote FOR something.
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2 responses to “Politics, an argument with myself”

  1. Zagrebista avatar
    Zagrebista

    "Small word, means a lot of different things to different people. To me it is about the will of the majority being enacted. In a UK context this means it is, due to First Past The Post distortions, a slightly right wing majority getting a generally low tax, reduced government, business orientated parliament. Which is right and correct as that is the majority will."

    Debatable. In a small country, yes, but one of 60 million +? This reminds me of one of the central problems of Leninism – "Democratic Centralism", the notion that once the people have voted *everyone* has to agree to go with the majority vote regardless of how large the minority might be or how fiercely they disagree. It really isn't the way to run any large state and yet until 1999 it was basically how we ran most of the UK and, in some matters, it's still how it's run today.

    A Federal UK is a nice idea but nigh on impossible. Westminster is basically an ossified institution, it's telling that Scottish, Welsh and Ulster "self-government" are powers explicitly gifted to those bodies by Westminster, the bodies (whether called "Parliaments" or "Assemblies") don't hold them in their own right and never will as long as they're in the UK for, possibly, generations. Westminster will simply not give up any actual power, only that which it can take back again. If you want to see how hard it is to enact even minor constitutional change in the UK look at Blair's (and he had a massive majority, remember) attempts to reform the House of Lords. There is simply too much conservative and, indeed, very often Conservative opposition to change to a system which has "worked perfectly well for 300 years". But the problem is that it hasn't worked well, that's why we're having things like the Independence referendum and why England is turning on itself with things like the rise of UKIP.

    It's largely for that reason that I'm a Federalist voting "Yes" for realist reasons: I'm simply never going to get the UK I want because there are far too many corrupt, dusty old men and women in the way. I'm cool on the reasons a lot of people are voting "Yes": I'm not interested in some kind of Cuban-style "socialist" state (although I'm warm to the Scandinavian social-democratic idea), I don't really care about Trident, I don't think an independent Scotland will be a blow to "neoliberalism" (whatever that is this week), I quite like English culture and will miss being part of the same state for that reason, and I'd prefer us to stay in NATO and the EU. But at the end of the day I live in a country which has views it didn't vote for imposed on it in areas that shouldn't be Westminster's business up here because a bunch of dinosaurs won't change. And for anyone who thinks Scottish devolution is a "settled" fact, that's what they said about the post-war consensus.

  2. Brian M. Milton avatar

    Thanks for the comment. I agree on the idea that just because a majority of the elected representatives come from one political area does not mean everyone else has to shut up until the next election. I was struggling with how best to put my feelings that the UK is a democratic state and we in Scotland do get as much as a say as any other 4 million voters in the UK. But that the system needs to change to make us, and every other geographical grouping, feel more involved and cared about.

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