I was fully on board to hear some criticism of the SNP or the Yes campaign, because I like criticism – it’s healthy and often helpful. Carol Craig actually does make plenty of good observations about different aspects of the referendum in her explanation of why she intended to vote no. Yet quite quickly this other piece went all wrong – the stand out statement for me was early on: “I’ve shuddered every time I heard folk talking about how indebted the UK is”.
Is this because she recognises how unnecessary a lot of the UK’s debt is; how entrenched vested interests have skewed the political and economic priorities of our governments; how that debt is being used as an excuse to arbitrarily punish the most vulnerable? Nope! Carol shudders because to her this complaint reflects the selfish, nationalist optimism of those who pointed it out. Conveniently she ignores the constant assurance that the Scottish government would seek to take its share of the UK’s debt, whether legally required to or not!
I don’t doubt that she did find the decision agonising, and I sympathise with plenty of her concerns. Yet she doesn’t veer far at all from the “SNP dictatorship” perspective and her claim that Scotland would somehow be less safe from corporate interests out-with the UK is pretty bizarre… More perplexing still is her claim that “I’d rather be on the same side as radicals like Andy Wightman, young activists like Zara Kitson and cultural figures like Janice Galloway and David Greig whose work I admire hugely. Instead I’m on the same side as the bowling clubs, old footballers and the British Legion.” Yet Carol did indeed choose that side in the end.
What worries me is that, while lamenting the rise of nationalism in Scotland (mhm), she seems to find being on side with bowling clubs, footballers and the British Legion more troublesome than being on side with: the actual ethnic nationalists (BNP, Britain First, UKIP); the morally bankrupt establishment (Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats); and, you know, everyone else who is patently anti-leftwing within the UK. I could go on, especially about the blind optimism of her hopes for a grass roots, left-wing resurgence within the UK (although she doesn’t talk about that too much). Thankfully Stephen and others who commented on her article said most of what I wanted to say.
“I have dreaded writing this reply because as someone who has two of Carol’s books I was extremely sympathetic to her account of how our country and its people have been damaged by the forces of economics and history, and yet on this matter I believe she has not only spectacularly mis-judged the opportunity for national advancement that was on offer, but she has besmirched a movement, which had at its heart social justice, not selfishness, as she posits.
Like every independence movement that has gone before it, and there have been over 100 since 1945, the over-riding question on offer is this. Do citizens of a nation prefer to govern themselves or would they prefer to be governed by another country? Contrary to what Carol would like us to believe, independence as a route to self-enrichment, was never dangled in front of the populace as some kind of “get rich quick scheme”. Yes, of course, people wanted to know if they were likely to be better or worse off, than being ruled from Westminster, and I am sure the Czechs and Slovaks, Estonians, Lithuanians and all the rest of those middle-European nations who became independent in recent time had to inform their citizenry on the economic viability of becoming self-governing, but it wasn’t the main issue.
So when Carol says that the ” core reality of the official Yes campaign – its appeal to selfishness.” or “Essentially the official Yes campaign was not about heart, but pocket” .I just think what campaign have you just witnessed? It wasn’t the one I saw as I chapped doors. No-one was ever told by me or anyone I was out with to tell people that the good time were on their way post-referendum. Yes, I told many a person not to believe the doom and gloom from those who would wish us to believe that financial doom was awaiting us on the other side of a Yes vote, but I believe that to be the case. Sorry Carol, but if you are basing your argument for a No vote on the basis that the other side were trying to bribe the electorate with lucre then you are dreaming.
In my opinion, and this isn’t a leap of political imagination, just a recognition that Noam Chomsky and George Orwell have told us how this goes in class-riven societies, a large part of the population were cowed by the arguments that there is not alternative to the status quo of neo-liberal British mantras. Scotland will be punished by the markets, the man in the big hoose will take his favours elsewhere, your mortgage will sky-rocket, Asda will bump-up your bills for the hell of it and lets be frank, we are all not really cut-out to make a go of things. We’ll just get it wrong!
Readers of Carol’s will know that the fear of “getting it wrong, and being “found out” are huge impediments to risk-taking and self-expression that many Scots feel based on the hand that history and economic forces have dealt them. It is ironic, but more importantly, deeply saddening that she has based a lot of her justification for supporting the No campaign on the proviso that the market-makers, spivs and masters of the universe of the City are going to punish Scotland for wanting to build a nation state that espouses social justice at its core.
And on those ” 55 of the UK’s lead academic economists wrote to the Financial Times independently of the No campaign, to say that independence was ‘ a gamble with very poor odds’. Which of those geniuses predicted 2008’s cataclysm? None of them and their benevolent wishes for a nation wishing to remove itself from the City of London’s vice-like grip, are conspicuous by their absence.
I will still recommend Carol’s books for those who would like to know why many of the their Scottish grandparents, parents, friends and relatives, feel unable to express themselves as fully autonomous individuals and why society abuses or ignores them for this lack of confidence. However her denigration of the Yes campaign as one based on selfishness and bribes, suggests to me that she has given-up on any possibilities for social advancement for Scotland’s working classes that does not involve kow-towing to financial capitalism’s big sticks.”