Monthly Archives: September 2014

What’s the worst that can happen? What’s the best that can happen?

Posted by Euan Bennet on 17/09/2014

I’ve already written over 20,000 words on this blog partly as an attempt to collect my own thoughts. For the most part, not many other people have read them. That’s ok. One post went weirdly viral and has been read nearly 74,000 times. That was unexpected. It wasn’t even my best article. I don’t know if anyone has decided to vote Yes as a result of reading what I’ve written, but I do hope those who have read it were encouraged to think analytically about their decision, consider the evidence instead of campaign rhetoric from either side, and above all make an informed choice.

I have nothing but contempt for the way the Better Together campaign has conducted themselves. The disregard that they hold for voters, demonstrated by the Patronising BT Lady video has this week been overtaken by leaflets from the Labour Party which actually contain the line “If you don’t know, vote No”. How is that democratic? How is that going to help citizens to make an informed decision about the most important choice they will ever make? The people behind the Better Together campaign, and anyone involved with that campaign who has used lies, misinformation, and fear in an attempt to bully voters into voting No, will have to live with their actions. I do not know how those people will be able to go forward with a clear conscience, and I hope they regret their behaviour for the rest of their lives. Yet I will still work for a better Scotland for everyone, including them. Our revenge will be the laughter of our children, as the saying goes.

The low-resolution certainties

Much has been written and said demanding “certainties” from the Yes campaign, demands which are curiously not mirrored when it comes to the No campaign. Let’s take a look at what we can be certain about if one steps back far enough and considers the basic facts dispassionately.

Over the last week or so I have come to realise that at a certain distance there are four basic facts that matter, and everything else is just details:

  1. Scotland is self-sufficient in water
  2. Scotland is self-sufficient in food (or for pedants, it has the capacity to be if necessary)
  3. Scotland is self-sufficient in energy (which includes renewables so this is true forever [or at least for the rest of the Sun’s main sequence life, pending future technological developments])
  4. Scotland is an exporting nation

The first three points ensure our future supply of basic commodities (a trio which is the envy of many other countries); the fourth point ensures that we have the capacity to thrive economically. I could add in loads of other points such as our education level (three Universities in the World top 100, etc etc) but everything else can be included somewhere in the four points above.

Here are the crucial points in the low-resolution certainties

If we vote No tomorrow, the benefit of these resources remains in the hands of an out-of-touch, elitist, unaccountable, unrepresentative, pseudo-democratic Parliament over which the people of Scotland have just 3.6% influence. The direction of travel over the last 35 years has been that this Parliament has abused these resources to enrich the few, to the detriment of the many. Travel in this direction has accelerated in recent years, and this acceleration is set to continue.

If we vote Yes tomorrow, the benefit of these resources will transfer to the people of Scotland, who will elect governments to act in the peoples’ best interests via a representative and proportional Parliament over which the people have 100% control. The direction of travel over the last 15 years (since the Parliament was restored) has been to ensure the resources benefit our whole society, within the very limited constraints the Parliament can work within, and this is set to not only continue but accelerate after independence.

What is the best and worst that can happen?

If we accept the above as objective fact (and people are entitled to disagree, as long as they provide some basis for disagreement) then we can ‘zoom in’ a bit and look at some of the details. The following is a personal prediction, crystal ball free, of the different scenarios. Treat it as an exercise in thought-provocation. Caution: may contain traces of hyperbole:

The realistic worst-case scenario: Yes

The problem with the entire Better Together campaign at low-resolution is essentially the existence of the Edinburgh Agreement. The signing of this internationally-recognised document binds both the Scottish and UK Governments to work in the best interests of the people of Scotland, regardless of the result. Everything else is just details. In principle one could construct a worst-case scenario where the UK Government refuses to recognise the Edinburgh Agreement, but such a decision would make them an international pariah as well as making it abundantly clear that democracy in the UK is dead.

Alert readers will already have realised that this worst-case scenario is exactly what the Better Together campaign have spent the last three years putting forward. That saves me some time here. I don’t think we need to spend any more time on dealing with an argument with such a non-existent premise.

In my opinion, the realistic worst-case scenario after a Yes is that everything stays the same. That saves some time as well.

What we can do to prevent the worst-case scenario

“Vote Yes for change” is a self-fulfilling prophecy: the movement that will have led to the Yes vote is not going anywhere, that much is abundantly clear. I have realised over the last week or so that my previous plan of ‘campaign for a Yes vote, then step back from politics and have more time for other hobbies’ is pretty much out the window now. I want the change described by the Common Weal book! I DEMAND that this happens as soon as possible, so that our society improves and everyone benefits! To paraphrase Gandhi, we WILL be the change we want to see! That being said, let’s bullet point how to avoid things staying the same:

  • Maintain the energy and appetite for change that is evident in the Yes campaign, and translate this into widespread and continuing engagement in political process. This is likely anyway because the reason we are seeing the tremendous level of engagement is because people realise their vote and voice counts for something this time, and they also realise that after independence their vote and voice will count every single time.
  • After the first independent elections, we will continually hold the first Government to account and make sure they keep their promises. In the devolved Parliament, governments have by and large delivered on their promises (most notably the minority Government during 2007-2011 which passed 86 out of 96 headline manifesto commitments despite being a minority government).
  • If the first independent government does not deliver the change that the engaged post-Yes campaign desires, then we will organise and ensure that we get the change we need at the second election. This may involve direct action, i.e. standing candidates of our own.

