The Scottish referendum debate is doing the public an injustice

Describing Scotland as being 'captive' or 'oppressed' is patronising and insulting to the entire country.

Scotland flagj

Describing Scotland as being ‘captive’ or ‘oppressed’ is patronising and insulting to the entire country

There are countless times I have heard politics being described as a dirty game, a game to which people make up the rules as they go along. Of course, this isn’t the politics I want to be part of and I have campaigned throughout my adult life to make a better politics.

Working at the grassroots level of politics, you hear members of the public becoming increasingly tired of how the game of politics works, becoming disengaged with mudslinging, sensationalism and quite frankly debate which is far away from their lives.

When the referendum campaigning began in Scotland, there was a difference. People were excited at the prospect of this game of politics being done differently, of going to a debate to talk about an issue rather than be talked at by a candidate.

But somewhere along the way, this difference has ceased to exist, and unfortunately, I can’t help but think we might be talking about something different, but we are doing it the same old way and we are doing the debate and the public an injustice.

I say this for two reasons.

Firstly, there has been an increase in the arguments for an independent Scotland which are painting a picture of ‘the other’ towards the rest of the UK or are pushing sweeping statements which are an inaccurate representation of Scotland. Over simplistic arguments are not only unrepresentative but are an insult to the electorate.

Secondly, there has been an increase of the level of abuse and person attacking going which serves no other purpose for any side, other than to create a mockery out of democracy. The very democracy those in favour of independence use as a reason for voting yes.

I was just one of many who was outraged and disgusted at the UKIP billboards I have to encounter on my way to work telling me that immigrants are coming for my job; and I was proud of those who rallied peacefully outside the UKIP conference in Edinburgh and told UKIP their racism isn’t welcome in Scotland.

But what came quickly after this was an array of campaigners telling me that UKIP wouldn’t exist in an independent Scotland and nor would this type of racism and extreme right-wing sentiment.

This is just not true. Let’s not mask a reality in order to win the current argument. If we do that, we are closing our eyes to real inequality that exists right now and risk ignoring it in the future, regardless of a yes or no vote decision from the public on the 18 September.

North and south of the border there are people who discriminate.

We don’t have to look far to see evidence of just how much discrimination exists in Scotland and unfortunately is finding its way into this debate. Raise you head above the parapet and if they don’t like what you have to say, prepare yourself for an online spewing of hate. That doesn’t sound like the inclusive or ‘different’ Scotland I am being told already exists.

This week, we’ve had an activist Clare Lally speak at a Better Together event and be called a ‘liar’, claimed to be the daughter in law of someone she is not (ironically that was the lie) and smeared against across Twitter – simply for having an opinion.

Then we had JK Rowling tell us her reason for supporting a No vote and she was called a ‘bitch’ and a ‘whore’ (notice the gendered adjectives) and people advocating the burning of her books.

How can those who advocate a yes vote for the sake of democracy be willing to either engage in or remain silent about the suppressing of opinion? Where is the condemning from those at the top taking about fairness and equality in independence or does calling it out take away from the shiny veneer being sold of a different Scotland?

There is also the commentary on the reoccurring idea of Scotland’s oppression. As a feminist and a member of the BME community, this puzzles me a great deal. I have read on a few occasions that Scotland is being oppressed by Westminster and that those who are pro-union are allowing the oppression to continue.

I think we need to take a long hard look at that explanation and I think we need to consider the use of terms like ‘oppression’ or ‘captive’. Oppression is real, it plagues peoples’ lives across the world, it is caused by an imbalance in power and those with power using it against the powerless.

Many, rightly, see the decisions taken by a UK government as unfair and oppressive. The Bedroom Tax or the austerity measures causing people with disabilities to have to prove their inability to work, are wrong, are a misuse of power and a form of oppression. This injustice is being felt by people across the United Kingdom and should be fought.

But it is not an injustice happening to Scotland as a country, it is happening because power is not balanced across the UK. Moving the power locations from London to Edinburgh doesn’t change how that power is used and cannot be what this referendum is about.

I, as a resident of Scotland, since the day of my birth, have felt oppression because of my gender, I have felt oppression because of the colour of my skin, I have felt oppression because of the faith I come from, but I have never considered myself to feel oppressed as a Scot. To draw these parallels is for me is not only disingenuous, but actually to the oppression I have felt and others feel, belittling.

Describing Scotland as being ‘captive’ or ‘oppressed’ is patronising and insulting to the entire country. But even more importantly, it is an insult to those who, in Scotland or across the UK, feel real, damaging oppression.

We are having an historic debate, let’s make our arguments memorable for the right reasons.

Talat Yaqoob is a feminist and equalities campaigner

70 Responses to “The Scottish referendum debate is doing the public an injustice”

  1. Scott Bowie

    they aren’t keen to underplay anything. in fact they’re rather proud of them, but those are all in the past, we are looking now toward the future. the scots (and the english) have always had their own cultural identity, the voting patterns show this more and more, it’s natural the union be put to rest and we move on to a new, more modern britain.

