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Scotland Decides- But Decides What?

29/08/2014 14:37 BST | Updated 27/10/2014 09:59 GMT

I can't help but feel that we haven't seen the idea of Scottish independence properly debated, merely Salmonds poorly thought out vision put under an uncomfortable level of scrutiny. He seems to have stumbled from one embarrassment to the next, be it the currency debacle or the overzealous reliance on an archaic (and apparently overestimated) fuel source. But this doesn't mean Scotland shouldn't vote to be independent- it just means Salmond shouldn't be allowed to mess it up if it does.

This referendum, whilst sometimes succumbing to it, isn't about nationalism. It isn't about 'abandoning' the English, or hating them for that matter either, whilst perfectly understandably many Scots probably do. It isn't about if you agree with everything Salmond says either. The debate should be, must be about more than Salmonds blunders and Darlings pessimism. The question that needs to be answered is if Scotland could conceivably be independent- not under Salmond but under anyone.

The SNP isn't the only voice supporting independence (check out the Scottish Greens and what an independent Scotland would be like under them), and Alex won't be in charge forever.

Far from it being a strength of the No campaign, the almost unanimous consensus between the 3 main parties and a menagerie of corporate representatives is, I feel, actually a reason for caution. When was the last time the interests of the above were aligned with that of the population at large? When has agreement between ruthless big business and neo-liberal political parties generated a positive outcome for the people of the UK?

Of course, some explanations can be advanced that do away with the thin veneer of concern that suddenly seems to have appeared for Scotland's future. Dave will be gone faster than you can say 'hard-working families' if he is at the helm when the ship begins to break apart. It will make electoral success that bit harder for Ed if Labour-leaning Scotland depart. And Nick? Well Nick will probably change his mind in a couple of weeks and start appearing on posters for the Yes campaign.

It is very telling for the state of our foreign relations if we believe that by 'splitting' with Scotland we will lose a meaningful relationship with the Scots. If they have as much oil as Salmond seems to think they do, maybe we'll invade them in a few years time, claiming Nessie is evidence of chemical weapons testing, and then start worrying about the threat of home-grown would-be-Wallace terrorist cells. Maybe we'll see a far-right group formed with the aim of banning the kilt. Instead we should not view this as a split with 5 million odd people, but empowering 5 million instead- of giving democracy a better chance to work the way it should. Only the English would think that this means we'd no longer be friends.

So what is it that Scotland is really deciding? It's deciding about power and where it should lie- and currently that's not with the Scottish people.

Does this mean then that Scotland should vote yes? Not necessarily- a dysfunctional economy will hardly empower the people living under it. And herein is the catch- the belief that Holyrood will forevermore need to be at the teat of Westminster in order to survive, with more devolution to Edinburgh a handy way of placating those that have watched too much Braveheart. For all attempts of the No campaign to rebrand more positively with 'Better Together', this is still an incredibly patronising and oddly disturbing image that is conjured up. As Jean Muir excellently argued earlier this week, there are a plethora of nations that have extracted themselves from the suffocating bosom of London and now stand tall and free.

This does not mean that the birth pains of creating a new nation should be dismissed- it will be more difficult for Scotland to extract itself from the rest of the UK than it is for Ed Miliband to eat a bacon sandwich, and the meetings between Westminster and Holyrood that follow could well be more awkward than sharing a train carriage with Nigel Farage and a group of Romanians. Independence would not be easy- but nor is living in Tory Britain.

At that is what is at the heart of this debate- a chance for Scotland to set a precedent the world desperately needs. A chance to defy neoliberal dogma, meaningfully tackle climate change, and genuinely root democracy in its foundations by truly empowering the populous. There are legitimate concerns over the viability of Scotland's economy, but the only way an economy and indeed a society will work for everyone in it is if everyone has a proper say in how it's run. This is not something that is afforded to us in Britain currently.

I would not presume to tell anyone how to vote, though it is probably clear how I would if I lived a little further north. The point of this article is rather to remind people what is really at stake here, to lift the veil that has been cast over the debate. It's about where you want the power to be- closer to you or with Westminster? That's what you need to decide on September 18th.