Being one of those sad people who like to hit the hay early of a night, I usually record BBC1’s Question Time on a Thursday. Which meant it was only last night, after coming from an Eamonn McCann/Eamon Dunphy interview/lovefest that I got to see the David Dimbleby show. It came from Falkirk and no cigars for knowing the topic: Scottish independence.
The polling figures show that the vote for independence next year will be soundly defeated. However, if you were to judge by the panellists and the audience on Question Time, there are a lot more people out there interested in independence than Britain/England would like to think.
We in Ireland have a particular interest in this because as Paul Gillespie says in The Irish Times this morning, should Scotland vote for independence (no, Virginia, not for ‘going it alone’ – no country can ‘go it alone’ any more – hence the emphasis on Scotland in the EU on Question Time), then the question of Ireland’s reunification will be firmly back on the agenda in the south. Which would make a change.
One of the criticisms of the Scottish Nationals’ white paper on independence was that it had a lot of stuff about what the Scots Nats would do in an independent Scotland. The deputy leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon (Sturgeon, Salmond – what is it with this party and fish?) explained that her party felt the need not just to make the case for a Scotland free of the union with Britain, but to paint a picture, in as much detail as possible, as to what an independent Scotland could look like.
I hope Sinn Féin were watching. There is a burning need for that party to explain to the people of Ireland north and south not only the reasons for an Ireland free of the union with Britain, but also what that Ireland could look like politically, socially and economically. Right now there is a sort of knee-jerk reaction for or against reunification and independence. I can see why that might be so – at a simplistic level you might say the Irish people have a right to make their own mistakes. But in so many heads is lodged the notion that reunification/independence equals the south swallowing up/infecting the north, it’s crucial that an alternative model is out there for public discussion.
And that picture of what a reunited independent Ireland might look like needs to be one that is firm and clear for the non-political anorak. One good woman in the Question Time audience said that she was undecided, and all the talk from the panellists of balance of trade figures and currency clashes and levels of decision-making went clean over her head. Me too, missus. Our politicians of all stripes need to stop talking in political jargon. George Bernard Shaw once said that all the professions are in a conspiracy against the laity. It’s time the professional politicians here stepped out of the conspiracy of obfuscation and laid some lucid arguments on the table that the rest of us can examine.