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By Peter Arnott, published in Bella Caledonia http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/ A lot of people wish that this referendum campaign had never happened. They wish the whole damn thing would go away and be forgotten.
But a wish for a return to “normal” is a wish for a Scotland that is already in the past. A No vote will change things just as radically as a Yes vote. It is not only Yes voters who should be called on to look into a crystal ball and imagine a future that is radically "not the same".
Every vile piece of Westminster legislation that has attacked the poor and dismantled the Welfare State, every policy that has ensured that it is only the poor who have paid the price of the recession caused by the greed of the rich, every act of economic and social vandalism - it has been the comfortable pose of the well-meaning voters of Scotland that none of these things have really been our fault. That we didn't vote for them.
Well, after a No vote, we won't be able to say that any more.
Up until September the 18th, we have all been able to hide behind it all being someone else's fault. Either way the vote goes, Yes or No, that comfortable position is already shattered. On September 18th, either we vote to take responsibility for our own economics, our own wealth distribution, our own decisions to make war or peace...or we are voting to mandate away control over all of these matters to Westminster forever.
Either way, we will be responsible.
If a Yes voter has to take on board the moral hazard of whatever happens for good or ill in an independent Scotland, a No voter must equally accept moral responsibility for having given Westminster permanent permission to do whatever it likes forever. Moral Hazard works both ways.
Whatever austerity measures are coming down the line, all those policies that weren't our fault before September 18th? After September the 18th, they will be our fault. No. Sorry. Every single one of them will be our fault. This is the trap that history has set us
Sorry about that. But that's the way it's going to be. It will feel very bad to have actually voted for all that. But your No vote or your failure to vote will have signified that it in your view it is better for Scotland to suffer neo-conservative governments it didn't vote for than to take responsibility for its own affairs. You will have voted for Scotland, politically speaking, to cease to exist. For Scotland, considered as as a distinct political unit, to disappear.
Alex Salmond, is not the only begetter of this referendum. David Cameron agreed to it too. Now why do you think he did that? Because he is a friend to democracy, perhaps? You know and I know that Cameron agreed to the referendum in order to call Scotland's bluff. To settle and silence the "Scottish question" for a generation. But what else have the Tories, and others in the British establishment, to gain from a No vote?
I think they know that if we take independence off the table, if we remove, voluntarily, that bargaining chip from future negotiation, then there won't ever need to be any negotiations ever again. And having actually voted for that, we will have thrown away any electoral influence over what happens next. We will have given them a mandate to ignore us.
Everything we have gained since devolution, in terms of the painfully slow emergence into democracy we are still undergoing has been predicated on the "or else" of independence. Does anyone in the No Camp seriously expect a prize for loyalty when we remove the best card we've got from our hand? One or two of you can expect knighthoods, maybe, but what can the ordinary No voter really expect as a reward?
The Yes camp are constantly being asked about what kind of negotiations we can expect after we "reject" the United Kingdom - on currency, NATO, oil, Trident and the rest? Well, what kind of negotiations do you expect when you've said to other side; "whatever you want to do is fine with us"?
A replacement for Trident? You don't want that? Shut Up. A slashing of consequential health spending as privatisation of the NHS in England and Wales speeds up? You don't like that either? Shut up.
You voted for it.
Before September the 18th, nice folk in Scotland chatting about the Welfare State and the decline of local government and the miners and the poll tax and the sale of council housing and the destruction of our industries at dinner parties could say in their comfortable, pre-democratic way:
"Oh well, it's terrible. But it's not our fault. We're not responsible. We didn't vote for that. "
No more. After September the 18th, we in Scotland will be responsible for whatever happens to us. Our choice is whether or not we want democracy to go along with the responsibility. A No vote is not a place to hide from that responsibility. It is just a vote to have no influence over that future.
Everything has already changed. Everyone has to face the reality of that. Our only choice in September18th is: Do we make the way we change subject to democratic control within Scotland, or do we leave the management of that change to whomever somebody else votes for.
For hours in September, for the first time in history, Scotland will be a democratic country, with its people responsible for themselves. Putting your head in the sand of a No vote won't make our responsibility go away.