Charlotte Leslie is a member of the Health Select Committee and MP for Bristol North West.
Although I own a Leslie tartan, once attempted to learn the bagpipes (and will again), have a soft spot for haggis, clootie dumpling and a passion for a peaty Islay single malt ( you can’t beat a Lagavulin) I cannot stretch my Australian dad’s ancestry sufficiently to pretend I am in any way Scottish. So in many ways my view on The Issue of the Day is not that relevant – and besides, under the bizarre system of voting we seem to have accepted, my England address would preclude me from voting – even were I Scottish.
However, it seems that on a basic analysis of the facts, Scottish independence is a grave error for Britain, England, and in particular – given for example that Scotland receives the highest UK Government expenditure on services per head of all regions bar Northern Ireland – for Scotland. But it also seems that feeling, not facts, are running high north of the border.
This is usually the case. Feelings are much more sexy, and much more ignitable than facts. It is hard to find a piece of music that makes you think of a fact, whereas you can change your feelings as simply as switching from a happy to a sad track on a play-list. Since we now live so much under the primacy of the subjective “sentio ergo sum” – “I Feel therefore I Am”, it is even less surprising that a campaign based on feelings is giving a campaign based on facts a good run for its money. But while feelings themselves may not always be strictly rational, it would be irrational to dismiss them on that basis.
Quite a bit of the momentum for the Yes Campaign appears to be coming from a sense of anti-establishment revolution; a protest against that same establishment politics which Nigel Farage has used to such effect. So what is it about the ‘The Establishment’ that those protesting so dislike?
It is not hard to answer; the establishment is seen as out of touch with the gritty facts of daily life. It is seen as short-termist, and self-serving, looking at itself and how popular it is – not to the horizon to the troubles and dangers looming over the population they are supposed to serve. It is also often seen as patronising, assuming that the people are gullible – children to be placated by feel-good scraps of sound-bite and policy they throw to them.
That is why an expression of anti-establishment feeling manifesting in a Yes Vote is so
ironic. The Yes campaign commits all of those cardinal sins of the establishment against which
it is supposedly protesting.
Beyond the relatively parochial turmoil of what Scotland feels about itself lie the gritty facts of global reality: a hundred years on from the First World War, global security is increasingly precarious. Britain and the West have powerful enemies in the plague of extreme Islam and ISIS, and a formidable opponent in Putin and Russia, destabilising Eastern Europe. I wonder how Islamist extremists and any other enemies of Britain and the West will want Scottish people to vote. I doubt it would be for a united, strengthened military capability of Britain.
Against this context, the entire debate seems particularly introspective and self-serving (and like similar accusations made against the Establishment, self-serving to their own detriment), and starkly void of any responsibility for the real security of those Scottish citizens that the SNP say they want to serve. The final irony is that those who dislike the Establishment for sound bites and spin over substance are dancing to the very tune, played expertly by Alex Salmond, against which they think they are revolting.
This irony is grim, and I hope those carried away by the intoxication of rhetoric inflated dreams and blue-and-white spangled visions don’t live to regret it. But the grimmest irony of all is that I suspect the greatest cheer-leaders of the Yes campaign are not in Scotland, not even in Britain, but watching from other, far more hostile lands as we deliberate over delivering to them a prize they could only have dreamed of.That’s what’s at stake and I wish the whole debate would get real, gain a bit more perspective and come out and say so.