Last week, Holyrood voted to back a second independence referendum. Within a day, Theresa May triggered Article 50. These two historic moments signify the end of one divisive debate and the re-emergence of another. The rhetoric from the Scottish National Party and the British Government over these two issues, in my opinion, reveals the narrow and divisive politics that dominate modern Britain.
Although the politics of division isn’t a new concept, it has now become the norm to utilise it as a political strategy. The EU referendum was turned into a rather bitter campaign over the dominant issues of immigration and sovereignty. The debate near ignored the more significant, everyday issues that face the UK.
Simply put, had these larger and more numerous issues taken precedence, it is highly likely that Vote Leave would have lost. By sensationalising the negative impacts of immigration and using attractive soundbites like “take back control,” the Leave campaign utilised a shallow and nationalistic dogma that convinced many that these were the only major issues facing Britain.
They divided the nation. At this stage, it is unclear how changes to sovereignty and minor reductions in immigration will benefit the British people. Brexit will happen, but my issue is with those who knowingly campaigned on a divisive platform simply to cross the line victorious. Politics today is no longer about policies and issues, but the preservation of abstract concepts like national identity and the strong nation state, both of which do
little to enhance the everyday lives of British people.
This brings us back to Scottish independence, which has proven to be no less divisive. Despite the Brexit fallout, there are still many in Scotland who are undecided heading into Indy Ref 2 as both sides of the argument are failing them.It seems to me that some of the SNP’s top brass want nothing more than their moment in history and will seek the achievement of this goal above all else.
Although their vision for Scotland does at least provide some much needed optimism in politics, they continually ignore the legitimate concerns for independence. Any counterargument to independence, whether it be questions over currency, the budget deficit, or Scotland’s status in the EU, are dismissed very quickly. They aren’t dismissed by answers, but by baseless political rhetoric. The SNP are just as guilty of question-dodging and media-bashing as the Tories are. The division they cause is based on the ideas that the rest of the UK is “out to get us” and that opposing independence is somehow unpatriotic or inherently right-wing. Salmond accused all media that isn’t The National as being “against Scotland.”
Each camp clearly has a substantial base of support, however the undecided voter faces an almost impossible choice. On one hand, they have the SNP’s vision of an independent
Scotland, which is at best a little economically ignorant, and on the other hand, they have the unionist option that currently wants Scotland to play its role in a “Bold Brexit Britain.” Two narrow propositions, two different sects of nationalism.
This second formal debate on independence should learn from the mistakes of previous referenda and conduct a positive campaign that offers concrete proposals for the real
issues that matter to Scotland.
The participation in a proper debate that doesn’t aim to split the population will make voters more informed and crucially heal some of the political division that has engulfed the country.
A referendum on these terms will be a display of democracy we can be proud of, and ensure that whatever the outcome, the people of Scotland will largely be able to make it
work together. However, recent history indicates that we will get the complete opposite and
the politics of division will continue to thrive.