The Democracy Argument

I hold my hands up and I admit that I am a federalist, a proponent of voting reform and someone who believes the House of Lords should be turned into an elected upper chamber. I am no fan of the First Past the Post voting system and I would prefer Holyrood to have more powers.

You may think that this makes me the perfect Yes voter, but I’m not. I will be voting NO on the 18th of September and here are the reasons why.

On 11th November 1947, Churchill famously said this:

“Many forms of Gov­ern­ment have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pre­tends that democ­racy is per­fect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democ­racy is the worst form of Gov­ern­ment except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”

Our democracy is flawed and as I said, FPTP is a dreadful voting system. It is a system that has ensured a tit for tat Conservative/ Labour ping pong game while smaller parties with a decent share of the vote manage just a handful of MPs. With a better system, there would be a representative number of Scottish Conservative and SNP MPs in the House of Commons. We would still only have 59 MPs but we are only a small part of this United Kingdom.

yes_to_avOn 5th of May 2011, there was a referendum, offering us the chance to change the Westminster voting system. Scotland (along with the rest of the UK) voted overwhelmingly against the change. We had the chance to make our own MPs more representative and we declined. Now, had Scotland voted for AV (given we have the additional member system for the Scottish Parliament and multi member constituencies in our council elections,) I would have been more sympathetic to the anti-democracy cries. But we didn’t. Maybe we’re more like the rest of the UK than the nationalists would have us believe.

“But,” I hear you cry. “Scotland doesn’t influence the outcome of UK general elections.” Yes, that is true. But then we are part of a bigger whole. We are not just Scotland. We are part of the UK. The Scottish Parliament is not representative of the whole of Scotland. The things that concern a call centre worker in Castlemilk are not necessarily the same things that concerns a crofter on the Isle of Skye.

The Shetlanders and Orcadians consistently vote Liberal Democrat yet are saddled with the current SNP administration. Is that fair to them? There are calls for Orkney and Shetland to push for a vote either for them to remain part of the UK if we vote for independence or to vote for their own independence from us. And it’s not a vain threat. If they did go, you can bet your life they’ll take their oil with them.

As a fan of the West Wing, I’m afraid the argument of us not influencing the outcome of a general election falls flat. Many states in west-wingthe USA vote the same way every single election and never get the chance to swing the election one way or the other.

Alaska only has 3 electoral votes out of 538 available. They vote Republican every time and never have their three Electoral College votes been enough to swing the election. The last time it was a particularly close vote, there was 5 Electoral College votes in it.

But do we hear Alaska screaming for independence and railing about the unfairness of it all? No because they have certain issues devolved to them but appreciate that in some cases (such as defence) they are better to be part of the greater whole.

I am willing to bide my time on voting reform and reform of the outdated House of Lords. We have been promised further devolved powers as part of the Scotland Act and certainly Labour and the Lib Dems have talked of more devolved powers.

I also believe that after the debacle of student fees in England, many people down south understand the reason for the UK to become more federalised. Maybe it is time for them to be offered their own parliament with tax raising powers and the ability to run education and health in their own way, just as the Scots, the Welsh and the Northern Irish have, without our MPs muscling in on England only votes.

The UK is far from perfect and not everyone is enamoured by Mr Cameron and his current government, but given the added cost of setting up and running two countries side by side, I’m not for chucking this baby out with its proverbial bathwater.

This blog is the personal opinion of one of our contributers and does not necessarily reflect the views of Better Together or other contributers to the blog. 


29 reasons to Stay in the Union – Numbers 21-29

Here is the last post in our series of reasons to stay in the United Kingdom.

article-1333924-0625E4250000044D-913_468x286 21. Continuing commitment to build RN warships on Clyde. -The UK defence budget is massive. And a lot of it goes into defence procurement. Scotland has a lot to offer geographically to the defence of the western world. We have deep sea lochs ideal for submarine bases and we have some of the best ship building expertise in the entire planet on the River Clyde. Naturally the UK government would prefer to keep shipbuilding for the RN on the Clyde. However, if Scotland were to be governed as a separate state with a ruling party that made no secret of its dislike of all things British, especially our brave armed forces, denigrating them as fighters of illegal wars etc, why would the UK government place sensitive defence contracts into the hands of that government?  The UK government does not build complex warships outside the UK. They have made that clear.  The BAE chairman, clearly expecting a No vote, has no contingency plans for a move but says they would ask their customer, the UK government, how to deal with the situation if it arose. Vote NO to keep military shipbuilding in Scotland, protecting expert jobs on the River Clyde and the entire engineering industry that benefits from them.

