What kind of Independent Scotland?
And how do we get it?
There's been some debate on social media recently as regards how to win over NO voters for the next independence referendum, how we should approach the currency question, should we be in Europe after the EU's treatment of Greece and so on.
I think it's important to remember that there will be many visions in people's heads about what an independent Scotland can or should be but that the direction we take can be determined democratically by all of us once we secure independence collectively.
There are some issues and ideas I would like to throw out there for discussion, however.
There are three issues the YES movement needs to do better on in order to win a YES vote and some we should be able to park until after a YES vote.
Let me deal with the three issues we need to do better on first.
Firstly, we need to reassure pensioners that their pensions will be safe.
Scaremongering on this issue by Labour and Better Together was effective, if utterly immoral and dishonest. I would propose that the Scottish Government sends an official letter outlining the facts to every pensioner and potential pensioner as an official guarantee of their pension; that it should contain a helpline number for people to report scaremongering and seek accurate information, and that this is backed by a campaign of billposters and newspaper adverts.
Secondly, we need to deal more effectively with the question of identity.
Like it or not some people see themselves as British as well as Scottish, or even primarily British. Many of these will vote against independence no matter how strong the case or how badly Westminster is actually treating them, but it will be necessary to win some of those votes over.
We need to say more loudly to people that their British cultural identity is not only NOT at risk from independence, but will be guaranteed in an independent Scotland's constitution as part of our national diversity. We need to repeat – again and again – that our movement is a democratic movement, not a national ethnic movement. That anyone who wants to consider themselves British cannot have that taken away from them because the British Isles is a geographical entity, not a political one. Just as someone from Denmark or Norway is Scandinavian despite those countries being independent, someone's Britishness doesn't change just because Scotland becomes independent. Posters in certain parts of the country emphasising these points and the right to continue to hold a UK/duel passport could chip away at the Brit identity vote, particularly if UK Labour continues to abandon traditional social democratic ground.
Thirdly, we need to have a firm position on the currency.
The option I would argue for is a Scottish Pound, backed by a newly created Scottish Central Bank and pegged to a basket of international currencies in the first instance. This could be the case for the first years of independence, with a review after 3 years and a guarantee that other options would be put to the Scottish people if certain key targets weren't met.
And talking of referenda.
Should we be in Europe or out of it?
Should we keep the Monarchy or become a modern democracy?
Should we be in NATO or out of it?
Should public ownership of key sectors like banking, energy, transport be written into our new constitution?
Across our broad movement there would be disagreement on all of those things. They would be contentious and potentially lose votes if written in, either way, to a second YES prospectus.
Yet these are key issues. I believe that the way to deal with those issues is to say that the Scottish people will have the final say on them in a second, multi-question referendum to take place three years AFTER Scotland becomes an independent country. That would allow plenty of time for people to debate the issues and for them to be well aired on both sides. In the course of the referendum itself it would allow all pro-independence parties to unite while different parties could put their own positions, and everyone could say: the Scottish people will decide on that ONCE we are independent.
What do you think about these modest – but potentially game changing – suggestions. Please let me know, either here on the thread or on our Facebook page.
Steve Arnott July 2015