Indyref2: The arguments against having one!
The Scottish Parliament has spent hours this week debating whether we should hold indyref2.
Here are the main argument by those who voted against with some thoughts of my own.
The SNP ignore the day job and are failing Scotland as they are only concerned with independence.
I have sympathy with this point of view. I have said for years that I would like to see the Scottish parliament be more radical in order to give people more of a glimpse of the possibilities of independence. I think it is fair to say that the SNP have had more of a don’t rock the boat strategy. That said, although the SNP have not been as radical as I would have liked them to be, they have been fairly busy as their record suggests so it’s hard to accuse them of being idle.
This criticism does get to the heart of the independence debate. The opposition always blame the SNP for failing our institutions. However, the SNP will in turn will blame Westminster for austerity measures. While we remain a devolved region it is hard know who to blame. In my opinion we can only properly hold Holyrood to account if we become independent.
Sturgeon said the indyref would be a once in a lifetime event.
This is true. However, you show me a person who has never changed their mind about something and I’ll show you a liar. Sturgeon didn’t want to have a referendum now, she wanted to wait till opinion was in her favour. However the result of the EU referendum has caused a constitutional crisis in Scotland that needs to be resolved. There is a clash between the results of the two referendums. In 2014 the majority wanted to stay in the UK but in 2016 the majority wanted to stay in the EU. Many of those who voted to stay in the UK did so to be able to stay in the EU. We can’t pretend this problem doesn’t exist.
There is no mandate for indyref2.
This is a very weak argument. We have a pro-independence majority in the Scottish parliament. The SNP manifesto said the following:
We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum…if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.
I understand why people may be against indyref2 but the mandate is pretty clear. People point to the SNP losing its majority as an argument against indyref2 but this is harsh given that the system is designed to prevent one. In terms of vote percentage, the SNP have a much bigger mandate than the Tories had to call the EU referendum.
It is damaging to heap uncertainty upon uncertainty
I feel that uncertainty gets to the heart of the independence debate. Uncertainty is one of the only things that is certain in life but it is only at times of big crises that this becomes clear. Brexit, the financial crisis and 9-11 are all things nobody would have thought could happen a few years before they did.
We think about certainty in the wrong way. The question should not be which future is more certain, the question should be which version of the future would enable us to deal best with uncertainty. There is quite a lot of evidence to suggest that small states are more successful. One of the main reasons for this, as argued by statisticians like Nassim Nicholas Taleb, is they are more able to navigate an uncertain and risky world.
The SNP still can’t answer basic questions on things like currency.
This isn’t actually true. The Yes side had several viable currency plans in 2014 which were suggested by a pretty prestigious bunch of economists. They just made a tactical blunder of suggesting a plan that relied on the kindness of the opposition. There is currently a growth commission looking at the best options for the current situation. Whatever they report will obviously be an important part of the indyref2 campaign. I don’t see why this info should be disclosed before the referendum is even announced.
The SNP hasn’t respected other majority votes in the Scottish parliament so why talk about the will of parliament now?
I think there is a fair point in here. This is referring to a series of motions in which the Scottish government have been defeated in the Scottish Parliament but have not gone onto change legislation. The most high profile of these cases was surrounding the Offensive Behaviour At Football Act(OBFA).
However, these motions are merely symbolic and are light on detail. Actual law changes involve a complex series of stages and a bill has to be passed through parliament. In fact this is what is happening with OBFA as we speak. So, while I would like to see government changing stances based on the will of parliament. Changing stance actually takes a lot of work and I can see why the government may not want to do that if they don’t believe in the policy. There is nothing to stop the opposition doing that work though.
The referendum is divisive
It is no coincidence that the side of the debate who are currently getting their way talk about the divisiveness of referendums. It is hard to get away from the fact that they are to some degree. If you ask a nation a difficult question with only two answers then groups will form on either side of the debate.
However, the solution that those who are anti-indyref is proposing is that the side who disagree with them just give up. This is not pragmatic, you can’t solve a disagreement by telling one side of it to pipe up. Democracy and courteous debate is the best way to deal with these things.
In my experience, and in the experience of police Scotland the last referendum was largely passionate and good natured. The country is divided on the question, we need to talk about it, but the majority of us will do it with respect.
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Dugdale and Davidson’s speeches to give you an idea of the arguments against indyref2.