The Question is not Yes or No, it is whether you get to answer Yes or No.
In response to today’s news that the Scottish Parliament has voted 69 votes to 59 votes in favour of a second referendum on Scottish Independence, Independent Candidate Martin Keatings said:
Today’s vote in the Scottish Parliament was not a vote for, nor against Scottish Independence. It was a vote of the Scottish Parliament to either back or not back, asking this question of the Scottish people.
Democracy at its core is the ability to give a voice to everyone in a country, not just one segment of society. If a vote on the matter had been refused then that would have served only those of a pro-union disposition, however, a referendum is neither for, nor against a particular position, it is simply a mechanism to give a voice to both sides of the particular subject. Both Yes supporters and No supporters will have an opportunity in the next 18 months to make their voice heard on the matter, which means that both sides of the argument have the opportunity to be heard, and the general public, not the politicians will be the ones to make the decision.
As an Independent candidate I have the opportunity to look at this from outside of the realm of partisan politics.
The SNP were elected on a manifesto that stipulated in the event of Scotland being removed from the EU, then a substantive change in the relationship between Scotland and the UK would exist and would trigger a referendum. This established their opinion firmly on the matter and this vote is simply them living up to a manifesto pledge, regardless of political stance, all politicians and indeed outside observers should acknowledge that the first duty of any politician or party is to live up to the pledges contained in the manifesto’s under which they were elected into office. Today’s vote left the floor open for all other parties in parliament to vote on whether they would support this position or reject it.
Whether or not the greens had a pledge in their manifesto or not is not an issue at play here, they were not being asked to vote on a position of whether they supported independence or not. They were being asked whether or not to support the electorate having a say in the current circumstances. In such a case, it is incumbent on any MSP to side with the democratic option and the only choice which gives a voice to the entire electorate was by way of referenda. Therefore, they acted in the best interests of not just pro-independence supporters but also gave a voice to pro-union supporters about the current constitutional situation.
By stark contrast, Labour, the Conservatives & the Liberal Democrats did not vote against independence today, they voted against the free expression of all those living in Scotland, Yes, No & Undecided, in having a say in what future they would prefer or to delay such an expression until a point in time when irreparable damage would have already been done and there would be no going back, a point where Scotland and the UK would already have been outside of the EU. That would most certainly have required a full EU membership process for Scotland to re-enter, rather than the more likely Article 48 renegotiation with continuous membership.
Yesterday the UK and the 27 member states of the EU were the only ones with a say on Scotland’s future and we the people, did not. Today was a day when the Scottish Parliament allowed you, the ordinary citizen to truly have your say on an Independent Scotland or a Conservative run post-brexit UK. Today parliament gave you back your voice, regardless of your stance on Independence.
In the next 18 months, much will be asked of Fife Council in terms of the process and the organisation of the poll locally on Independence and regardless of which party candidates come from, or what their stance is on independence, it is incumbent on all of us hoping to become councillors in 2017 not to stand in the way of the democratic debate and to act in a consistent and respectful manner. It is also important to ensure that the rules are followed, as in any election and that council resources are not used by one side or another in a way which would interfere with the exercise of democracy. Much will be asked by the councillors in 2017 on this subject and if the result is a Yes vote, then Fife Council will need to take a level headed an informed decision on the best course forward to ensure that the vital services we provide to local communities undergo transition to the new model of Government without having an effect on those same services. The same of course is true if the decision is a No vote, which in my personal opinion will have more severe and detrimental consequencies for Fife as Brexit begins to grip. In either case, it is incumbent on Councillors not only to be adaptable and ready for the change in either circumstance but to ensure that our work as representatives of local government is not unduly affected by the changing landscape.