It doesn’t take a genius to detect that I avoid issues in this blog that are not directly related to the maintenance of the union between Scotland and the rest of the UK. With ten days to go to the EU referendum this will be the one and only comment I make on it.
My decision to remain silent is driven largely by the subject matter. The EU referendum is not directly linked to separation/independence for Scotland so by and large it’s off the No Thanks! radar. But like ‘indyref’ it cuts across society in a similar way, and I guess all referenda have that divisive impact. It’s Yes/No or In/Out, not ‘On balance, but only on balance, I think party X is better than party Y at the moment so I’ll vote for them this time knowing I’ll have another vote in five years’ time.’
Of course, it cuts across society in a different way, so that on each side of the question there are people united (even if they don’t see it that way) who were divided on the earlier question. To put it more personally, there are people who I agree with completely on the union who have radically different views on the future of the UK and the EU.
For many Scots there is also a question of being ‘all voted out.’ While the majority of the UK (well, England) has only had one major ballot in the last six years, the Westminster election, we’ve already had three in less than two years – not only Westminster but our own Holyrood election and of course the big one, the independence referendum.
The ‘big one’ not only held a mirror to what we were like as a nation, it taught us all we needed to know about referenda. I alluded to this in February when I wrote An idiot’s guide to the EU referendum – some advice from Scotland warning Scotland’s fellow UK citizens what to expect in the run-up to referendum day.
Reviewing my guide now I see nothing to disagree with, including my guess that ‘irony will abound as our first minister puts exactly the same arguments for staying in the EU that she opposed for Scotland remaining in the UK.’ If I’d added a prediction that the Remain campaign would be dubbed ‘Project Fear’ I’d have got a full house (… which I arguably did a month later when I noticed an FT journalist discussing the term).
If I’m one of those inclined to be all ‘voted out’ I’m also one of those who see the EU question as less existential than the maintenance of the union. I could live in a UK that’s in or out of the EU. I would have found it difficult to live in a Scotland that was not part of the UK.
To cut to the chase, I’m going to vote to stay in the EU. As I said in the other referendum (see Why I’m going to vote No) ‘my reasons are both positive and negative, rational and emotional.’ I don’t intend to set them out here, perhaps that’s another consequence of being ‘all voted out.’ In any event, there’d be even less chance of them affecting anyone else’s decision than my previous list of referendum pros and cons.
I saw a comment the other day that Jeremy Corbyn, with whom I suspect I have little else in common, had said he was ‘70% in favour of staying in the EU.’ He was condemned for his lack of enthusiasm and commitment, both for EU membership and the Remain campaign. But on this one question, it seems to me not an unreasonable position. Of course the EU has big problems. But we’d have different big problems outside the EU and on balance I’d rather have the challenges that go with being in than being out.
So now you know, even if you didn’t want to.
As you can imagine, my position on this issue has nothing to do with the SNP’s support, such as it is, for ‘Remain.’ They seem to have got themselves in a bit of a fankle with this as with many other things. Nicola says a UK Leave vote will not lead to indyref2 while the ghost hovering in the wings, Alex, says it will. Meantime polls seem to suggest that a substantial minority of their supporters do want to leave the EU. I shall watch the party’s remaining contortions on the subject with some interest and not a little amusement.
Normal service will be resumed shortly.