Friday, 8 August 2014

The aftermath of the 'great' debate



The latest co-ordinated love-bombing from English ‘celebrities’, telling Scots not to vote for independence, featured some people of whom I hadn’t previously heard.

Maybe that is my problem: perhaps I should know who these ‘celebrities’ are and what they have done to earn their ‘celebrity’.  What I definitely can’t work out, is where they got their deep understanding of social and political issues in Scotland. 

Before reaching a considered opinion on Scotland’s constitutional future, the ‘celebrities’ presumably analysed our place within the British Union and how decisions taken by Westminster governments impact on the people of Scotland: no doubt they also considered how Scotland hasn’t voted Tory for more than 50 years but for the majority of that time we’ve had Tory governments imposed on us by the electorate of England.  I’m not sure if the ‘celebrities’ believe in democracy, but voting for one political party and having another imposed on you is not a tenet of the democratic process.

During last week’s televised debate on independence, Alistair Darling tried to laugh-off Scotland’s democratic deficit by pointing to First Minister Alex Salmond and saying, “I didn’t vote for him, but I’m stuck with him.”

Of course, Darling knew his point was fatuous, but British Unionists have no credible answer for why Scotland should have Tory governments imposed on us after we have clearly rejected them at the ballot box.  This can only happen while we remain part of the British Union. 

As for Darling not having voted for Alex Salmond, the Labour MP doesn’t live in Salmond’s Gordon constituency, so he couldn’t have voted for him.  Darling, of course, meant he had not voted SNP but Scotland has an SNP Government.  Scotland voted overwhelmingly for the SNP at the 2011 Scottish Parliament Election, resulting in a landslide victory for the party and returning them to power with an overall majority.  That is why we have an SNP Government and Alex Salmond is First Minister.  The British Unionists really do seem to have a problem with this democracy thing.

Actually, I didn’t watch the two-hour Salmond-Darling debate on STV – the Darling comment mentioned above I saw on a news clip.  I’ve never believed the confrontational style of television debates serves any constructive purpose.  Two or more politicians trying to shout over each other and score political points does not tend to enlighten viewers.  Quite the contrary, people dislike the bickering and switch-off.  STV would have better served the public, and the debate, by devoting one-hour each to in-depth interviews with Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling.  Viewers could have listened to both sides given time to set-out their plans and provide detailed answers, and then decided which they felt was more credible.

Possibly for the reasons described above, STV’s much-hyped debate appears to have made little impact on the referendum or the public’s views: both YES and No voters stayed at the same level, according to an ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper, while amongst ‘undecided’ voters there was a 2% swing to YES.

On the morning following the television debate, a friend of mine posted on Facebook and succinctly cut through the politics and media coverage of the independence debate.  Irene Lundy is an Ardrossan mum of four: her 17 year-old son Gavin has been playing a leading role in the pro-independence ‘Generation YES’ youth movement.  This is what Irene wrote:

Last night I watched the debate about independence and saw two men struggling to get their message across.  But this whole thing isn’t about Alex Salmond or Alistair Darling or any other politician.  It’s not about them, it’s about us.

I support independence and I’ll vote Yes in the referendum.  I’m not a member of a political party.  I’m voting Yes because I think it’s right that people should run their own country and take decisions for themselves.  I think that we need to make the better country we want for our children and their children.  When I look around the world I see that normal countries are independent, so I suppose it comes down to whether or not you believe Scotland should be a normal country.

I’m very proud of my 17 year old son Gavin who has been playing a leading part in Generation Yes.  Gavin isn’t a member of a political party either, he did his own research and decided to campaign for independence.  Unlike Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling, Gavin has been knocking on doors and speaking to real people.  He’s been answering their questions and persuading them that independence is right for them.

Gavin has also been representing the Yes side in debates and has been winning them, even against experienced politicians, and that’s because he really cares about the future we make.  He doesn’t make political points or read out what parties want people to hear.  He speaks about the real life things that we can make better for everyone by running our own country and taking all the decisions for ourselves.

At Garnock Academy in Kilbirnie Gavin debated against a Labour MSP.  At the start of the debate a poll was taken and the result was Yes 30%, No 70%.  Another poll was taken after Gavin and the MSP had spoken.  This time the result was Yes 54%, No 46%.

At St Matthew’s Academy in Saltcoats Gavin’s opponent was a North Ayrshire Labour councillor.  At the end of the debate the poll was Yes 70%, No 30%.

I’m very proud of Gavin and the huge amount of work he is putting in towards making Scotland a better place to live.

Rather than concentrating so much on claim and counter-claim made by career politicians, we should be listening to people like 17 year-old Gavin Lundy who is arguing for independence, not from a party-political perspective but because of the real opportunities it presents for us to build a better life for everyone in Scotland.

Perhaps we should also bear in mind the words of Gavin’s mum, Irene – “this whole thing isn’t about Alex Salmond or Alistair Darling or any other politician.  It’s not about them, it’s about us.” 

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