tobyaw: (Balgove)
posted by [personal profile] tobyaw at 05:10pm on 18/06/2016 under , , ,
Before the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, I spent a lot of time thinking about the kind of country I wanted to live in, and how it should relate to the wider world. I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t possible to make a decision based on facts, well-argued analysis, and expert predictions. Rather, I identified the issues that were most relevant to the way I thought about our governance, and made my decision based on how I felt about those issues. And I was happy to vote for independence.

Looking at the key issues that drove my decision:

  • I believe in localism (in a positive way). We ought to have smaller political units that are more closely connected to the people who live in them. A smaller country is a better country. And that power should be devolved down to the smallest practical political unit.

  • The Westminster government is distant from Scotland, and from Scottish priorities. (This is not to say that it is undemocratic, but rather that Scottish priorities are not well represented).

  • National institutions inevitably have an English focus, and Scotland is often regarded as “them” rather than “us”.

  • Immigration is seen as a major problem in much of England. It isn’t regarded in the same way in Scotland, and as a nation we would welcome more immigrants.

  • The emphasis of our tax system needs to be different. Scotland has a much smaller percentage of top-rate tax payers, and needs to be more active in adapting our tax system to encourage inward investment (perhaps by offering a different model of corporation tax).

  • Scottish industries — oil, whisky, ship building, fishing, finance, technology — need specific and active support from the government.

Thinking about those, and similar, issues in relation to Britain in Europe, I’m convinced that voting to leave Europe is the right decision on Thursday. This is not an anti-European or anti-foreigner stance, but a genuine belief that we are not served well by further European integration. A belief that Britain can prosper, and indeed push ahead of Europe with economic performance and with social issues. An escape from the pervasive belief that a larger institution always knows best. And an escape from the bureacracy, cronyism, corruption, and lack of democracy in many of the European institutions.

I can understand arguments from both sides of the referendum, and can see many different points of view on each side (and many distinct reasons why people would vote to leave or vote to remain). But I hope that everyone votes for a positive reason — because they believe in the direction they are voting for, rather than because they are afraid of the alternative.
tobyaw: (Frogmarch 2002 - Whitby)
posted by [personal profile] tobyaw at 07:50pm on 23/11/2012 under , , ,
Last week the students of the University of St Andrews voted — with a clear majority — not to join the National Union of Students. St Andrews remains one of four student associations in Scotland that are not affiliated with the NUS, along with the University of Dundee, the University of Glasgow, and the Glasgow School of Art.

The arguments are rehearsed every few years. I remember a similar vote — with the same outcome — when I was a student in the early 1990s. I think the basic objections to NUS affiliation are two-fold:

  1. It would cost a significant amount of money to be affiliated with the NUS, and the benefits received in return would not match that expenditure. There is little appeal in being a net contributor to a larger organisation.

  2. Students in St Andrews feel little common purpose with other student organisations, and in particular with the viewpoints expressed by the NUS at a national level.

It strikes me that there is a parallel with Britain’s membership of the EU; we are a net contributor (and as a nation feel resentful about the size of our contribution and of what we receive in return for it), and we feel little common purpose with the overt aims of the organisation (there is little will in Britain for closer integration with Europe, or for the adoption of the Euro).

The students in St Andrews are wise enough to repeatedly reject NUS membership; I wish Britain had been wise enough to reject membership of the European project back in the 1970s. With the Westminster political parties sporadically committing to future referenda on EU treaty changes, perhaps we will have an opportunity to correct this.
location: St Andrews, Scotland



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