Sunday, January 15, 2012

Questions about Scottish Nationalism

I'm even more of a spectator than a participant on the Scottish independence debate than I am on most things. All I have is questons.

Firstly, as a social democrat, I'm very keen on a one-club approach to all political questions. I'd generally not ask "what do I think should happen?", but instead, "what would a good democracy do?"

I'm concious that this is an idiosyncratic way of looking at the world, but I'm more interested in working out what the best way of making decisions is than in what decisions we should make. I'm always looking for this formula;
  • Decision-making in the interests of everyone, not just sectional interests (with protection of minorities provided by a 'constitution' of some kind)
  • Where sectional interests happen at the expense of others, there is compensation
  • Decision-making that is optimised to maximise the quality of those decisions
  • As many people as possible involved in those decisions - as long as we can avoid self-interested outcomes at the expense of those who don't have the capacity to participate
  • Geographic closeness to the seat of decision-making
 In other words, fair and good government. Or motherhood and apple pie.

It seems fairly obvious to me that decentralisation is an essential pre-requisite to achieving this. And that Federalism offers the only means by which a state that makes decisions according to these lights will not suffer at the hands of its neighbours and rivals.

So, does this make me a supporter of Scottish Nationalism? And if so, does it make me a supporter of the Scottish Nationalism that is currently being advocated by the SNP?

Is Scottish Nationalism an irrational-but-understandable reaction to the traditional injustice of The Union?

Does one-off independence for one part of the UK set back the wider cause of Federalism for all? After all, I'd like to see almost everywhere liberated from decision-making that benefits London and the South East - and I think there's plenty of evidence that this injustice has been growing during my lifetime.

Listening to the debate this week, most sides seem to have - as a starting point - that the outcome of independence will not involve any kind of negotiation in which the final outcome is fair to all. Nationalists seem to be offering a very rosy outcome where The Union accepts separation on very favourable terms to Scottish residents while Unionists insist that the result will involve the Union helicoptering out of Scotland taking all of the investment and strategic assets with them, forcing the Scots to join the queue for EU accession just behind Somalia.

If anyone has written anything that responds to any of this, I've not seen it anywhere. The thing is, this debate has to be about democratic principles, and I think it's quite odd that no-one seems to start from that point.

1 comment:

Roger said...

This misses the point that what Salmond and the saner Nats actually wants is Quebec-style autonomy (devo max) - and this could only have a positive effect in making the case for an English Parliament elected by PR much stronger.

This is precisely why the Tories want to limit any referendum to a yes/no on complete independence as that for them represents a win-win.