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Scottish Independence Debate / Opinion: Wake up from this independence fairy tale

Shetland News columnist Genevieve White argues the case for a No vote at Thursday's referendum - Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

Something strange has happened to our independence debate over the past few months. What started out as a rational discussion has become fanciful, writes Genevieve White.

Increasingly, we are living within the pages of a fairy tale: one in which Scotland takes on the role of wronged heroine. England, on the other hand, is cast in various unattractive roles ranging from abusive partner to evil witch capable of casting a 300 year enchantment with a casual flick of her wand.

In all the Yes rhetoric, the most fantastic element of all is the fairy tale magic mirror, which distorts reality and shows us only what we want to see. We have become collectively mesmerised by the reflection shown to us and we are now in possession of a highly idealised vision of our true selves.

This idealised mirror image reveals us to be a country of wonderful people. We are far less likely to vote Tory than our southern neighbours. We despise Ukip and oppose Trident.

The National Collective film Scotland Yet devotes a significant amount of screen time to exploring Scottish people’s “sense of identification with the underdog” and our preoccupation with “social justice”. Meanwhile, Angus Roxburgh’s letter from Edinburgh in the New Statesman describes the “high minded” Scottish values which set us apart from others in the UK.

Such claims create a series of dichotomies. If we (who are in possession of these admirable qualities) are set up in opposition to our English neighbours, what does this mean? The implication, of course, is that citizens of England are right wing, blithely unconcerned by issues of equality and well, just ever so slightly morally inferior.

Many of these claims, however, are not borne out by evidence. Recent surveys have shown that Scottish attitudes to welfare and education spending do not differ hugely from attitudes held elsewhere in the UK. A survey conducted earlier this year proved that seven out of 10 Scots back stricter immigration controls while six out of 10 of us think that benefits should only be available to those who have lived in the UK for five years or more.

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Not only are suggestions of Scottish superiority untrue, they must be deeply insulting to the hundreds and thousands of English people who protested against the Iraq war and the thousands more who have campaigned against nuclear weapons and protested against NHS cuts. If English protesters find themselves in a minority, this makes them more, not less, deserving of Scottish support. Together, we have achieved many good things: women’s suffrage, Chartist and trade union movements were all fuelled by cooperation between activists throughout the UK.

Yet it seems as if all that is positive about the Union has been deleted from our collective memory. What remains is bitterness at the bedroom tax and anger at the 4,000 children in Glasgow who are relying on food banks. This anger is, of course, quite justified. Don’t ask how many children in Salford are in similar situations though. We’ll just leave them to go hungry and hope that Westminster will soon follow our enlightened example.

George Orwell described nationalism as “power hunger tempered by self-deception”. Renowned for its shape shifting qualities: nationalism does not represent a set of beliefs in the way that socialism (or conservatism or liberalism) does. Despite the insularity of the independence campaign, Yes voters will quickly tell you that they are not nationalists. The SNP have cunningly dressed their nationalist agenda in socialist clothes for the Starbucks generation: who knows how long this disguise will hold up?

With warm hearted philanthropists such as Brian Souter pouring their money into the Yes campaign, it is hard to imagine the people of an independent Scotland having any more influence on how their country is run than they do now.

The next part of this particular story is yet to be written and we can only guess at its ending. It is my sincere hope that the majority of people will vote No on Thursday. I believe that many No voters will not be making their choice out of fear, defeatism or resistance to change.

Rather I think they will be making their choice in the realisation that we have a lot of work to do – together. We are a land of plenty indeed: why wouldn’t we share our wealth with others? Why would we make things harder for those who are already struggling?

Fairy tales are for bed time and now it is time to wake up to ourselves. The things which many of us want will not be easy to achieve: but they are achievable. Yes voters: I read the indy wishes at your party on Commercial Street and found many of them beautiful. Let’s make these wishes a reality – but for all 64 million of us.


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