David Torrance & Jamie Maxwell address a gap in the market – a straightforward, non-biased voter’s guide to the independence referendum.
One inevitable side effect of the referendum debate has been the publication of a plethora of books on almost every aspect of independence: for and against, its implications in economic and cultural terms and even its spiritual dimension. This is obviously a good thing, for an interested citizen can choose from a lot of different titles, but at the same time there remains a gap in the market – a straightforward, non-biased voter’s guide to the independence referendum.
We hope the recently published SCOTLAND’S REFERENDUM: A Voters Guide book fills that gap. It is deliberately concise and, of course, balanced, with the aim of giving the voter a primer on each facet of the constitutional question often with pertinent quotes from those both for and against independence. There is of course much more that could be said about everything we describe, but the ‘Recommended Literature’ chapter provides options for further reading.
The opening chapter also provides some historical background. After all, referendums on Scotland’s constitutional future are no longer a novelty to Scots of a certain age. For anyone born after 1961 (more than half its current population) on 18 September 2014 they will be answering ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a question about self-government for the third time.
In that context the writer Neal Ascherson has described the 2014 referendum as ‘little more than the third putting of the same question’ – should Scotland govern itself? But in fact at the third time of asking there is an important difference: whereas in 1979 and 1997 Scots were being asked about the ‘devolution’ of power from Westminster, this time they will be asked to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to complete (with certain qualifications) independence from the UK Parliament in London.
This is often referred to by supporters of independence as ‘self-determination’ or the ‘sovereignty of the Scottish people’, although it could be argued that both concepts have existed at least for the past 35 years; since 1979 the UK government has accepted that constitutional change can only happen with the assent of a majority of those resident in Scotland. This choice has, to an extent, been available to Scots since the Scottish National Party (SNP) started contesting elections in 1935, and particularly so since the late 1960s when the party – the chief driver of the ‘National Movement’ for Scottish independence – first became a major force. It is just that Scots self-determined in favour of the Union something that could, of course, change come September the 18th.
There is an understandable (but at the same time unrealistic) desire for ‘facts’ in the referendum debate, but just as the creation of a new state produces uncertainty so too does remaining part of an older one. All that can reasonably be presented is what each side believes will happen following either a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote; it is for each voter to decide which is more credible and, indeed, desirable. Hopefully A Voters Guide will make that task a little easier.
Jamie Maxwell & David Torrance