The realistic worst-case scenario: No

There is the temptation here to construct an unrealistic scenario. One such extreme example would be the Scottish Parliament being abolished, which would be within Westminster’s gift to do at any point. The realistic worst-case scenario is, in roughly chronological order:

  • No new powers for the Scottish Parliament. Or worse, the Labour proposals for further devolution are brought in, featuring no new powers, but new responsibilities without the means to fund them.
  • A Tory Government or a Labour Government at Westminster come 2015. Both have pledged that they will continue planned public spending cuts, austerity measures, punitive welfare reform, and confrontational foreign and immigration policy. Add UKIP to a coalition with the Tories for extra racism, sexism, and every other ‘-ism’ in your worst-case scenario!
  • An EU exit following the proposed referendum in 2017.
  • The TTIP opens up the NHS in Scotland to marketisation just like it already is in England.
  • 100,000 more children in poverty by 2020.
  • Another banking crash fuelled by the housing bubble that economic policy is currently reinflating.
  • More austerity, forever.
  • BUT enough money to build a new generation of nuclear weapons stored 30 miles from our biggest city.
  • Scotland’s renewable energy potential left to one side while fracking poisons our soil and water.

What we can do to prevent the worst-case scenario

  • Hope that it doesn’t happen.
  • Remember that day in 2014 when we held absolute sovereign power for 15 hours, and chose to give it away?
  • Regret voting No.

The realistic best-case scenario: No

As far as I have seen, newspaper editorials have constructed a best-case scenario here where we get a federal UK within months if only we are good little boys and girls and vote No. This is wishful thinking that is borderline delusional, as anyone who has been paying the slightest bit of attention will realise. The realistic best-case scenario after a No vote is as follows:

  • The ‘more powers’ pledges are not delivered. Instead, a post-Yes movement across the UK grows in voice arguing for true reform and federalism.
  • The post-Yes movement puts forward candidates at elections across the UK. The first-past-the-post system makes it difficult to build parliamentary support.
  • Eventually after mass demonstrations and protests, Westminster agrees to prepare a timetable for a discussion, to see what kind of debate they want to have about giving power to the people.
  • All of the worst-case scenario stuff still happens, because while the post-Yes pan-UK group is mobilising, either the Tories (with added racism) or Labour are in power from 2015.

What we can do to achieve the best-case scenario

  • Hope that someone else makes it happen.
  • After post-No mourning period, regroup the Yes movement and join with e.g. English&Welsh Green Party, NHA party to seed grassroots movement for change.
  • Try not to be too badly affected by all the stuff in the worst-case scenario.
  • Remember that day in 2014 when we held absolute sovereign power for 15 hours, and chose to give it away?
  • Regret voting No.

The realistic best-case scenario: Yes

This is summed up here: 50+ papers about how we can transform society. There is a book in lay-person language which is available from the website which I cannot recommend highly enough. Bullet-pointing the highlights:

  • Childcare is transformed to be brought in line with the best in Europe, creating 35,000 new jobs and allowing a fundamental shift in parents’ options
  • Universal Basic Income (a.k.a. Citizen’s Income) ends poverty
  • A transition to a high-wage, productive economy redistributes wealth throughout our society more equally, and increases tax revenues without even changing the tax bands
  • A transition to a 30-hour working week means people will become happier, more productive, and less stressed. Time to participate in society and culture means life becomes more fulfilling.
  • Our renewable energy potential is fully realised, securing our energy supply forever.
  • Power is devolved to the lowest level that is sensible, creating a new politics. Voter engagement is transformed into more people standing to represent their communities in councils and Parliament, meaning decision-makers are more representative.
  • We can ensure equality for all.

What we can do to achieve the best-case scenario

  • Vote Yes tomorrow.
  • Join the post-Yes movement and help the self-fulfilling prophecy deliver the change that is possible.
  • Never regret it.


My favourite quote from the campaign is from Robin McAlpine: “If you want certainty, get a digital watch. If you want a better country, roll up your sleeves”.

If you vote Yes tomorrow, please make sure you are comfortable with the worst-case scenario and are prepared to work for the best-case scenario.

If you vote No tomorrow, please make sure you are comfortable with the worst-case scenario, and are prepared to work for the best-case scenario.

Be fully aware of what the scenarios are in all cases.

It really is that simple. Another Scotland is possible, we just have to put a cross in a box tomorrow and then get on with the job of creating it.

Vote Yes.