Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday, 19 September 2014

Referendum on Scottish Independence - 18th September 2014 - the result

The referendum held yesterday to decide whether Scotland would remain a part of the United Kingdom, or whether it would become a separate/independent country has now concluded with the final result being announced officially earlier today. In brief the "Yes" campaign has been defeated and therefore Scotland will remain a part of the United Kingdom, a decision that pleases me greatly. The results for the "no" vote were 2,001,926 votes (55.3%), with the "yes" side of the debate receiving 1,617,989 votes (44.7%). However, there are going to be significant constitutional changes both in Scotland and in other parts of the UK (specially as they affect England) that if successful are likely to ensure that this ugly problem does not rear its head again anytime soon and that people's reasonable democratic expectations are addressed throughout the whole country. The "Devolution settlement" concocted by the last Labour government in 1997/8 was defective and has in my opinion led us directly to this impasse and its current efforts to deny English voters sole say in domestic English matters, for purely partisan political reasons, must be resisted at all costs, otherwise the amended settlement currently being negotiated is unlikely to be very durable. Whatever else may be said about this referendum exercise, it has on the whole been conducted in a civlised manner, with only the 'aggressive' tactics of some of the "yes" supporters marring this; it seems clear that many countries around the world have looked on with some amazement both that such a referendum for a part of a country to 'secede' was ever held in the first place, specially in a country that has existed for so long and been as stable as the United Kingdom, but that it was actually permitted in the first place, not to mention that it was mostly carried out in a peaceful, civilised manner. It was also completely honest and transparent, as all elections have been in this country for a very long time, so the pre-referendum agreement of all to accept the result will be honoured without question. What this really shows is that the home of modern democracy, the UK, has demonstrated once more how secure and self-confident we are in our democratic beliefs and credentials. Full results of the referendum can be found in the dedicated BBC website page here.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

On the eve of Scotland's referendum, my earnest plea is that you vote "NO"

For those residents of Scotland who have not already voted by post (as I have), tomorrow will be your opportunity to vote in the Referendum to decide whether Scotland will remain as an independent and free component of the United Kingdom or whether it will become a separate or "independent" country.

I have never been in any doubt myself. I voted "NO" and I urge you to do likewise if you will be voting tomorrow. Why? I am British and Scottish, or Scottish and British if you prefer - for me there is almost no difference. I am not remotely 'aggrieved', as so many supporters of the SNP and the "YES" camp generally seem to be, by the fact that Scotland represents less than 10% of the UK population - anyone who has given a cursory glance at public, commercial and political life will have observed that Scotland has performed way above what the raw population data might suggest. Anyone who thinks that Scots are, within the United Kingdom, in any way 'oppressed' or 'put upon' is, not to put too fine a point on it, completely deluded! To be totally honest, the 'Scottish cringe' and the 'chip on shoulder' mentality of so many SNP supporters or supporters of the "YES" campaign generally (and despite their protestations they are almost one and the same thing, to all intents and purposes, with the Greens and SSP being miniscule and maverick components), disgusts and appals me. The idea that Scots are 'oppressed' or ignored within the UK is ridiculous and absurd - the Scots are no more an homogeneous people than are the English; someone from the Highlands of Scotland, the Outer Hebrides or Orkney or Shetland is just as different from people in the Glasgow-Edinburgh area of Scotland as people in Cornwall, the North-east of England or indeed the North-west are from the people in London or the South-east of England. But none of us are so very different in any important sense. There are lots of Scots throughout the rest of the UK, specially in London and the South-east, just as there are significant numbers of English people or people from Wales and Northern Ireland in Scotland - and long may it continue! We are all citizens of one country (comprising four nations) and long may that continue, too.

No, I don't think the SNP is full of homophobes, although it does have some (as do most political parties), but it does trouble me greatly that one of the greatest financial backers of the SNP and the "YES" campaign is arch-homophobe Brian Souter. It is possible his support is purely because of his considerable business interests in the transport sector and his hope that a separate/independent Scotland will be more favourable to him (perhaps because of tax breaks), but it is not a risk I wish to take. So far as I am concerned he is an odious man and is one of the principal reasons why I resigned from the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party in 2001, because of his 'Keep the Clause' campaign and the support given to it then by the Conservatives. The Conservative Party has changed a lot since then and indeed the leader of the Scottish party Ruth Davidson, quite apart from the fact that she is a proud lesbian woman, has been a beacon of sanity and rationality in the campaign leading up to tomorrow's referendum. Although same-sex marriage has already been legislated for in the Scottish Parliament last February, the first marriage is not expected to take place until October - why the delay? Although the equivalent legislation for England and Wales was passed somewhat earlier (with no adequate or convincing reason why it was passed later in Scotland), during the first three months of the legislation in England and Wales, 1,409 same-sex marriages were carried out there. So far there have been none in Scotland. I recall that when civil partnerships were legislated for, the then Scottish Executive (Labour-dominated, and anyone who has ever read my blog will know I am no supporter of Labour) agreed that legislation passed in Westminster on this important new extension of civil rights would extend simultaneously to Scotland. The SNP Scottish Government has decided that the legislation for Scotland on this even more important aspect of civil rights equality should be later in Scotland than in England and Wales - the reasons for this one can only guess at, but I am quite frankly suspicious, given the financial input of arch-homophobe Brian Souter.