  2. Scott Bowie

    nasty little person aren’t you?
    i can see what attracted you to better together.

  3. Scott Bowie

    barroso is pretty much considered a laughing stock at this point, his comments were his personally, at least according to the spanish government.
    there is no reason at all that a union of countries built on mutual partnership will draft new legislation to expel existing members only to invite them back in again. despite what westminster tells you.
    add the fact we’ve 60% of europes oil and it’s largest fishing waters, 25% of it’s renewable energy…with all that we’re going to be cast out because we left the union?

  4. Michael Simpson

    Well I’m neither yes or no, I’m British from the north of England, and more broadly identify with the Scottish Nationalists than I even do the Labour party, however I’m less inclined to be told that England – by virtue of UKIP, whose main hold is far away from the kinds of places I live in or have known – is somehow representative of our national psyche. Not least because I’m mixed race, grew up in a largely Muslim area, and know exactly what our rich multicultural tapestry looks and feels like. I won’t be spoken down on. And I brought up Sweden because they are undergoing a massive reverse on their immigration policies, and because their demographics are broadly similar to Scotland’s and up until recently they had a policy that is very much akin to what the Yes campaigners are proposing.

  5. Scott Bowie

    well talking down to you wasn’t my intention, i wish the north of england all the best in gaining more powers for themselves, and hope that independence will help them achieve that.
    as i said, scotland is not sweden, it’s thought that a large part of the immigration will come from england, as well as more scots returning home if there is work and opportunity to be found. the important part is scotland needs the people, we’ve been losing them under the union, and all are welcome to have their say in a new scotland.
    ukip, the bnp, britain first, etc…i don’t think i’m just pulling this out of the air. there are real differences between whats on show down south and whats on show up north.

  6. Michael Simpson

    My point is that you can’t understand the conditions these elements thrive in without experiencing the same levels of mass immigration, not because immigration is itself the cause, but rather that poverty and hardship fester these kinds of reactions. They’re simplistic and naive, but they quickly take root in people’s imagination. Again, this is why I refer to Sweden. All was rosy and then suddenly it wasn’t. And while Scotland may have better universal services than England, it still, and it may owe to the fact, that it has that plenty of problems. And I’m not sure where you get the idea that people will flood back. They haven’t got an opportunity to vote in the referendum, but those I know aren’t exactly characterised by their patriotic fervor. Not that this is any way a scientific sample, but I would guess that any projection based on the opportunities that will miraculously open up once independence is gained is similarly lacking in hard evidence. Nationalism of any kind tires me because it sweeps aside pragmatic reality.

  7. Scott Bowie

    well now who is talking down to who?
    as usual you assume with independence comes doom and gloom. it’s still not about nationalism, i’m bored of the endless negativity now.

  8. Michael Simpson

    I’m being realistic, not doom mongering. Scotland has a lot to admire – it’s free universities and it’s commitment to social work, for instance – but at the same time it’s alcohol use is through the roof. Opportunities may open up, they may not. The promise of a brighter tomorrow and an indifferent Westminster being cast off may be compelling, but it is by no means the whole story. An independent Scotland could be a Norway, it might well be an Ireland.

  9. dougthedug

    Raise you head above the parapet and if they don’t like what you have to say, prepare yourself for an online spewing of hate.

    Actually there is very little online spewing of hate. Search through twitter for any insults directed at Clare Lally and you won’t find any.

    The “liar” comment was probably directed at the fact that she was presented as an “ordinary mum” and subsequently it became clear that she was a labour activist, had close links to many prominent labour members and was also in the Labour in Scotland Shadow Cabinet.

    JK Rowling became Better Together’s biggest donor so it was inevitable that she would attract attention from the small number who actually abuse on the internet. I don’t condone abuse even though she took part in it herself when she accused many nationalists in her statement of being concerned about the, “purity of your lineage”, and akin to the “Death Eaters” who in her books who were a murderous cult concerned with the purity of their lineage.

    How can those who advocate a yes vote for the sake of democracy be willing to either engage in or remain silent about the suppressing of opinion?

    Nobody has called for either Clare Lally or JK Rowling to be silent, however they have both been called out over the misrepresentation of Clare Lally as the “ordinary mum” that she wasn’t and the odd statement from JK Rowling which had echoes of Alistair Darling’s hearty agreement that the Yes Campaign in Scotland was based on Blut und Boden not civic nationalism.

    The Better Together narrative is that any questioning of the Better Together campaign is bullying and an attempt to suppress their opinion. It’s a deliberate tactic which attempts to silence the Yes campaign.

  10. old_labour

    You are getting your Yaqoobs mixed up! The author is another Yaqoob.

