Political discourse in the 21st century media-focussed world mainly revolves around sound bites and short, faceless attacks on people’s opinions. The latter usually boils down complicated subjects to a ‘pick and mix’ selection of angry diatribe, semantic one-upmanship, gross overreactions, selective statistical point scoring, abstract notional romanticism, racism/bigotry, accusations of racism/bigotry and general criticism of anyone with a different opinion to the one held by the antagonist.
In the ongoing debate over the future of Scotland, we can’t afford to fall foul of the aforementioned tendencies. As with many things in life, the independence of a country is not as black and white as so many of the bloggers, journalists and politicians make it out to be. There are so many issues that are important, but they all lead back to the one component of our society that affects everything else, money, and without successful management of that one fundamental part of life, everything else is irrelevant.
You don’t have to go out and start a degree in economics, but please don’t make a decision to support either side unless you educate yourself in, at the very least, the basic economic principles of governing a country and how these principles affect our lives on a daily basis.
If you’ve never heard of, or don’t understand, words like GDP, quantitative easing or even corporation tax, then I have a suggestion: the next time Alex Salmond or Alistair Darling try to persuade you to vote one way or the other with neat sound bites, scaremongering or wild assumptions, turn them off and do a bit of research on economics instead. That’s what I have been doing and I’m learning a lot.
Whether we like it or not we live in a world built on global capitalism- goods properties and services owned by private companies from across the world, accountable only to faceless shareholders and/or board members who want a return on their investment. Governments don’t run countries by themselves; they are forced to consider the monster that is the globalised business world, the stock markets and how political decisions affect investment in their country, which in turn affects the individual.
It’s absolutely futile to engage in rhetoric and opinions based on romantic political notions of nationalism, socialism or even local governance.
If the economics of an independent Scotland don’t stack up then we can forget our grand plans for a better, fairer Scotland and we can forget about saving our NHS from Tory privatisation and we can certainly forget about free prescriptions. If it all goes wrong and businesses desert us for whatever reason, then one of the most politically expedient ways to attract investment would be to take a neo-liberal approach by introducing low taxes for businesses (corporation tax) and/or low taxes for rich people and deregulating the market- to make it easier to trade and/or for foreign companies to set up businesses. Don’t assume an independent Scotland would automatically end up becoming a more socialist country- set up for a fairer society and a smaller gap between the rich and poor- as well as being prosperous. That might be the dream and the vision set out by Alex Salmond, but it’s a very difficult balance for a country to strike. It’s a balance I would love to see happen, but one that not many countries are capable of.
At this point I’d like to plead with speakers on both sides to stop citing models of other countries- both ideals of how we can be like them or examples of how they did/didn’t benefit from Independence- to prove their argument is right; every culture evolves over a long period of time to create the political social and economic balance that makes their country tick.
Knowledge and real information about what would happen economically to an independent Scotland, hold the key to this vote. We all need to work a little harder to access and share this knowledge and shout down those who only use emotive or inflammatory language, romantic abstraction or any other form of argument that doesn’t fully recognise the huge range of problems and issues we face economically- and therefore politically. These economic and political challenges translate to a direct impact on our everyday lives, so we owe it to ourselves and future generations to make a rigorously informed decision.
If you believe something to be true then, as human beings, we automatically gravitate towards examples that prove that ‘truth’. While acknowledging that, lets try and step back from it and really analyse what is and isn’t possible in an independent Scotland.