Friday, 12 September 2014

Why I'd vote No -- with passion

-->I am not Scottish, and I don't live in Scotland, so I don't have a vote in the independence referendum. But if I were, and if I did, I would unhesitatingly vote a great big No.

Here's why:

I am a passionate believer in multi-culturalism and multi-nationalism. I believe that we really are better together, and that doesn't apply only to England and Scotland.

I believe in strengthening what unites us, not what separates us. I believe in looking outwards, not inwards, in sharing, not grabbing. I prefer the hand that is outstretched in friendship, not snatched away in suspicion.

I believe that Scotland and England together are greater than Scotland and England apart. Whether it's literature or music, business or politics, we are stronger when we share what we have and when we learn from each other.

Yes, it's a matter of faith. Faith in humanity's ability to coexist in harmony, to be different yet equal, proud yet tolerant. Surely history teaches us that we are better when we come together than when we turn our backs. In the words of a recent Financial Times editorial: "A Yes vote would ignore the lessons of the 20th century, a chapter in European history indelibly scarred by narrow nationalism."

I fear that too much pro-independence sentiment stems from a hatred of the narrow, market-driven economics that have driven policy from London over much of the past 30 years. I share that hatred, but I believe the solution is to vote for an alternative vision for all of the UK, not just for north of the border.

I believe that in a dangerous and unpredictable world, it would be madness to break the bonds of friendship. I am filled with dread at the prospect of a Scotland and an England, both perhaps outside the EU, regarded with suspicion both by each other and by their neighbours. How can that possibly be a better vision for the future than one in which we work together for a better world?

Progressives always used to argue for reaching out across borders, not creating new ones. Surely the multi-nationalist case is stronger now than it has ever been; with modern communications, we know more than we ever did about shared problems that require shared solutions.

How will a Scotland alone be better able to deal with the challenge of climate change, or cyber-terrorism? How will a Scotland alone survive a new financial melt-down? To say we need each other is not to say we are incapable alone, simply that we are stronger together.

I despair when I hear the arguments over currency unions and taxation rates. Nations are made of more than purses and wallets: they are made of shared histories and shared cultures. I understand Scottish pride, but there is nothing in a fairly constituted Union that should in any way diminish the value of Scotland's heritage.

So Yes to a new federal settlement. Yes to greater powers for Edinburgh, and for Wales and England's regions. Yes to national pride, to regional pride, but also Yes to a shared pride.

If I write with what is, for me, uncharacteristic passion, it is partly because the No campaign has been accused of a lack of passion. But it is also because, somewhat to my surprise, I have discovered that I do care passionately about what Britain represents and about how it would be diminished by a Scottish breakaway.

So if, on Friday, I wake up to learn that Scotland has voted Yes, I shall need someone to blame. I won't blame the Scots, but I will blame David Cameron, an arrogant, ignorant Englishman who will have presided over the destruction of something I value -- and, quite possibly, the break-up of his own party, over which, admittedly, I shall shed fewer tears. (I'll also reserve a bit of the blame for the sclerotic Scottish Labour party, which seems to have been asleep for the best part of a decade.)

David Cameron was once asked why he wanted to be prime minister. He replied: "Because I think I'd be rather good at it." By Friday, we may well have more cause than ever before to dispute that judgement.

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