I’ve bemoaned the weakness of some of the arguments presented on both sides of the referendum debate. There are sound arguments on both sides. There are objections and problems, of course, but I think the stumbling blocks have been given too much air time. I’m confining this note only to arguments that seem to me to be positive and strong.
The main positive arguments for independence are:
- responsiveness. One of the most fundamental arguments for devolution and decentralisation is that policies can be adapted to the needs and circumstances of the places where they are applied.
- empowerment. The argument for independence is fundamentally an argument for self-determination; that people and communities should be able, as far as possible, to make their own decisions.
- solidarity. The argument for solidarity – mutual responsibility and support – is not confined to national boundaries. There is a good case, however, that it is difficult to maintain solidarity in very large societies, and that if we want to pursue an idea of the ‘Common Weal’ it will most effectively be done in a smaller country.
The main positive arguments for the union are
- social protection and security. The argument here is that larger units are better able to protect and insure their populations, by pooling and sharing common risks. The ability to cope with economic crisis is a major test.
- capacity. With common resources, it is possible to do more.
- pragmatic change. The third argument is essentially conservative: it is that the best, most effective way to manage change is slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully.
There are other arguments which can be made out with some conviction for either side: they include identity, culture and democratic authority. My point here is not to review the arguments comprehensively. It’s to emphasise that there is a serious, normative dimension to the debate that we are scarcely hearing.