Still trying to read through the 600 odd pages of the White Paper on independence, which you can download fae here http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/11/9348 if you haven’t already done so. I’m a fast reader, but am still only halfway through, and still have not had time to mull it over and digest the bits I’ve read so far.
That must be why I’m just a punter and not a punching above their weight Unionist politician like Alistair Darling, who seemingly not only had read the document, he’d digested it and was crapping it all out in wee pieces on telly interviews throughout Tuesday. Since he was doing this on the Beeb within two nanoseconds of the White Paper’s publication, he’s either the world’s fastest reader or he’d swallowed a ton of laxatives and some Better Together briefing notes.
Anyway, it was a bit of a strain, what with one eye on the white paper and one ear on Alistair’s bowel movements, but it was something about childcare and how we couldn’t possibly pay for it, although simultaneously he wanted to know why the Scottish government wasn’t paying for it right now. It was enough to gather that he had about as much knowledge of the contents of the White Paper as the average badger has of Westminster’s plans for future devolution. Which is actually somewhat more than Alistair does, come to think of it.
Still at least he must feel reassured that despite being 670 pages long, and detailing the possibilities for an independent Scotland in the economy, culture, health, equality, security and development, goes into the nitty gritty of Scotland’s agricultural potential, and nowhere once does it mention the words badger cull.
Of course I’m not the immense expert in the contents of the White Paper that Alistair is, what with his Olympic medal for speed reading and brain the size of a soundbite, but I seem to recall somewhere in the mass of pages an explanation that the proposed child care costs would be met by increased tax revenues generated by the greater participation of parents in the workforce – but that under current arrangements the extra revenues disappear into George Osborne’s maws, to be spent on something beneficial to Scotland like a London sewer upgrade. Even I managed to pick up on that, and unlike Alistair I’m not paid to pay attention.
It all summed up what, for me, is the real reason for Scottish independence. We’d have a government made up of people who are paying attention, and if they don’t pay attention we can vote them out. It shouldn’t be a lot to ask for in a democracy, but if Alistair is anything to go by we’ll only get it with a Yes vote. The Union gives us a political class which is paid not to pay attention, and no matter what we do can never be got rid of. They can hardly complain that we no longer pay attention to their warnings that we’ll be doomed if we ditch them.
At least the BBC was paying attention to Scotland’s independence debate in its own inimitable way. We got the wise and insightful words of its national commentators on the UK news, helpfully telling us benighted Scots who’ve been having this debate off and on for decades what it’s really about because we’re too provincial to work it out for ourselves.
Nick Robinson seemed quite let down by the lack of any razzamatazz or pandas in kilts giving a Buzby Berkley style aquatic performance in Bellshill swimming pool. He’s been to the birth of quite a few new nations, he said (or maybe he didn’t because I wasn’t really paying attention), and this just didn’t feel like one on account of a distinct lack of marching bands, Weegie fireworks that look like penises, and exhibitions of raffia based ethnic crafts.
Of course he was spectacularly missing the point. Scottish independence is not about a new nation. Scotland is not a new nation. We’re a very old nation. We’ve got the national identity thing well sorted already thanks. Identity? Got it by the bucketload ta. In fact the very opening words in the preamble to the White Paper are “Scotland is an ancient nation.” Nick’s not really been paying attention either.
The White Paper shows us how we can start to find solutions to our problems and take advantage of our opportunities in ways that are not dictated to us by people who aren’t really paying attention. That makes it far more exciting and substantial than the Union flag bedecked parades that pass for Westminster’s attempts to imbue us with British pride.
But why should he have been paying attention anyway? He’s the BBC’s Westminster correspondent. Scotland is irrelevant at Westminster and always has been. Neither the Tories nor Labour require Scottish votes in order to form a majority government. They have no need to pay attention.
Scottish independence is about how Scotland governs itself and deals with the challenges and opportunities that face any small northern European nation. Independence is the radical notion that if Scotland was governed by people who were obliged to focus their attention on Scotland, they just might discover a more palatable way of doing things than the increasingly bitter range of options tossed at us by Westminster.