Monday, 18 August 2014

One Month To Go - Why I'm Still Undecided

You know how time normally flies.  Well I can’t believe that it was 26 months since the campaign for the Independence referendum started at Cineworld Edinburgh.  There is a month to go, a month for many people to make their minds up.  Including me.

I admit to being sold on some aspects of the arguments for Independence.  The prospect of all policies being tailored to the needs of Scotland & Scottish people rather than to the needs of winning seats in the traditional swing areas that win Westminster elections.  It’s this that has been at the heart of the “Radical Independence” prospectus.  Unfortunately there is no roadmap to the prosperous Scotland with higher living standards.

The biggest issue with the arguments regarding Independence relate to the Salmond Plan.  I’ve posted ad nausium about Sterlingzone and how I don’t think it would be in the best interests of an Independent Scotland to be put into a fiscal straightjacket that would follow with the inevitable fiscal pact. I also think that the fiscal pact undermines the argument that “we would have all the economic levers available” which John Swinney says each time he appears on the broadcast media.

The other part of the Salmond Plan is of course the SNP’s policy regarding the EU.  I would rather we negotiate our way in and join after a referendum rather than the back door method that the SNP favour.  Pro-Independence supporters are all to willing to believe the benefits – in relation to trade – without even acknowledging the downsides.  Surrender of sovereignty being the main downside.

One of the developing arguments pro-Independence supporters are putting forward just now is that to save the NHS from privatisation at the hands of the Tories at Westminster then we should vote yes.  The argument goes that with more cuts being threatened by the Westminster parties, that this time Health budgets would not be ring fenced.  On a similar subject, Iain MacWhirter wrote some pieces some time ago about the controversial TIPP trade negotiations between the EU and the USA.  One of the proposals would see American healthcare firms be allowed to enter the European Healthcare “market” where there is private provision.  MacWhirter made the point that Cameron’s own Healthcare reforms make the English NHS TIPP compliant which would make them more susceptible to the large US medical companies moving in

In the short term a devolved NHS might be at more risk of TIPP than a fully independent one – MacWhirter identified that the Scottish NHS may well be at threat through court cases.  I don’t think an Independent Scotland makes an NHS free at the point of need entirely safe.  For one thing there may come a point where we elect a right wing Scottish Government that might enact policies that would make the Scottish NHS TIPP compliant.  For another the EU could well force us to be TIPP compliant.

Pro-Indy supporters would probably be up in arms at this suggestion, but the EU do have form in this respect.  EU Directive 91/440 ensures that there would be no return to a nationalised Scotrail.  Like this directive, which came a couple of years before the Tories own Rail privatisation plans came into force, any attempt to force the market-ization of the Scottish NHS would please the Tories.  So no I don’t think if I voted yes, the NHS would be any safer than if I choose to vote No.

Those are my reservations for voting Yes.  If you’re thinking that I’m going to vote no, you’ve not seen the title of this blogpost.  No’s biggest problem can be summed up in four words.

The Better Together campaign.

It’s not that they’ve been relentlessly negative, or not put forward reasons to stay in the union, though they have scraped the bottom of the barrel so many times I thought Blair McDougall had scraped his way to Australia by now.  It’s more that those reasons are more often than not undermined or usurped by announcement's aimed at Westminster’s true focus.  The Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems focus has been on next years Westminster election.  As far as they are concerned, the Independence referendum is a distraction, nay... a sideshow to the main event.  All three parties are fully signed up members of George’s not so marvellous medicine yet, in the case of Labour, deny that fact.

One of the arguments the No side make is that a vote for yes is not just for Christmas, that this is a long term decision.  The problem with that is that the next two or three generations of leaders at Westminster are not the most promising crop regarding being sympathetic to Scottish issues.  If Labour win next May, Cameron’s successor is possibly going to be either Theresa May or George Osborne, with the London mayor Boris Johnson maybe emerging as the challenger to May should he be elected to Westminster.  Should Cameron (as I think) stay in Downing Street, Milliband would lose the Labour leadership to either Yvette Cooper, Chukka Umuna or Rachel Reeves. Not names that inspire, all of them can be described as New Labour at least.

This isn’t a case of there being not enough information.  I have serious reservations about voting yes.  I also have deep reservations about simply voting no as well.  Both sides have 30 days remaining to convince me of their cases, otherwise it’s down to eeney meeney miney moe… After all I can’t be the only one in need of convincing?

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