Scottish writers on the referendum – independence day?

Scottish writers on the referendum – independence day?
The Guardian, by Richard Holloway

The referendum debate reminds me of those arguments for and against the existence of God that were such a feature of the cultural scene about 10 years ago. The cases offered in support of either side were rationalisations of convictions reached on other, usually subconscious, grounds, which is why they tended to fortify beliefs already held rather than make new converts; and they left agnostics undecided. The same thing seems to be going on here, with the agnostics the group likely to swing the vote, depending on which side they find less satisfactory on the day. I am an agnostic who has decided to vote yes, and what I want to do here is describe some of the factors that prompted me to that decision.


I agree with the priest in TS Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral who said he saw "nothing quite conclusive in the art of temporal government". Economics strikes me as no more conclusive a science than theology, which is why I have been more irritated than enlightened by the use each side has made of the dismal science in the debate; but while the arguments of the yes side may not have persuaded me, the arguments of the no side have propelled me in the opposite direction. Rather than making a positive case for the union, the Better Together campaign has wasted its energy on attacking the idea that Scotland could go it alone, a tactic guaranteed to anger those of us for whom the question was never whether we could but whether we should.


And there has been little recognition on the unionist side that the British political system is broken. The major factor in my own mistrust is outrage at the wars we have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan for no valid moral purpose. I am ready to forgive politicians for getting economics wrong, but never for taking us into costly and unnecessary wars. Over-centralised Britain concentrates power in ways that are hard to challenge. I support the Catholic principle of subsidiarity: power should be decentralised to the maximum degree; and that’s what the soft form of independence on offer will help us to achieve.


But even if it’s a no vote on 18 September, the yes campaign has already won by forcing the unionists to offer Scotland significant new powers. If they had shown that generosity at the beginning of the campaign, history might have turned out to be different.