Why saying No Thanks is the progressive option.
This is a golden time for democracy in Scotland. The media, the airwaves are full of political debate but more than that, the whole nation is debating what we should do next. Who wouldn’t want that new democratic passion to be spread wider than Scotland’s borders?
That’s a real question. It appears that many progressive people will be satisfied by a vote that would result in our turning our backs on much that is wrong in the UK and being thus unable to help put it right. How much more progressive to grasp the momentum and press for change in the whole of the UK.
It is good that we debate whether we are a caring society. It is good that there are people in Scotland interested in addressing the plight of the poor. However, progressive people don’t just exist on one side of this argument and those in need don’t just exist on one side of the border. There is a pressing case for staying together as a country and using the energies of this referendum debate to fuel new political movements to address all that is wrong in society. I care as much about the poor in Carlisle as I care about the poor in Carluke. I care as much about the NHS in Preston as I do about the NHS in Perth. I care as much about job creation in Sunderland as much as I care about job creation in Stirling. I want all to prosper and want my MP to fight not only for my interests but for the common good of all in the UK, forming alliances with other progressive politicians to bring about a fairer, better and more economically stable society.
But just because I’m going to vote No, that doesn’t mean I don’t want change. I long for change – real change for the whole of the UK and the only way to still be able to influence the change I hope for is to say No Thanks to separation.
I want a more federal UK. Lots of people do. The only way to be sure it will never ever happen is to say Yes to separation from the rest of the UK.
It isn’t simply more devolution that is needed for Scotland – we need something much more radical. If devolution has been good for Scotland then it will be good for England too. A federal system within a strong, united economy would bring not only the best for me but also the best for those most in need. Separation will not bring about devo-max – it is a rejection of that. Separation would bring about austerity-plus, damaging economic recovery not only in Scotland but throughout the other parts of the UK. And when austerity is the dominant theme of the economic cycle it seems to me that those who are poor and vulnerable tend to come out of things worse that those at the top of the pile, no matter who is in government.
I want a renewed democracy that is UK-wide. I want a new commitment to the vulnerable that is UK-wide. I want progressive people to be running a progressive economy that is UK-wide. And the greatest risk to what I hope for comes from those who believe it can never happen. As someone who was involved close to the beginning of the recent campaign to allow gay couples to get married, I know that the greatest trouble comes not from opponents but from those who say, “I’m on your side but it will never happen”. Real change in society is desirable and possible. The energy of the referendum campaign shows, like the energy surrounding the gay marriage campaigns, just how passionate people can become over things that they care about.
As a priest, I care about people and I care about society. For me, I can’t see those who are vulnerable anywhere in Scotland doing well in a society that has such an unstable economic beginning as that proposed by the Yes campaign who still can’t answer even the most basic questions about currency and long term debt.
Those who are arguing for a Yes vote sometimes speak as though it is the only option for political progressives. I want change in the UK and the changes I want can only be achieved by saying Thanks, but No Thanks – my ambition for reform is far greater than what is currently proposed.
Who wouldn’t want real progressive change in society to be for everyone in the UK? Who would want to turn their back on being able to bring positive influence to bear for the many and not just the Caledonian few.
For all these reasons – it is No Thanks from me.