The Grumpy Old Man

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The Scottish Independence Referendum- A triumph of heart over head, or just common sense?

A look at the recent Scottish Independence Referendum and what it says about politicians, the voting public and Parliamentary Democracy as a whole

The Scottish independence referendum, well what a strange bunfight that turned out to be. As both Mrs Grumpy and I had lived in Edinburgh before we met, we had more than a passing interest in the discussions and the eventual outcome. It was over thirty years ago that we had lived in Scotland but it was fascinating that Scottish independence was being discussed then and the very same arguments discussed now were being banded around then.

Listening to some of the statements being made by the Scottish politicians this time round, the whole thing seemed very ill thought out, planned or with little or no joined up thinking. It is almost as though they thought that the whole thing would be a complete walk over. What was interesting was that many of the pitfalls flagged up late in the campaign were the small details. (and, after all, the bugger is always in the detail!) It was obvious that many assumptions had been made that had not been thought through at all. I don't want to go into all the nitty-gritty of the campaign but two examples of this spring to mind.

The first is the currency an independent Scotland might use. The independence camp seemed to have just assumed they would continue to use the Pound Sterling. Both the Bank of England and the Westminster politicians soon pointed out that that would not be possible, even from a Scottish point of view as the Scots would have no control over such fundamental matters as monetary policy and interest rates. Decisions required to be taken by the Bank of England would no longer need to consider Scottish requirements. Ergo the Scots would have no control over their currency. The independence camp countered by saying, in that case, perhaps they would use the Euro. This of course showed up the second 'problem'

The independence camp had assumed they would 'automatically' be part of the EU. To their consternation it was pointed out that, as a new country, they would have to apply for membership. ergo, not in the EU, how can they use the Euro? To Grumpy that seems a perfectly reasonable view.

So it is easy to see how shallowly the matter had been thought through and also, the slightest problem was interwoven with and lead to many others, thus causing the whole idea to begin to unravel.

And what about the part played by the Opinion Pollsters? What a bunch of clowns they are! To be quite frank, in the opinion of Grumpy the politicians have ended up putting themselves in the same circus. One would have thought that looking at the past record of the pollsters, the politicians should have just laughed, ignored it and gone about their normal business. Oh no, true to form, when one poll showed the yes camp with a nose in front, the no camp went into meltdown. Sending the big guns up to Scotland and making all sorts of offers.

The upshot of this is, although the 'no' camp were successful by what Grumpy considers a significant majority, the whole exercise has stirred up a right old hornet's nest. As far as Grumpy can see, greater powers have been offered to the Scottish Parliament. It seems from the reports circulating at the time these greater powers actually had an all-party consensus in Westminster. As with all statements made by politicians this was never the whole story.

David Cameron (Conservative party leader) later said it would be reasonable for only English politicians to have sole power over matters "English". Perhaps through an English Parliament (in which Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish politicians had no say). Grumpy says what an admirable suggestion, it being one that he has subscribed to for years as more and more powers are devolved to the Scottish and Welsh assemblies. Such a move would have his total support, making something that seems in short supply, 'common sense'!

A natural extension of this is that the United Kingdom moves to a Federated or Commonwealth approach similar to the situation prevailing in, say, Australia. This is when each part (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) of the UK has its own individual assembly (Parliament) and an additional "layer" above these individual assemblies would be the United Kingdom Parliament. It is believed that Nick Clegg (Ex Liberal Democratic part leader) may have aspirations in this direction. And we all know what happened to him and his party in the General Election!

Ed Milliband, (Labour party leader, also now Ex) on the one hand, supports the view of greater powers for the Scottish Parliament, however on the other, he does not seem to favour an "independent" England! The reason for this may be basic arithmetic. Grumpy only has to note that over forty of the Labour Party currently sitting at Westminster as MPs are from Scotland. Without these forty MPs it would make it very difficult for his party to have a majority in an English Parliament. Again, we have seen how life can change in the General Election. Labour are out on their ear and now have just one seat north of the border!

Alex Salmond (Ex Scottish National party leader) continued to brush issues aside with wild assumptions right up to the end. Even when confronted by very pertinent and relevant questions that were slightly problematic, he would brush them to one side and say that's only scaremongering. At the end of the day many problems that would affect the man in the street were only addressed at a very shallow surface level, if at all.

So the English politicians had their own agenda and the Scottish politicians put forward a very ill considered argument. Is it any wonder that the voting public, at the end of the day, had very little real information on which to make a decision. It seemed that that were more questions unanswered than answered. It only goes to show that Grumpy believes the majority of voters cast their vote from the heart rather than head. After all the politicians had actually given very few answers while producing lots of hot air and much food for thought.

So if we take a step back from the whole furore and see that the status quo has been maintained, we are tempted to ask, what in the world was all that about? And if the system is working, why change it? What I find very interesting, is that in the late nineteen sixties there seemed to be an interest in Scottish independence. But if you discussed it with people, that was all they seemed to want to do, discuss it and slag off the 'English'. It seems such a view has changed little in fifty years. The majority of Scots seem to see benefits in keeping things as they are.

Or, as I am sure it was Mark Twain who said 'if it ain't broke why fix it?'

But at the end of the day what could one really expect? The politicians all had there own ill thought out agendas and I am sure were also very economical with their own inner thoughts and worries. Consequently the poor voting public, as usual, were never told the full story. So, with none of the real facts properly discussed for them to weigh up, they voted with their heart or even their own, personal agenda.

Being of more mature years Grumpy has seen quite a few general elections. Some of them fought and lost when the policies put forward were little more than political claptrap and dogma. In this situation, like the referendum outlined above, does the voting public ever have sufficient information or a full understanding of what he is voting for?

Grumpy believes that a huge majority (excuse the pun) are actually voting for either "more of the same" or "change".

But I suppose as the mother of all parliaments might say that is just "government of the people, by the people, for the people."

Grumpy's view is, it is something of a miracle that the system works at all!