Friday, February 07, 2014

Scottish Independence


This is in reply to Andrew Copson, chief executive of The British Humanist Association who wrote the following tweet about Scottish Independence.


I should nail my colours to the mast. I am pretty much pro-union, with a few things that may sway me the other way. I thought I should let Andrew know what those influences are and it might help to answer his question.

What is it that might tempt me towards Independence?

Since its opening, the Scottish Parliament has been largely secular, certainly more so than Westminster. The four words on the parliament's mace are "Wisdom, Justice, Compassion and Integrity". No pledge to a god, no pledge to a monarch, no pledge to the head of a church. So far, despite some disagreements over policy, these 4 simple principles have held and long may that continue (in a devolved parliament at least). Scotland as a whole has been dogged by religious in-fighting but the intentions of the parliament are sound, I think.

Secondly, I think Scotland has a slightly more humane (if shorter) record on human rights than the UK as a whole. See the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Cameron's pledge to abandon the Human Rights Convention. I suspect this stems from the founding of the parliament and the principles installed then (see above) and its history as a less imperial nation.

Lastly, The debates in the Scottish Parliament seem to be more constructive with MSPs working together far more often and consulting with the public far more widely (along the lines of other European countries) rather than the "yaboo-sucks" impression that is conveyed from Westminster. The working hours are friendlier, the debates are more calmly executed and a more evidence-based approach seems to be taken.

What "love bombs" should we see from Andrew and others?

We should remove the bishops from the house of lords and the unfair privileges that gives the church to veto bills and prevent them passing into law.

We need to fight for more Human rights in Britain as a whole. The fact David Cameron felt comfortable suggesting that we leave the human rights convention behind is very telling. He must have felt he would have had enough support for it. Human rights are there for the difficult times when we need to apply them equally to people with whom perhaps we wouldn't want to pass the time of day.

Fight to make debate in Westminster more co-operative. Make the working hours friendlier for women (and men) and make the whole democratic process more transparent. Make sure evidence is used when the government debates its laws and bows less to party politics with more un-whipped bills.

And finally, give England a regional parliament! England, I suspect, has felt a little pushed aside by all the attention Scotland and the other nations have been getting. England has ahead of it the task of working out its own priorities (regardless of the outcome of the independence vote) and the terms England and Britain have, over centuries, become synonymous. England has a great cultural and scientific history. It needs to re-discover those things.

One of my main reasons for wanting to keep the union, of course, is that I don't want family and friends who live in England to be stuck with a perpetual Tory government.

I have met Andrew a couple of times at AHS and BHA events. He is completely passionate about human rights so my reply is aimed at all of us and not at him personally. We all still have a say in the UK parliament and it's up to everyone to fight for these things.

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