BREXIT HAS CHANGED THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE

20 - 02 - 2019 / Update

BREXIT HAS CHANGED THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE

My wife and I moved to Scotland in the late 90s as we were fed up with the rat race of London and the southeast. We prized quality of life for ourselves and our young children above the higher incomes achievable down south. It was not easy to leave close family and go to somewhere where we knew no-one, but it was the best decision we ever made.

Soon after we moved to Scotland, we started to see just how London and Southeast centric, Westminster, the Media, public spending is. Then I began to realise why many people in Scotland feel disenfranchised and I was grateful that we had a newly devolved Scottish Parliament and one that, I assumed, would take on more powers as the years went on.

In the 2014 independence referendum, I voted NO (although I would have voted in favour of a federal system). I voted NO as I felt the YES campaign solely focussed on people’s hearts and not their heads.

Whilst a third of the population will always vote for independence with another third will always vote against it, you need to win over that final third, the people who could jump either way and that is done by fully answering all the key questions.

A simple one pager sent round on Facebook summed up the failings of the YES campaign in 2014 for me. On the left-hand side of the page was a list of questions about independence such as: what currency will we use? how will we cope with the gap between money raised and money spent? especially if the price of oil falls? how long will it take us to re-join the EU? how can we set up all the institutions needed? and at what cost and all in 18 months or so?, etc, etc and on the other side of the page was a smiling Alex Salmond saying “Don’t worry, I’ll sort it out.”

The lack of a clear roadmap made me vote NO.

Therefore, for another independence referendum (in my opinion), you need a clear vision of the timescales involved.

Brexit though has changed the political landscape totally and being yanked out of the EU against our will is one reason I will change my vote in a new #scotref as I would rather be in an independent Scotland and in the EU than the UK in future.

However, for me, another key element has entered the equation. Perhaps even more important than the act of leaving the EU is the right-wing populism that has been unleashed in England. It is a nastier place than before the referendum with islamophobia, anti-Semitism and the anti-immigrant rhetoric becoming mainstream as is the frequent comment of “you lost, get over it”. All this whipped up by the Mail, The Sun; Express with many right-wing xenophobic MPs and organisations piling in.

This is not the post war tolerant England I was brought up in and, unfortunately, I cannot see the genie being stuffed back in the bottle.

As a centre-left voter all my life, I feel that Scottish politics in general is anchored in that centre-left arena, partly through its PR system and partly through the people, and that should continue to be the case in the future whilst England continues its push to a UKIP/ERG right and I cannot see that changing anytime soon. I don’t believe that Westminster understands or fully takes account of Scotland or its people and I don’t see that changing.

The time for a new independence referendum is fast approaching irrespective of what eventually happens with Brexit. But I would strongly urge those leading the YES campaign to appeal to people’s heads (as well as their hearts) and answer the key questions of how to keep our country prosperous after independence. I would also suggest a reasonable amount of time between a YES vote and actual independence - maybe 3 or 4 years or so - in order to ensure that we leave in an orderly manner.

An independent Scotland, within the EU, will have a great future as it has the raw materials (i.e. educated workforce, large landmass, massive potential for renewables, strategic location on the edge of Europe, etc) to be very successful although it will be tough at first. But you must look at the medium- and long-term prize and small countries in the EU benefit greatly from being in a block of over 500M people with all the clout that brings.

I could foresee a Scotland, that in future decades, slowly evolves from simply having more of a ‘UK mindset’ into something more along the lines of the Scandinavian model, with the many positives that would bring.

I will be a YES next time, but the YES campaign will need to convince many more people to switch their vote although I genuinely hope it does so for our sakes and for our children’s sake.

Paul from the Borders

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