Margo MacDonald: Voters deserve better in referendum battle

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Did you feel as though you were watching the confusing advert for an online car insurance company when you heard Labour candidates clearing their throats and Tories clearing the decks and seemingly calling for powers for Holyrood?

Explanation: like the other parties, their members don’t all agree with the party line, but party bosses don’t want trouble with their members until after the council elections in May.

So don’t worry if you’re bored already with the referendum and feel a bit guilty at avoiding serious debate and thought about the biggest political decision you’ll ever be asked to make – the result of which will determine the quality of not only your life in Scotland but your children’s and grandchildren’s. The past weeks’ procession through TV and radio studios by Scotland’s chatterati represents the phoney war that quite commonly follows the announcement of hostilities.

I listened to news reports and watched programmes from my bed in the Western General. It was thought my declining zest for life was down to the persistence of the ailment that put me there. I’m not so sure. Day after day, hearing Scots belittle their country just to score a political point against another political party took its toll.

The SNP’s opponents – Scots – ranted on about the dreadful fate awaiting Scotland after losing a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. If it were true that Scottish interests are protected by the UK’s permanent membership of the committee, it would be a factor worthy of consideration and debate, but the UK is regarded as America’s little helper when the rest of the world doesn’t want to play Uncle Sam’s war games. And the UK has never shown any special or different consideration of Scottish opinion when nuclear weapons were being discussed.

I listened in vain to TV and radio programmes to hear why the loss of British membership was important, but instead I heard the same tired sound bite.

All sorts of activities and structures are doomed to fail or fall down, according to opponents of independence. According to the few SNP trusties who ventured into the Newsnight Scotland studio, the government was probably up for a second question on the ballot about devo max, devo a wee bit more or even, logic suggests, devo just as we are. But the SNP’s great and good are still to be asked, by opponents and commentators, to explain why they believe independence to be the superior mechanism for delivering the optimum quality of public services Scotland can achieve, and the more likely system of governance to enlarge and extend Scottish ambitions at home and abroad.

To date, I’m disappointed in Scotland’s three biggest parties. Their cont Did you feel as though you were watching the confusing advert for an online car insurance company when you heard Labour candidates clearing their throats and Tories clearing the decks and seemingly calling for powers for Holyrood?

Explanation: like the other parties, their members don’t all agree with the party line, but party bosses don’t want trouble with their members until after the council elections in May.

So don’t worry if you’re bored already with the referendum and feel a bit guilty at avoiding serious debate and thought about the biggest political decision you’ll ever be asked to make – the result of which will determine the quality of not only your life in Scotland but your children’s and grandchildren’s. The past weeks’ procession through TV and radio studios by Scotland’s chatterati represents the phoney war that quite commonly follows the announcement of hostilities.

I listened to news reports and watched programmes from my bed in the Western General. It was thought my declining zest for life was down to the persistence of the ailment that put me there. I’m not so sure. Day after day, hearing Scots belittle their country just to score a political point against another political party took its toll.

The SNP’s opponents – Scots – ranted on about the dreadful fate awaiting Scotland after losing a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. If it were true that Scottish interests are protected by the UK’s permanent membership of the committee, it would be a factor worthy of consideration and debate, but the UK is regarded as America’s little helper when the rest of the world doesn’t want to play Uncle Sam’s war games. And the UK has never shown any special or different consideration of Scottish opinion when nuclear weapons were being discussed.

I listened in vain to TV and radio programmes to hear why the loss of British membership was important, but instead I heard the same tired sound bite.

All sorts of activities and structures are doomed to fail or fall down, according to opponents of independence. According to the few SNP trusties who ventured into the Newsnight Scotland studio, the government was probably up for a second question on the ballot about devo max, devo a wee bit more or even, logic suggests, devo just as we are. But the SNP’s great and good are still to be asked, by opponents and commentators, to explain why they believe independence to be the superior mechanism for delivering the optimum quality of public services Scotland can achieve, and the more likely system of governance to enlarge and extend Scottish ambitions at home and abroad.

To date, I’m disappointed in Scotland’s three biggest parties. Their contributions on the phoney referendum debate betray a painfully thin research and policy development behind the party spokespersons’ regurgitated Punch and Judy abuse from the 1979 referendum.

I’m also determined to do what I can to ensure that the referendum is not seen as Alex’s creation or property.

Sure, it was in the SNP’s manifesto but, idealistic as some might see it, I would like a public information service that would try to provide people with objective answers before they vote. It’s impossible to be objective about party politics, but it’s possible to point out practical differences and invite the voter to compare these.

The government would then be free to campaign for full-throated independence. It would be a party campaign with no holds barred and might bring about a separation of party and governmental activities. That might help the relevance of the campaign because it’s our bad luck to have a constitutional debate led by one party. As in the 1979 referendum, the idea of sovereignty or independence could become completely embroiled in the party political battle and, once again echoing 1979, voters’ decisions are about their opinions of the economic management of the current government, not independence or even pick ‘n’ mix devo.

So instead of demeaning Scotland’s ambitions and capabilities in their efforts to score points against the SNP in the run-up to the council elections in May, Labour, the Lib Dems and, perhaps less so, the Tories need to research to establish their distinctive outlook on how we are governed.

Labour appears to be without any up-to-date research to explain where it stands as a party on the powers it’s calling for. Why are these needed and what’s the difference between them and independence? There’s still time to run a decent referendum and I’d prefer to see the parliament run the information service referred to above. ributions on the phoney referendum debate betray a painfully thin research and policy development behind the party spokespersons’ regurgitated Punch and Judy abuse from the 1979 referendum.

I’m also determined to do what I can to ensure that the referendum is not seen as Alex’s creation or property.

Sure, it was in the SNP’s manifesto but, idealistic as some might see it, I would like a public information service that would try to provide people with objective answers before they vote. It’s impossible to be objective about party politics, but it’s possible to point out practical differences and invite the voter to compare these.

The government would then be free to campaign for full-throated independence. It would be a party campaign with no holds barred and might bring about a separation of party and governmental activities. That might help the relevance of the campaign because it’s our bad luck to have a constitutional debate led by one party. As in the 1979 referendum, the idea of sovereignty or independence could become completely embroiled in the party political battle and, once again echoing 1979, voters’ decisions are about their opinions of the economic management of the current government, not independence or even pick ‘n’ mix devo.

So instead of demeaning Scotland’s ambitions and capabilities in their efforts to score points against the SNP in the run-up to the council elections in May, Labour, the Lib Dems and, perhaps less so, the Tories need to research to establish their distinctive outlook on how we are governed.

Labour appears to be without any up-to-date research to explain where it stands as a party on the powers it’s calling for. Why are these needed and what’s the difference between them and independence? There’s still time to run a decent referendum and I’d prefer to see the parliament run the information service referred to above.