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What's the Intelligent Choice for Scotland?

15/09/2014 12:43 BST | Updated 13/11/2014 10:59 GMT

As the date of the Scotland's Independence Referendum approaches, the question that should be on every Scot's mind is, What is the Intelligent Choice? To spur on such thinking, I interviewed intelligence expert Chris Thomson, author of a new book Full Spectrum Intelligence: A Practical Course in Behaving Wisely and Well (Changemakers Books, 2014). A former lawyer, economist, and business consultant, Thomson is also pro-independence Scot who has worked in think-tanks in Scotland and the USA. He is now a writer and mentor, and runs courses in intelligence.

Q: Chris, the referendum as revolved mostly around economic issues such as: will Scotland be financial worse off or better off on its own? Is that the only issue that matters when it comes to making an intelligent choice? What else should Scots be thinking about?

A: Above all, this Referendum is about what it would mean to decide your own future, rather than having it decided by politicians in London who have become very remote from the people, and by corporations whose main interest is money and power and not people and the planet. Even if the result is No, this campaign, which has lasted for two years, is likely to change the UK forever, because it has shown people that power could lie with them, if only they take it. There are now many in England and elsewhere who realise that politics in the UK may have changed fundamentally.

Q: What conversations do you think Scots should be having with each other as the vote draws near? In other words, how would you set the dinner-table debate?

A: What kind of country do we want? What kind of future do we want to create? Although the full answers to these questions have yet to emerge, there is already a clear consensus on one thing - we do not want Scotland to be a neoliberal state, in which financial considerations outrank all others. That, as many people around the world realise, would be a recipe for disaster, in the form of worsening climate change, obscene levels of inequality, corruption on an industrial scale, not to mention the social breakdown and despair that accompany this. Of course, it is easy to talk about "fairness" and "sustainability" and things like this, and much harder to put them into practice. That said, the mood in Scotland is clearly "Enough is enough!"

Q: You define intelligence as the ability to "behave well and wisely." How would you rate the politicians in both camps on this measure, during the campaign?

A: I was almost a politician myself some years ago, so I understand that it is not easy for them. After all, they have to get the support of voters, to get elected. With this in mind, Alex Salmond has played a very "canny" game by not attempting to change everything all at once (e.g. the monarchy) and by accentuating the positive about Scotland. In this sense, he has behaved wisely. And, to a creditable extent, he has behaved well, because he has only rarely attacked his opponents (in stark contrast to their behaviour). There is no doubt that he an intelligent man. As for his political opponents, the Prime Minister David Cameron comes out best. It was he, after all, who permitted the Referendum and agreed to abide by its result (the Edinburgh Agreement). And it was he who has said, more than once, that the people of Scotland are perfectly entitled to decide their own future. So, he seems like an intelligent man. However, I cannot say the same for other prominent politicians in the No campaign (Darling, Clegg, Brown, for example). They have come across as very negative, giving the strong impression that, of all the nations in the world, Scotland is uniquely unqualified to govern herself. This negativity has been palpable, and has undoubtedly had the effect of converting many doubters into supporters of independence. So, not the behaviour of intelligent men!

Q: In your book, you talk about six different kinds of intelligence, and offer to individuals a way to assess their strengths and weaknesses in each. How would you assess Scotland's strengths and weaknesses as a potentially independent nation? Where does the nation need to improve itself?

A: This is a wonderful question. There can be little doubt that Scotland is mentally intelligent. For a long time she has punched well above her weight on the world stage - in inventiveness, medicine, shipbuilding, not to mention her leading role in the Enlightenment that gave the world modernity. No doubt this mental intelligence will continue. However, despite her achievements, Scotland is curiously low in self-esteem, so much so that there is even a Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing in Glasgow (http://www.centreforconfidence.co.uk/ ). If I had to choose just one area of improvement for Scotland, it would be this - self-esteem and confidence. Just imagine the Palestinians being given the opportunity that Scotland has on 18th September. The result would not be in doubt!

Q: What would be the intelligent response from England to a Yes vote?

A: The intelligent response from England (and Wales and Northern Ireland) would be: "The people of Scotland have spoken. This is going to mean big changes for us, not least in the ways we govern ourselves. The long Referendum campaign, and its result, has shown us that not only is true democracy possible, it is inspiring. So, let us be inspired to create true democracy in our own nations, and begin to undo the damage created by decades of neoliberalism. This will not be easy, but at least Scotland has shown us that it is possible."

Q: When governments think of "intelligence" they think of espionage. Would you say that Scotland, if it votes Yes, will have need of a new breed of intelligence advisors, men and women who could give wise council to the nation. If you were such an intelligence advisor, what would you say the priorities should be for an Independent Scotland?

A: Yes, to your suggestion of "intelligence advisors". If I were I lucky enough to be one, there would be two main things that I would focus on - a new economics, and personal development for all those in positions of power. When I say a "new economics", I mean an economics that values people, communities and the planet much higher than money and property. It would redefine "progress" and "success", such that they have nothing to do with economic growth, and everything to do with the wellbeing of people and this planet. Such an economics would help us to become a life-enhancing species, rather than a problem-creating species. And when I say "personal development", I mean that politicians and all others in authority should devote regular time to learning how to behave wisely and well (and thus be intelligent in the widest sense), with professional help, if necessary. Although some may find this challenging, I believe that, along with a new economics, it will be essential if Scotland wishes to be prominent in making the world a better place.

Chris Thomson is the author of Full Spectrum Intelligence: A Practical Course in Behaving Wisely and Well, a practical course that covers six main forms of intelligence, from physical to spiritual, as well as our "other senses." The book emphasizes the relationship between the state of the world today and the need for us to become much more intelligent. What's the Intelligent Choice for Scotland?