As I mentioned above, I am British and Scottish and I like being a citizen of both; I have no desire whatsoever to join the parochialists of the SNP or "YES" campaign by separating Scotland from the rest of our country, the UK. We are one country and I want us to remain one country. I hope you will vote "NO" tomorrow, as I have done already. To do otherwise will only bring damage to us all and to those who come after us, all for the sake of some illusory 'independence', frankly a chimera in our globalised world. Don't be swayed by the cheap and empty promises of Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney and their SNP/"YES" accomplices. Please, please vote "NO".

Saturday, 6 September 2014

"Stay!" - an open letter to my fellow Scottish voters

This is an open letter I have earlier this afternoon sent to The Spectator magazine for potential publication; it is quite short, as the request for submissions in a tweet from the Editor suggested that they be limited to 250 words and I have done my best to comply:


Dear fellow Scottish voter,

Because I am resident in Scotland I am lucky to be one of the approx 10% of the UK population to have a vote in the Referendum. I am mainly Scottish. I have used my postal vote to vote "no" and below I explain why.

For me it is mainly about emotion and only partly about financial, security or other issues; I am British and Scottish and always felt at home wherever I lived in the UK (various parts of Scotland, the Isle of Man, and London for several years) and in the 9 or so other countries around the world I have lived in I have always felt British, too. My British friends have come from all parts of the UK and now that I live back in Scotland, many of my friends and neighbours are English, Welsh and Irish (both parts), as well as Scottish of course.

I want to remain British and Scottish. The UK has generally been a force for good in the world and I don't want it to fade into history. I wrote above that I am “mainly” Scottish, because one grandparent was Irish (from what is now the Republic) and the bitterness of him being disowned by most of his family because he fought in the British army in WWI is still a scar. Scotland has largely avoided violence luckily, but "yes" voters delude themselves if they think nothing will change in their cross-UK family relationships, sadly.

Please stay!

William Cameron

I have no idea whether my letter will be chosen for publication by The Spectator, but in case it is not it will at least be viewable by visitors to my blog, or via my Twitter or Facebook feeds.

Obviously I could (and have in the past) written at greater length on my firmly held conviction that not only is the UK generally a "good thing" and been a positive force in the world during the more than 300 years of its existence, but that in the longer term its continuation is good for both Scots and people who consider other parts of the UK "home"; for many of us Britons it is difficult to define exactly what we are, because our family backgrounds are often varied and intermingled, not only with people from all over these islands (the "British Isles", that archipelago of islands off the north-west coast of Europe), but in many cases with people from diverse countries around the world. Many people have family backgrounds from outside the UK, but have integrated within our wider British society and later generations born here mostly have little difficulty in identifying themselves as "British", plus whatever is the country of their family backgrounds - but we are all "British"; funnily enough, as I write this I am watching a repeat episode on the Yesterday TV channel of the "Who Do You Think You Are" programme, which is about the former athlete Colin Jackson - he seems to have no more difficulty reconciling Jamaican-Welsh-British roots than I do my Scottish-Irish-British roots; many millions of our fellow Britons have similarly or more complex backgrounds and, on the whole, we have all rubbed along together pretty well over the centuries.

In the context of the forthcoming Referendum in Scotland, whose franchise has nothing to do with ethnicity and everything to do with who is actually resident in Scotland, whatever their ethnic or cultural backgrounds, my fervent hope is that the result will be for Scotland to remain an integral part of the United Kingdom; we are already as 'independent' as any people are likely to be in a globalised world and we are one with our brothers/sisters/fathers/mothers in other parts of the UK - becoming a 'separate' country is not going to enhance our notional 'independence' in any meaningful way in my opinion. All it is likely to do is add another costly level of bureaucracy, which frankly we don't need - all modern societies do of course require some kind of structured government, but we already have a pretty democratic, fair system in place. As a Highlander in Scotland, our current central government in London is no more remote in organisational terms than a similar administration is or would become in Edinburgh, but being a part of the UK gives us some of the advantages of economies of scale. As for lack of representation, I personally voted for none of the governments/executives which have run the Scottish Parliament since it came into being in 1999 any more than I voted for the UK governments which managed the affairs of the UK from 1974 to 1979, or from 1997 to 2010. It is called "democracy".

This is why it is my fervent hope that my fellow voters in Scotland will by majority vote for Scotland to remain part of the UK in the Referendum on 18th September 2014. Let it not be the demise of probably the greatest and most beneficial period in the history of these islands and in truth the demise of what has in practice been an overwhelming force for good in the world.