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Fear of the Unknown Is a Good Reason to Vote No

17/09/2014 11:35 BST | Updated 16/11/2014 10:59 GMT

Fear is a dirty word. Hope gets a good press. Hence the easy ride for those who envisage a positive future under independence. Voting no out of fear is a sign of weakness, a lack of faith in Scotland to take on the future with confidence. To Yessers there is no obstacle to cementing Scotland's role as a progressive beacon on the world stage.

But thinking hope alone will deliver the expected outcome reveals a deep ignorance of history. Similar movements have a woeful record. Recent years have seen a catalogue of notable disappointments, from Obama to the Arab Spring.

A Yes vote would mark an addition to this canon of failure. Those approaching independence as a statement of emancipation will be the most aggrieved. Today countries are, for right or for wrong, never wholly independent. They are exposed more than ever to the irrationality of markets, unsentimental and impervious to the will of people trying to fashion a society how they please.

That's why the use of junk economic guesswork to promise wealth under independence has been deceitful. No one can claim to know if businesses will stay. Nor will a blind belief in our nation's intrinsic innovatory spirit guarantee success. To present a vision of Scotland's future around such postulations is to willfully misinform the public.

Stripped then of redundant predictions, what is left to justify independence? Would it truly mark a break from a broken political system? Those lapping up the Team Scotland Vs Team Westminster narrative should look at the actions of its chief progenitor, Alex Salmond. His has been a leadership involving profligacy,shameless cavorting with the Murdoch clan and preferential treatment awarded to billionaires. It is an error to think that a Yes vote would rid Scotland of such grimy politics.

The civic nationalist case is also misguided. The notion that Scotland is so notably distinct that it would justify separation fails to stand up to scrutiny. Articulating a vision of a naturally left leaning polity ignores the similar inclinations found all over Britain. Scotland's justification for statehood is based on history, and the current breadth of political consensus throughout the UK is ignored. This narcissistic idea that Scotland is somehow different would lead to the situation where someone from Carlisle rather than Gretna is less entitled to the benefits of our shared wealth, based on their location south of Hadrian's Wall. It is the creation of division where none exists.

So the related beliefs that politics will change or that Scotland is unique in the UK are baseless. What then of the future under independence? The will of some pro-Independence activists to ensure a just society exists isn't to be doubted. Its attraction is understandable. Like any country about to undergo potentially radical change, the old order has been degraded to such a point that anything would be more attractive. It's whether it can be achieved which is important.

This is where the currency debate rears its ugly head. Economic stability is paramount to ensuring that an independent country can shape its own society. With no talk of the groat being resurrected, Scotland will undoubtedly use the pound in a currency union (opposed by politicians and the public throughout the UK) or a Panama style set up.

The tedium of the exchanges on this issue has dulled Yessers into ignoring its serious implications. Would any business be willing to invest in such an inherently unstable arrangement? How would lenders react? The potential consequences could include capital flight, followed by an inevitable brain drain and collapse in living standards. Independence it might be, but it would be a Pyrrhic victory.

This scenario would mean none of the social spending policies supported by both the SNP and those on the left could be continued. While Jim Murphy was criticised for refusing to commit to free tuition fees in the future, his was an intellectually honest position. Nicola Sturgeon can promise anything on tuition, prescriptions and the NHS. But to say these are guaranteed is wish-thinking masquerading as factual certainty.

This is the unpredictable reality of a Yes vote. Being afraid of its potential for instability is justifiable. Rejecting something because of fear is a cold approach, offering none of the emotional satisfaction of hope. Yet it rings true, especially for those who have already seen their pensions drop in value, or would face unemployment. To them independence is not some kind of abstract political experiment to build a fairer society, but a real and genuine threat to their livelihoods.

Meaningless historical analogies are trotted out to downplay the inherent risks of independence. The more these irrelevant parallels are repeated the more they are ingrained. It may well be that over a hundred nations have declared independence since 1945, and never looked back. But were any of them developed countries, in possession of a common language, strong cross border ties and a highly integrated economy?

Most were post colonial and impoverished, in dire need of investment. To pretend that our situation is similar would be nonsense. Scotland and the rest of the UK enjoy a stability envied worldwide. That's not to minimise the myriad social problems we face. But it is ludicrous to pretend that our independence is comparable to other countries throwing off the unjust shackles of colonialism or oppression.

Those who are being asked to invite instability into their lives on the basis of such spurious comparisons are right to be sceptical. And it is a pitiful state of affairs when rational calculations are dismissed as weak or unpatriotic. These are people with skin in the game; they don't all share the hysterical zeal of National Collective to craft a nation from scratch.

The undeniable cynicism of justifying fear will leave itself open to detraction. But realism is better than wish thinking. So if you're voting No because you're scared of the risks, be reassured. It's a perfectly reasonable response to the wild unpredictability of separation.