40 reasons to support Scottish independence - reasons 7 & 8: interdependence and federalism

Numbers 7 and 8 of 40 arguments for independence: a chance for genuine international co-operation and a potential step towards federalism.

Adam Ramsay
Adam Ramsay
28 April 2014

Over the next few weeks, I'm publishing 40 reasons to support Scottish independence. Here are 7 and 8. For 1, 2 and 3, clisk here. For 4, 5 and 6, see here.

7)  A chance to join a networks of nations


Swedes, Norwegians and Danes remain on amicable terms; they trade, co-operate and visit each other socially any time they like. They don’t need a pompous, blustering state called Scandinavia, informing them from Stockholm how wonderful they all are, but (kind of) only really meaning Sweden.” - Irvine Welsh, 2014

The union makes Scotland's international relations almost one dimensional. Independence opens the door to a much wider range of collaborations across our islands, region, continent and planet.

Why, for example, should we look less to Dublin than we do to the more distant London? Just as Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, the Åland Islands and Greenland co-operate through the Nordic Council without a shared government, why shouldn't the countries of our islands and their ten/eleven parliaments work together better?

To a degree, we already do. Through the British Irish Council and the Common Travel Area, the Irish Government; UK Government; Scottish Government; Northern Ireland Executive; Welsh Government; Isle of Man Government; Government of Jersey and Government of Guernsey all work together. But the asymmetric power relationship and colonial history must partly take the blame for the limited the extent of this collaboration. The SNP are proposing expanding it, including through things like extending the pooling of university research funding. A yes vote is a chance to balance out power across our archipelago, to enhance this work together where it makes sense to do so and to tell our neighbours that we love them all equally.

Train lines to trade unions will continue to stretch across this island. Unite already organises from Orkney to Cork; London to Derry. Many shared cultural traditions and much of the work people do together have little to do with where they are governed from. Independence does, though, give the various corners of these islands a chance to figure out specifically where it does make sense to co-operate across our whole archipelago. It gives us the opportunity to work together where our beliefs and interests align, and take our own path where we take different views.


The Nordic Council - Wikimedia

It would also give Scotland the chance to build a new set of collaborations. As Bella Caledonia has suggested, perhaps we should start to see Edinburgh not as the Athens of the North, but "the Reykjavik of the South". By looking north, as Nordic Horizons propose, we can learn from the best bits of Iceland's constitutional process, Scandinavian welfare states, and Nordic economic management.

Is there a reason why we shouldn't take up Lesley Riddoch's suggestion, go the whole hog, and join the Nordic Council? And what about setting up a renewable energy rival to OPEC with other wind, tide, wave and sun rich nations? Even if we just want to remain in the EU, voting yes might well be the best option as England rushes to a referendum.

There's a broader question here. If the first rule of the 21st century is, as Paul Mason puts it "the network defeats the hierarchy", which vision of international relations is more appealing?: huddling behind bully-boy Britain, or knitting ourselves networks of co-operation across the planet?

Independence will mean that Scotland will get a new seat at the UN, our own EU commissioner and likely more than twice as many MEPs. Where we agree with rUK, that's extra voices in chorus. Where we have differences, we can work with others. Politics is better done together, but that principle extends beyond the British borders and the Anglosphere. Binding ourselves to Westminster makes our diplomacy one dimensional. It shuts down a multitude of potentially productive relationships. Independence allows us to join the world wide web of co-operation.

8) If you're a federalist...


British Isles Euler diagram - wikimedia

"I campaigned for a devolved parliament because it brought power back closer to the people, and I thought it might shake-up the UK constitution and lead to major reforms. I now see that this was a naive hope or belief.

"I can see no evidence that it will lead on to a modern British federation, where Scotland is a genuinely equal partner with the other parts of the UK. None of the UK parties are even talking about what I consider to be federalism." - Andy Myles, former Scottish Liberal Democrats Chief Executive, 25 March 2014

Owen Jones, Anthony Barnett and the Liberal Democrats have all said that what they really support is federalism. The relevant question then, is, this: without their preferred option on the table, which half of the binary actually on offer is closest to it? Is more likely to lead to it?

The first question of any constitutional arrangement is 'who gets to decide who gets to decide?' Who is sovereign? A yes vote means Holyrood choosing with the other parliaments of these isles which powers to share. A no vote means a uniquely sovereign Westminster ruling Scotland, delegating some powers to Edinburgh through a Scotland Act it can (and does) change unilaterally. A yes vote means more potential change across these islands. Is a no as likely to achieve that?

Devolution isn't federalism, no matter how max or plus or nano it is. Like a bank extending an overdraft limit, it's merely lending powers it retains the right to take away. Like a dog walker with an extendable lead, they can always yank us back when we stray too far. The fact that "power devolved is power retained" is a quote from a nasty man doesn't stop it being true.

To me, the SNP idea of sovereignty at the more local parliament and powers shared across these islands, across Europe and globally where it's useful look a lot more like a federal system than the Labour or Tory proposals. And it's not just me.

Andy Myles, is a former Chief Executive of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and Special Adviser to Nicol Stephen (former party leader and deputy First Minister). He was their representative to the 90's Scottish Constitutional convention which secured Holyrood in the first place. Anthony Barnett's founder of Charter 88, the powerful movement for constitutional reform in the 90s. Both have said they'd prefer full federalism. Both are now, in lieu of that option, supporting a yes vote.

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