Simon Duffy

Thoughts, Bemusements & Arguments

Simon Duffy

Thoughts, Bemusements & Arguments


Easy Scottish Independence

Scottish independence may be inevitable, but it won't be easy. Conflict and confusion are highly likely, but there's a solution: talk.

I am a Northerner from England who spent a large and important part of my life in Scotland. Today all my friends in Scotland want independence, primarily because they want to live according to the values of justice and equality and they see no chance that this will be allowed in the United Kingdom.

I also run a think tank that is very interested in democracy and almost all my friends and colleagues in England cannot understand Scotland’s desire for independence and are seeking either some way to create a different solution (like Federalism) or try to avoid this tricky issue altogether. Finding a way forward in this situation is very difficult.

This personal dichotomy is mirrored by our constitutional problem. While the English are generally tone deaf on matters of Scottish rights and dignities there is still an underlying awareness that the United Kingdom is a voluntary union. There is no written constitution to guide us, but we know Scotland can leave if it chooses. It could have left if Scotland had voted Yes in 2014 and in voting No Scotland did not give away its right to say Yes to Independence at some point in the future. And, for all the huffing and puffing about “once in a generation” (pop quiz: define a generation) ultimately Scotland is likely to vote Yes at some point in the future unless something very fundamental changes.

However in Scotland, while a proud nation await their release, there is much underlying nervousness. There are big and difficult questions to face on currency, foreign and defence policy, border relations with England and much more. Also, England is so unpredictable. England has already dragged Scotland out of the European Union. If Scotland did declare its own independence would its will be honoured? Or would Scotland face the Catalonia treatment, with its leaders fleeing abroad or facing arrest at home. In a land without a constitution and usually ruled by an extreme-right ruling class, anything is possible.

But I have a solution.

Let’s talk. Let’s take a leaf out of those wise Scots who established the Constitutional Convention back in 1980 and prepared the way for devolution. Let’s bring together people from Scotland and England - and Northern Ireland and Wales - and talk. Let’s talk about the kind of thing we want after the United Kingdom has ended. For end it will. Let’s agree to disagree. Let’s listen and let’s imagine a better way forward.

The worst case scenario for the United Kingdom is to slip into another crisis like the one we are living through with Brexit. Let’s not let extremists close down discussion on better arrangements to exploit hurt feelings and xenophobia. Let’s open our hearts, our minds, our ears and our mouths and talk our way to a better set of solutions.

Stupidity, conflict and anger is a choice we don’t have to make.

Come on, it’s easy.