I come from the North East of Scotland the nationalist “heartlands”. But it was by no means certain I would become a nationalist.
My parents are both left leaning progressive Scots. My Dad was a flying picket for the only union that bet Thatcher (the teachers EIS IIRC though I could be wrong) and both my parents protested against all manner of things that make me proud. From cuts to public services to apartheid.
I wasn’t raised with any particular political ideology though. Though I was raised to think and the virtue of fair play was instilled in me.
Before I could vote I sat up to watch my first general election result with my Dad. The closest he ever got to political tribalism (at least in front of me) was to smile and cheer when the final results not the Scottish mainland were announced and the Tories were wiped out electorally in Scotland. This made quite an impression on me.
It also strikes me that before Barak Obama was a disappointment Tony Blair got in their first.
Like my Dad I started voting SNP pragmatically. Labour couldn’t beat the Tories where I was but the SNP could. I started off as a tactical voter with a vague idea of what the SNPs actual policies were.
Later I would discover, on the whole, I agreed with most of them. I don’t agree with all SNP policies to this day but I still agree with most of them. They remain the party closest to my own political views and position that is realistically electable.
They are not always as far to the left as I would like (sometimes they are a bit too New labour for my liking) but they are a better fit for me on the left than a Labour Party that is (compared to my politics) resolutely centre right. When I say there is not much difference between blue and red in UK politics it’s because from where I am standing they do look very close together.
Though I accept that may be a result of perspective more than anything else. The economic consensus perhaps slants my view…
Anyway, I’m rambling a little here and risk losing site of my point. That is to say I started off as a “pragmatic nationalist” and so I remain.
It is not some romantic “Braveheart” motivated politics that maintains my belief that Scotland (and the rUK) could be better if the union ended. It’s a combination of all manner of little practical things and concerns that reinforce my position.
At one level I have concerns about the very nature of democracy in the “mother of parliaments”. How in the 21st century can we still have an upper chamber filled with unelected peers? Former political grandees, bishops and the like?
Why has no one managed to reform the House of Lords? There seems to be no appetite for it within the Westminster system and that is distinctly worrying. It also seems to be little more than a minority concern for most Britons. Which is something of a bigger worry.
I also worry about the influence Whitehall and the civil service wield over our democracy. I worry that they encourage a kind of politics that sees solutions in legislation as their primary instrument. Rather than perhaps addressing roots causes we create new laws. Something of a “something must be seen to be done” rather than doing something. I would hope an independent Scotland would avoid this sort of politics.
I worry about the current political consensus. As the UK drifts ever further from the modern social democracy I would wish it to be. The drift is happening in Scotland to but the figures from the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey show it is less advanced and might be easier to reverse.
I also think that by doing so we can provide inspiration and motivation to the left and centre in the rUK and their electorate. A successful independent Scotland (and I see few reasons to think it wouldn’t be) would be a powerful weapon in a rUK lefts rhetorical armoury: “if they can do it why can’t we?”. Billy Bragg convinced me of that in the progressive patriot – a book about a “new England” that I think a lot of Scottish nationalists will recognise as being informed (at least in part) by our own brand of progressive civic nationalism.
I have concerns about defence. Whatever the results of the referendum I would like to see the UK/Scotland have a smaller and more practical military. More specialist and less an overblown relic of the Cold War. A military that can be deployed for peacekeeping but not war. That can defend but not attack.
I don’t care about international strength when it involves wars of dubious legality and misjudged interventionism.
In short I would like to live in a country that used it’s words not its fists.
I have concerns about cuts and inequalities. Thus the yes campaign appeals. As do the actions of the SNP in Holyrood.
I believe universal benefits have social and economic benefits above and beyond the rhetoric of “something for nothing”. Where small, probably tiny, savings can be made not giving people who don’t “need” benefits. Where we can avoid further enshrining a two-tier culture of have and have nots. Enforcing an insidious culture where people resent those who need the help of the state. A culture of strivers versus scroungers.
I also happen to reckon the administrative cost of means testing benefits would vastly offset any savings… As well as subjecting people to a humiliating process which I suspect, as happens in taxation, those it is intended to remove benefits from would quickly find accountants willing to make the inevitable loop holes work for them.
I worry about a political system where all parties feel the need to be seen to be “tough”.
Tough on crime (bad on civil liberties).
Make tough decisions on spending but avoid making the same tough decisions on taxation. Or if you prefer taking away from the vulnerable and poor as opposed to taking it from the rich.
To expand that point I don’t want to live in a country where those who have more than they “need” (be they a company or an individual) can hold HMRC and the government to ransom by making empty and idle threats to take their tax elsewhere.
I believe one voice in 5 million odd is louder than one voice in 63 million odd.
I also believe that two independent voices closely aligned on the world stage is stronger than one voice with an unfair and controversial veto.
I am a pragmatic nationalist.
Scottish Nationalism is in effect an engine that offers the opportunity for change for everyone on these islands. I think it’s likely it would be change for the better in the long run.
I am a pragmatic nationalist. 5 million people can take a chance for something better for many, many millions more.
I think we should take that chance. Not for “freedom”. Not because of “colonial” nonsense narratives.
But simply because it makes simple pragmatic sense to me. It fixes more than it breaks.