giovedì 11 settembre 2014

Scottish Independence Referendum

Edinburgh, September 2014

The Referendum for the Independence of Scotland is getting closer (there is only one week left until voters hand in their ballots). For this occasion the University of Edinburgh has organised a debate at the Hall of Teviot Building, a palace in perfect Harry Potter style. The queue to get into the Hall on the first floor is so long that there are even people standing outside the building. At 7 o’ clock the doors are opened and a mass of students take their seats in an orderly and quiet way.

In the middle of the stage there is the presenter of the night, a guy with big ears wearing a tie, who is the ex-chair of the Debating Society. On each of his sides there are two panellists, whose physical position on the stage reflects their political one: on the left Donald Smith, Director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, and an exponent of the National Collective[1]; on the right two panellists from ‘Better Together’[2].

The question of the Referendum is: ‘should Scotland become independent or not?’. ‘It’s time for Scotland to grow up’ says the left-winger D. Smith. ‘Live it, not leave it’ say the panellists on the right. The four debaters present arguments for political, economical and cultural positions: constitution, democracy, equal distribution of wealth, the currency and the start up of a new economic system, identity and nationalism, Scotland in relation to the UK and the EU.

Creating and adopting a new constitution would cost a lot of money, which could be invested in better ways, such as health and education, according to the right; on the other hand, according to the left, a written constitution would finally define rights and obligations of Scotland towards the rest of the UK, finally preventing Westminster-the centre of the political British power- from exercising its hegemony above Scotland.

The main concern for the right is the economic situation in the case of Scotland becoming an independent country: not only the fact that the eventual currency has not been established yet represents a big uncertainty, but also the cost of living will increase, foreign companies will stop investing in Scottish multinationals and, in the worst scenario, Scottish economy will collapse: the oil provided by the Scottish land will not be enough to sustain an entire country for ever.

On the other hand, the left argues that the pound will remain the currency; the independence of Scotland will not stop foreign companies from investing into Scottish multinationals and taking advantage of them; Scotland has enough local resources to sustain the country: not only the highly-discussed oil which will last for decades, but also many other such as textiles, whisky, tourism etc.

 More importantly, the left, accused of being too patriotic, underlines that the independence of Scotland- not the Scottish independence!- is not a matter of identity, but of democracy: it will be the ‘fresh start’ of a new nation-no different from any other country- in which the wealth will be finally equally distributed between all the social classes, contrasting the privatisation and the capitalist dichotomy between rich and poor towards the British politics is leading.

Moreover, according to the right, the independence of Scotland would undermine its membership to the EU, but, according to the left, it is the opposite: the UK might not be part of the EU anymore, if Westminster continues on this political line; therefore, there are more probabilities for an independent Scotland to be part of the EU: Scotland is indeed more willing to stay in the EU than the rest of the UK and it has all the requirements to do that.

For the right party there is no relevant difference between a Scot, an Irish, an English or a Welsh, therefore there is no point for Scotland to be independent, left-wingers are just ‘patriotic utopians’. Moreover, it is always better to cooperate than to act alone, this radical ‘detachment’ will only have negative consequences: it will totally subvert the economic and political system, in a domestic and in a foreign dimension, so as to bring Scotland to the ‘cataclysm’.

Left-wingers are more positive and constructive, arguing that all the right propaganda is based on the fear of change, and accusing the conservative party of being scared by ‘innovation’. For the left, on the other hand, the referendum is an ‘unmissable’ occasion to revive and raise the cultural and working aspirations,  ‘valuing’ Scottish tradition, and allowing Scotland to emancipate from the dominant England and to finally walk on her own legs!

For me it’s funny not only to assist to the possible creation of a nation but also to be able to vote, despite of the fact that I arrived in Edinburgh two weeks ago! According to the law, in order to vote it is not necessary to be Scottish, but it is sufficient to live here. Moreover, even young people who have just turned 16 are allowed to vote. This legislation is done to encourage people to vote since voting is the most important right/duty that a citizen has got to express his/her opinion!

[1] The ‘National Collective’ is a non-party movement for artists and creatives who support Scottish independence.
[2] ‘Better Together’ is the main organisation representing those campaigning for a no vote in the referendum.

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