We seem to have started something… yes, it’s another guest post, this time from Doug Daniel, responding to Tom Harris’s response to Pete Wishart’s original post on an all-party campaign for independence.  Doug Daniel is a senior software developer and (failed) musician from Aberdeen.  He wants Scotland to be independent, and he very occasionally blogs here, but only when he can be bothered.

I want Scottish independence. I’ve been a supporter of Scottish independence ever since I was old enough to understand that Scotland did not enjoy the same nation status as “normal” countries (in other words, I can’t remember not wanting independence), and I’ve been a member of the SNP since 2007, when the idea of Scottish voters plumping for independence suddenly seemed a realistic prospect.

That doesn’t mean I’m a dyed-in-the-wool SNP voter (I’ve actually voted for four of the five parties currently represented in Holyrood – I’ll let you guess who the odd one out is) and throughout my life I like to think I’ve taken the time to try to understand why there are many people in Scotland who do not think the same way as I do. I understand them, but I don’t agree with them. So why does it feel like the majority of those who favour the union have never afforded the same respect to those who do want independence?

We see politicians from the three unionist parties talking of independence as “the SNP’s separatist agenda” (so what’s the Green and socialist agendas?), as if it was some evil plan concocted by the wicked overlord Alex Salmond and his cabinet henchmen, the aim of which we will not find out until we’ve been duped into voting for it. By then it will be too late, and we’ll suddenly realise that we’ve been strung along the whole time – it was never about creating a better nation after all, it was just about… Well, I have no idea.

Digging a big trench along the border and erecting a big fence to keep everyone out so Scotland remains isolated from the world? Turning Scotland into some sort of despotic dictatorship, putting Irn Bru in the taps, forcing everyone to eat cholestoral* and listen to The Corries on a loop, while using the oil money to make a big, gold statue of Emperor Salmond? Who knows. I suspect those that use such words don’t know either – they just like the negative connotations of the words “separatist” and “agenda” and use them accordingly.

And this is the problem. When unionists are “fighting” against independence, on the most part I don’t believe they actually understand what they’re fighting against. There seems to be a sense that all those who seek independence care about is getting independence, purely for the sake of getting it. Or perhaps that nationalists think that the second Scotland votes for it, the pavements will be paved with gold, we’ll all be millionaires, and all our social ills will magically disappear. They don’t seem to have considered the possibility that people perhaps view independence as a method for making Scotland better, rather than being the secret ingredient itself.

I’m not sure why this is. Obviously, it’s easy to be against something if you’ve made no effort to understand it, in fact this ignorance is almost as much a part of human nature as resistance to change.

The greatest album ever recorded (this is a scientific fact) has a song titled “Ifwhiteamericatoldthetruthforonedayit’sworldwouldfallapart”, and similarly I do wonder if some unionists subconsciously feel that doubts might start to creep in if they so much as acknowledged that independence might not be the absurd notion they purport it to be. Others have perhaps just listened to the media hype for so long that they feel there is no need to look at the pros and cons of both sides for themselves, assuming that it has already been demonstrated, without a shadow of a doubt, that the (supposed) benefits of the union outweigh any minor improvements independence might bring. I dare say there are some in the political class that quite simply view independence as a threat to career progression.

One excuse I’ve noticed being used increasingly is that unionists don’t view the constitutional question as being very important, implying that they don’t see the need to waste time thinking about it. Those who say this would do well to reassess the situation, because like it or not, there is going to be a referendum in this parliamentary session, so they might need to start thinking about it pretty soon. Besides, one thing the polls constantly show us is that less and less Scots are happy with the status quo, so the constitutional question would need to be answered, even if there was no referendum on the horizon.

I want the forthcoming debate on the constitution to be well argued on both sides. I don’t want people to vote for independence just because of a dearth of reasoned arguments on the other side, just as I don’t want people to stick with the union purely because all they hear are completely unfounded horror stories about what independence will do to Scotland.

I want the outcome of the referendum to be the result of both (or all three?) sides arguing their cases succinctly, and the public deciding which option sounds like the best way forward for the country. I don’t see that happening while many (most?) of a unionist persuasion refuse to try to understand why so many people want independence, other than perhaps pithily putting it down to watching Braveheart a few too many times and making references to shortbread tins. If you don’t make an effort to understand your opposition, how can you properly address their points?

So my question to these supporters of the union is this: why do you persistantly fail to understand why many people in Scotland want independence?

* (see I’m Alan Partridge series 2 episode 5)

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