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IndyRef: Why I Voted No

I voted No but I suspect I did so for entirely distinct reasons than many of my fellow No-voters would wish, and many Yes-voters would imagine. These reasons are purely personal: I believe the following policy areas are the most crucial in improving UK society as a whole...

Having hummed creakily into my consciousness like a Sopwith Camel, the referendum is now casting the harbinger shadow of a political Enola Gay over me to such an extent that I have decided to take this final opportunity to submit a grovellingly naval-gazing apology for the way I voted (two weeks ago by post).

I voted No but I suspect I did so for entirely distinct reasons than many of my fellow No-voters would wish, and many Yes-voters would imagine.

These reasons are purely personal: I believe the following policy areas are the most crucial in improving UK society as a whole:

1. Raising the minimum wage

2. Ending illegal tenancy charges and capping rises in rent prices

3. Taxing unused properties above the value of £2 million

4. Taxing financial sector bonuses over £100,000

5. Doing something about energy prices - nationalisation at this stage would be practically impossible in any variation of a post referendum Great Britain so perhaps some kind of price increase-cap would be most sensible here as well.

6. Something akin to a government bailout of the NHS to put hospitals back into the hands of the public sector and ringfence enough budget to keep them there.

7. Something about transport costs (again nationalisation unlikely so perhaps transport-tax relief for low earners)

8. Securing key public sector services, salaries and pensions

9. Not bombing civilians in the Middle East, and withholding money and weapons from those who do.

10. Decreasing University Tuition Fees

11. Abolishing the bedroom tax and if possible universal credit

12. Building more houses and renovate unoccupied buildings as social housing

13. Staying in the EU and pushing for more social justice-centred reform

14. A federal restructure in the UK, with Devo Max for Scotland and tax raising powers in areas of finance, housing, social welfare, energy and transport, for London, as well as a constitutional convention for the rest of the country.

Quite simply I believe that, with the exception of 13, these policies - and the keener observers among you will note that (a) they are all somewhat left of centre and (b) a couple of them pertain as much if not more to London than Scotland - can be achieved more quickly and sustainably in an economically unified United Kingdom.

Why do I believe this?

Firstly, the Labour Party has discussed a number of these policies as potential general election campaign promises. I take any talk like this from the Labour Party with a pinch of not-believing-a-word-they-say but if these issues are at least on the table then I am convinced the power of single-issue, grass roots campaigning can push them to the top of the pile.

Secondly I question the record of the politicians who would likely be running an independent Scotland. The SNP have been quicker off the mark with words on these issues than the Westminster parties but just as static on action. I would also worry about the growing influence of ideologues on the very-far-left whose idea of policy research is misquoting Ernesto Guevara's epitaph.

Thirdly I question the collective national drive to make the damn thing work in the event of a Yes. As a letter to the Scotsman put it, countries like Norway succeeded because "When Norway wanted independence 99.5 per cent of the population voted Yes." and

"I don't see that sort of unity in Scotland today, and for that reason alone there should not be a referendum at all."

While I disagree with the second half of the latter part of the statement, I think that these deep and deepening divisions outweigh any concerns I may (and do) have that I feel much more Scottish than British.

Fourthly, I am not convinced that a fiscal union without a political union would allow Scotland to safely increase borrowing to the extent that the above policies would be secure. I found Paul Krugman's arguments particularly convincing although am receptive to the counterargument that he was talking worst-case scenario.

Fifthly I doubt whether the extra spending needed to accommodate my (for want of a better term) manifesto can even be offset against the wildest, oil-powered dreams of the Yes Campaign, and having two parents whose wages and pensions were savaged by a public sector sagging under its own weight, I know only too well where the sacrifices are made when revenues fall short of spending plans.

Lastly, given the preoccupation with oil and reinvesting its imagined proceeds in the private sector, I worry that an independent Scotland would quickly become too business-friendly (ie open to corporate lobbying) for the above reforms, especially given that such opulent gold-toothed sharks as Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump are already circling.

And that's about it. This is a complete dilution of the countless factors that swarm my head into a pretty simplistic, entirely subjective and frankly selfish argument. It should also be noted here by way of a disclaimer that I don't begrudge Yes voters their opinions and even agree with lots of them: EU membership would come easily as you can't have 5 million EU citizens being governed by a non-EU government. We'd work something out with currency - I'm intrigued about the idea of a separate currency linked to the pound like the Irish Punt. There is oil in the North Sea...I think the appetite for such progressive reforms as the above is much larger in Scotland than the UK as a whole. I think our immigration needs differ from the UK as a whole. I think less reliance on such intangible, unaccountable agents as financial markets is an admirable, if equally intangible prospect. I think a nuclear free Scotland would be a thing of beauty.

I also, more importantly, think that, with the exception of the non-applicable first two points, everything in the above paragraph would - will - be possible under Devo Max. A No vote, for me, is still an acceptance of many principles of the Yes campaign, but under the umbrella of a currency and diplomatic union that would exist anyway under EU membership.

In the meantime: vote No...or vote Yes...but for the love of the wee man just make sure you vote. And then stay engaged in the democratic process; because the next debate, whether for Devo Max or anything else, is just around the corner.

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