Menzies Campbell is probably trying to “inject the love” when he writes about how he will vote No in September because he loves Scotland, but the unionists really need to understand how offensive it is to many people to talk about giving up “family ties.” Two of my three children live in England. I will be giving up no family ties when I vote Yes. I will be voting at least in part for my children.
Campbell’s article is published as the Irish President begins a state visit to London. Does he really believe that the millions of Irish people in Scotland and England gave up their family ties when Ireland became independent? It is not just offensive to my sense of family, it is insulting to the intelligence of the people of these islands.
He also claims that exercising our right to self determination will mean giving up our history. I mean, seriously? Some of it I would gladly give up, but I don’t need to see the Windsors jetting off to New Zealand to know that the Kiwis did not give up their history, good and bad, when they became independent.
Campbell is entitled to his misty-eyed romanticism for the British state, but if he seriously believes that we, “have lived in a political system envied and copied around the world,” then he is suffering from post-imperial delusion. There was a time when liberals would have recognised that an unfair voting system, the absence of a written constitution, the absurdity of the House of Lords and a corrupt patronage system were features most modern democracies around the world think should be confined to a museum.
Campbell lists a generation of Scottish politicians who have had a voice in UK politics including Robin Cook, John Smith, Malcolm Rifkind, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. What he fails to mention is that it is now well nigh inconceivable that an MP from a Scottish constituency could be Chancellor of the Exchequer or Prime Minister. Gordon Brown was attacked mercilessly by the right wing press on the basis of his nationality. England will not accept a Scot imposing measures that do not apply in Scotland.
It is a bit strange for a liberal to be writing that the Union has brought us peace and a single market as though the European Union didn’t exist. And if Scotland has been at peace with England, sadly we have not collectively been at peace with the world. In listing UK membership of the EU, NATO and the Commonwealth Campbell implies that Scotland would not have access to the best clubs. At least he does not attempt to pretend that we are better represented in each of those by London rather than having our own voice.
And when it comes to the balance between a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and the global respect that will come from getting rid of nuclear weapons Campbell must know in his heart there is no contest. Or do elder statesmen still dream of gun-boat diplomacy?
I have no doubt Campbell is a proud Scot but he is clearly enchanted by Westminster romanticism and oblivious to the rational and liberal case for self-determination. He complains that the good faith of the three Unionist parties are challenged when they promise further powers for the Scottish Parliament. In his heart he must know that the promises of Labour and the Conservatives are weak and contradictory, and about as reliable as a Liberal pledge on tuition fees.
In 2010 the Liberal Democrats had a unique opportunity. Imagine how a minority Conservative Government would have coped with Scotland, would Mundell as the sole Conservative MP in Scotland have been Secretary of State? The Liberal Democrats had a once in a century opportunity to drive a bargain on their dreams of federalism. Even after the Scottish election of 2011 they could have put forward a Devo Max option that would have been odds on to win a clear majority in any referendum. It seems Menzies Campbell’s love of Scotland could not compete at those moments with his party’s fear and loathing of the SNP. There is now no realistic road to federalism that does not run through a Yes vote.
I will not vote Yes in September because I love Scotland. I will vote Yes because we can have a better democracy and because I am confident self-determination will deliver a fairer and more prosperous Scotland. A Scotland that forges strong and positive links with our neighbours and makes a positive contribution to the world. A Scotland that cherishes our family ties.