As the date of the Scotland's Independence Referendum approaches, the question that should be on every Scot's mind is, What is the Intelligent Choice? To spur on such thinking, I interviewed intelligence expert Chris Thomson, author of a new book Full Spectrum Intelligence: A Practical Course in Behaving Wisely and Well (Changemakers Books, 2014). A former lawyer, economist, and business consultant, Thomson is also pro-independence Scot who has worked in think-tanks in Scotland and the USA. He is now a writer and mentor, and runs courses in intelligence.

Q: Chris, the referendum as revolved mostly around economic issues such as: will Scotland be financial worse off or better off on its own? Is that the only issue that matters when it comes to making an intelligent choice? What else should Scots be thinking about?

A: Above all, this Referendum is about what it would mean to decide your own future, rather than having it decided by politicians in London who have become very remote from the people, and by corporations whose main interest is money and power and not people and the planet. Even if the result is No, this campaign, which has lasted for two years, is likely to change the UK forever, because it has shown people that power could lie with them, if only they take it. There are now many in England and elsewhere who realise that politics in the UK may have changed fundamentally.

Q: What conversations do you think Scots should be having with each other as the vote draws near? In other words, how would you set the dinner-table debate?

A: What kind of country do we want? What kind of future do we want to create? Although the full answers to these questions have yet to emerge, there is already a clear consensus on one thing - we do not want Scotland to be a neoliberal state, in which financial considerations outrank all others. That, as many people around the world realise, would be a recipe for disaster, in the form of worsening climate change, obscene levels of inequality, corruption on an industrial scale, not to mention the social breakdown and despair that accompany this. Of course, it is easy to talk about "fairness" and "sustainability" and things like this, and much harder to put them into practice. That said, the mood in Scotland is clearly "Enough is enough!"

Q: You define intelligence as the ability to "behave well and wisely." How would you rate the politicians in both camps on this measure, during the campaign?

A: I was almost a politician myself some years ago, so I understand that it is not easy for them. After all, they have to get the support of voters, to get elected. With this in mind, Alex Salmond has played a very "canny" game by not attempting to change everything all at once (e.g. the monarchy) and by accentuating the positive about Scotland. In this sense, he has behaved wisely. And, to a creditable extent, he has behaved well, because he has only rarely attacked his opponents (in stark contrast to their behaviour). There is no doubt that he an intelligent man. As for his political opponents, the Prime Minister David Cameron comes out best. It was he, after all, who permitted the Referendum and agreed to abide by its result (the Edinburgh Agreement). And it was he who has said, more than once, that the people of Scotland are perfectly entitled to decide their own future. So, he seems like an intelligent man. However, I cannot say the same for other prominent politicians in the No campaign (Darling, Clegg, Brown, for example). They have come across as very negative, giving the strong impression that, of all the nations in the world, Scotland is uniquely unqualified to govern herself. This negativity has been palpable, and has undoubtedly had the effect of converting many doubters into supporters of independence. So, not the behaviour of intelligent men!

Q: In your book, you talk about six different kinds of intelligence, and offer to individuals a way to assess their strengths and weaknesses in each. How would you assess Scotland's strengths and weaknesses as a potentially independent nation? Where does the nation need to improve itself?

A: This is a wonderful question. There can be little doubt that Scotland is mentally intelligent. For a long time she has punched well above her weight on the world stage - in inventiveness, medicine, shipbuilding, not to mention her leading role in the Enlightenment that gave the world modernity. No doubt this mental intelligence will continue. However, despite her achievements, Scotland is curiously low in self-esteem, so much so that there is even a Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing in Glasgow (http://www.centreforconfidence.co.uk/ ). If I had to choose just one area of improvement for Scotland, it would be this - self-esteem and confidence. Just imagine the Palestinians being given the opportunity that Scotland has on 18th September. The result would not be in doubt!

Q: What would be the intelligent response from England to a Yes vote?

A: The intelligent response from England (and Wales and Northern Ireland) would be: "The people of Scotland have spoken. This is going to mean big changes for us, not least in the ways we govern ourselves. The long Referendum campaign, and its result, has shown us that not only is true democracy possible, it is inspiring. So, let us be inspired to create true democracy in our own nations, and begin to undo the damage created by decades of neoliberalism. This will not be easy, but at least Scotland has shown us that it is possible."

Q: When governments think of "intelligence" they think of espionage. Would you say that Scotland, if it votes Yes, will have need of a new breed of intelligence advisors, men and women who could give wise council to the nation. If you were such an intelligence advisor, what would you say the priorities should be for an Independent Scotland?

A: Yes, to your suggestion of "intelligence advisors". If I were I lucky enough to be one, there would be two main things that I would focus on - a new economics, and personal development for all those in positions of power. When I say a "new economics", I mean an economics that values people, communities and the planet much higher than money and property. It would redefine "progress" and "success", such that they have nothing to do with economic growth, and everything to do with the wellbeing of people and this planet. Such an economics would help us to become a life-enhancing species, rather than a problem-creating species. And when I say "personal development", I mean that politicians and all others in authority should devote regular time to learning how to behave wisely and well (and thus be intelligent in the widest sense), with professional help, if necessary. Although some may find this challenging, I believe that, along with a new economics, it will be essential if Scotland wishes to be prominent in making the world a better place.

Chris Thomson is the author of Full Spectrum Intelligence: A Practical Course in Behaving Wisely and Well, a practical course that covers six main forms of intelligence, from physical to spiritual, as well as our "other senses." The book emphasizes the relationship between the state of the world today and the need for us to become much more intelligent. (http://www.changemakers-books.com/books/full-spectrum-intelligence).