22. Continuing UK subsidy for Scottish renewables industry.  – The UK has a National Grid and a single market energy supply; the Scottish government does not and never has controlled it.  Late in 2013 there was a danger that energy costs for the consumer would soar.  Alarmed by this the UK government consulted the industry and altered the contracts of supply which forced the energy suppliers to purchase set percentages of their power from renewables.  In particular the suggestion was made in the Lords and confirmed in the Commons that the 15% of supply from onshore wind be removed because it was expensive. The effect of this was to drive the price of electricity down which benefitted the ordinary householder.  The SNP objected loudly that they had had a power stripped from them.  They had not – they had been applying subsidy money from HM Treasury= which they had applied for- but it was not an entitlement.  The Treasury diverted the subsidy money from on-shore wind to offshore wind and announced this on Dec 4 2013- and some for fracking.  All the SNP has to do is apply for them, if they wish to fund onshore wind, expensive as it is, then under the tax increasing powers endowed by the Scotland Act 2012 they will be free to charge the people of Scotland more tax to fund their wind-mills. or they can borrow the money which they will have the power to do. ‪…/working-together-to-unlock…

23. Orientation towards wider world rather than focus on wee-bit-hill-and-glen.–  The SNP are always telling us that they want Scotland to have a bigger profile in the world. But the biggest profile is achieved by working from the massive springboard that is the UK. Ever since the Act of Union, Scots have been listened to around the world because they are British. From David Hume onwards, Scotland’s ideas have crossed the globe, on the back of British presence. It is not unusual to find a Scot at the head of a multinational company or of a major international organization, or winning a Nobel Prize. Long may this continue, and the best way to ensure it continues is to stay within the UK, to be able to use the massive resources of the UK to promote Scottish talent and ideas across the world.

24. Greater clout – when dealing with hyperpowers of 21st century. The world is going to be dominated by China, India, Indonesia and other countries with populations in the hundreds of millions over the next century. The best way for the Western World to uphold its liberal values is to stick together and stay strong. This doesn’t just mean finding sensible ways to make the UN and EU work, it means staying close to our North American allies through NATO and also keeping intact our own successful alliance – the UK. Every negative fragmentary impulse that comes from the micro-nationalist movements of Europe is a tiny dagger in the heart of the Western World as a whole. We Westerners still constitute around 700 million people, across Europe and North America. Our time isn’t quite over yet, and we can use what time we have left to persuade the rest of the world to come round to our way of looking at things, guaranteeing a tolerant liberal world for centuries to come. 10% of the entire western world is made up of British citizens. Soon there will be 70 million of us. The best future for the 5 million of us in Scotland is to stay true to our Britishness and make sure we contribute to the next two centuries as much as we have to the last two. To sit on the fringes and congratulate ourselves on the fact that “we are different to the English” is to fiddle while Rome burns.

25. Access to top G20 power structures for Scots. – Because Scotland is in the UK, we are also represented in the G20. If Scotland leaves the UK, we will have no voice at the top economic table. The positive future for Scotland is in the UK, where we know that we can punch above our weight. The G8 was hosted at Gleneagles a few years ago. That would be the last time that happens if the SNP get their way. When Alex Salmond asserts that we will have a place at the top table, it is pure assertion, and no more. 352091_155331_Family_with_HM_edit


26. Adequate balance of powers – between local, Scottish, UK and EU governments without too much power concentrated in too few hands. The Scotland Act of 2012 is the greatest transfer of power within the UK since 1707.  All main parties are committed to further devolution. The federalization of the UK is going ahead, yet by preserving the Union preserves the muscle of the Union with Europe and on the International stage.  By voting Yes and placing Scotland’s finances under the control of the BOE with no reprsentation in the UK Parliament, or by being at the beck and call of Brussels or Berlin, Scotland loses the ‘independence’ she has now.  There is more actual ‘independence’ on offer in an increasingly devolved UK than there is in leaving it.

27. Access to the UK’s invisible earnings-  The reason the UK is recoverin from the recession so well and why the economy is growing is because world investors have complete confidence that Britain can deliver on what she says. `so they invest in Britain and th strength of the pound, up by 10% against the Dollar since July 2013, continues to rise. Much of the reason behind this is the UK’s invisible earnings which earn her nearly £100bn a year.  Nationalists tend to think in terms of tax revenue and point out that Scotland pays more as a percentage of UK tax income than she gets back. As a percentage of spending.  This might indeed be true if the UK relied on tax revenue alone, but the Treasury derives income from other sources.  If you look here; and click on Total revenue, you will see that the UK does indeed derive a lot of revenue from Direct tax, indirect tax and local taxes. However she also gains from sales of goods and services, and other revenue.  These include such things as taxation on money transfers, legal fees, interest on assets abroad, arbitration services and UK investments abroad. The UK gets this because of the size of her economy. Scotland would be cutting herself off, with independence, from a stream of revenue which dwarfs North Sea oil production, and which there is no guarantee she could replicate to scale on her own.  Instead of large profits from a large company, if she made a profit it would necessarily be smaller – and not in proportion to her needs. How wise is that?

28. The British Broadcasting Corporation – At present, every UK household pays a licence fee if they have a TV or watch BBC-iPlayer-BlockedTV online. This gives us access to BBCs 1,2,3 and 4, BBC Alba, numerous BBC radio stations and BBC News. While good TV is made up here is Scotland, it is generally the type of TV that appeals more to Scots. The money that is not returned to us to make River City and Burns’ Night specials is used to make programmes that are bought all over the world, such as Doctor Who – which has become a huge franchise and brings money back into the BBC. By splitting the cost of programming with everyone else in the UK, it leaves BBC Scotland/ BBC Alba free to make more indigenous programming. However, if we split from the UK, we will have to pay the retail price rather than a share of the cost price for these programmes. This will leave less money for Scottish and Gaelic programming.

29. End of the divisive nastiness – that has riven our nation since the disastrous events of May 2011. Not really much to expand there, it’s self-evident…But let us not, in the name of doing Scotland good, deliver her to a bad place where bad things happen.  What we have is not perfect- but in the great world we inhabit, it’s not so bad.  Vote NO!