  11. Kryten2k35

    “You”? As in me, or English? Either way you’re a buffoon. This bullshit idea that the English rule you is most of the problem.

    Scotland has it’s fair say in the ruling o the United Kingdom, and has some semblance of self-governance. 2/3 of the time it votes it gets the government it votes for, and has had the ability to sway the vote in it’s favour.

    This kind of separatist William Wallace bullshit is the problem.

  12. Scott Bowie

    scotland has a mock parliament thats given a budget from westminster. westminster is capable of vetoing anything the parliament passes and can disband it entirely if it wishes. some power.
    so we look at our representation in westminster, outnumbered 11-1 by mp’s. how on earth is that living in a democracy? also we’ve only swung elections twice in the last fifty years.
    again with the unionist obsession with a mel gibson movie. tragic you miss the point completely. not about nationalism, about self-determination.

  13. Kryten2k35

    It’s about racism and nationalism.

  14. Scott Bowie

    absolute nonsense. give me one quote by the snp or any of the groups campaigning for yes that involves racism.
    go on, just one. you’d think if it was all about it that such proof would be easy to find. go ahead and post some.

  15. Kryten2k35

    Who mentioned the official groups? They’re just about clever enough to hide their anti-English sentiments well enough that it doesn’t stink of racism. The CyberNats online? Not so much.

    At the end of the day, it’s about nationalism, and racism. Nationalism is as patriotism. “My country, tis of thee, better than yours, and you’re a cunt because you’re not from my country. Ours can do better than yours.”

    After this referendum is over, and failed, some of us have still got to, and want to, live with the English people. The CyberNats give the people of Scotland a bad, bad name.

  16. Scott Bowie

    i only see one person trying to make it about race. you are completely clueless as to what the referendum is about, you do know the snp have english politicians among their ranks right?
    take yourself out of the center of the universe for a moment and you’ll see it has nothing to do with anti-english sentiment, and as you haven’t provided a single shred of evidence to claim that it is i will continue thinking you’re just talking deluded bollocks.

  17. Mike Stallard

    Grovelling apology – how embarrassing – for me!

  18. KBPlayer

    “Nobody is saying we are oppressed?” Goodness have you ever read any Nationalist postings. I do a quick glance at my Facebook feed which includes a lot of Yesses.

    “But personally I’m voting YES !! I’ll stand on the wall those Romans built and defend it for ever against an unjust oppressive army that want to sell everything that is great in us !!!”

    That kind of garbage is all over the place.

    There are plenty of Yesses who make the economic case but find 10 Yesses and 3 will go on like Braveheart.

    Oh, and the lot who started calling J K Rowling, Labour supporter, a Tory because she is a No – as if the Tories were always going to be in charge.

    As for insulting “half the population.” Over half are going to vote No, according to the polls. And so what are they? Well, according to this letter in The Guardian Scots who vote No are “traitor knaves”:-

    ” It is no surprise that JK Rowling chooses to vote no in the Scottish independence referendum (Magic day for no campaign as JK Rowling donates £1m, 12 June). She is English-born and raised, after all, and wants to maintain the link with her homeland. Even if she has lived in Scotland for the last 20 years, that does not make her Scots. I lived in England for six years and did not feel the least bit English. We are what we are, for better or worse. Like most English people, I would suggest, she does not know the concept of independence because the English have always considered themselves to be independent. Technically they are not, but it is understandable that they might feel that way, as they make up 80%-plus of the UK population.

    So she is voting with her heart. One cannot say the same of the traitor knaves Brown and Darling. Of course they and all the other Scots MPs at Westminster stand to lose their jobs, well-paid with generous expenses, were the referendum to go against their wishes. I shall also be voting with my heart – “just for the glorious privilege of being independent”, as Burns would say.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jun/12/good-for-scotland-good-for-britain

    So you’re either a true Scot or a traitor knave or a foreigner.

  19. KBPlayer

    Who is nastier than who is probably unknowable, given the anonymous and ephemeral nature of social media. But you may remember that reasonable questions about currencies and membership of the EU were treated as “bullying” by the Yesses.

    As for Rowling way of saying “true Scots” or not – I have seen enough comments questioning her rights to make an argument since she wasn’t actually born here eg

    ” It is no surprise that JK Rowling chooses to vote no in the Scottish independence referendum (Magic day for no campaign as JK Rowling donates £1m, 12 June). She is English-born and raised, after all, and wants to maintain the link with her homeland. Even if she has lived in Scotland for the last 20 years, that does not make her Scots. I lived in England for six years and did not feel the least bit English. We are what we are, for better or worse.

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/jun/12/good-for-scotland-good-for-britain

  20. dougthedug

    I have seen enough comments questioning her rights to make an argument

    The quote you supply doesn’t question her right to make an argument in any way. It simply suggests why she has decided to campaign for No.

Leave a Reply