A brazen attempt to shape reality was made yesterday by Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond as he launched the white paper making the case for Scottish Independence. He said, “If you’re in a political argument would you rather be on the positive side of the argument or the negative? […] The positive beats the negative.” A number of other pro-secession spokespeople used the same language, painting the vision of an independent Scotland as the “positive” choice, with those who oppose it only concerned with the “negative” case of what might go wrong.
This is a remarkable line of argument. If we are to take it seriously, it follows that any departure from the status quo is “good” and any caution or conservatism is “bad”. Forget the intricacies of currency unions and shipbuilding jobs, what matters is that we’re changing… and that’s positive! Isn’t it?
Imagine if our leaders had taken that line on joining the Euro or bombing Syria – both would have been “the positive side of the argument”. Luckily, in each case enough MPs were prepared to be “negative” to spare us the potentially horrendous consequences of action.
You might think no one would be taken in by this kind of childish construction. Yet Mr Salmond is an extraordinarily able politician, and he’s only too good at shaping the political reality of Scotland. The power of this artificial positive/negative divide was demonstrated when, on the World at One, Britain’s anti-secession Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael, felt the need to respond by searching for possible new positive outcomes should Scotland remain part of the United Kingdom.
Scotland is contemplating a great leap into a radically different future. Any responsible Scot deciding which way to vote should clearly weigh up the pros and cons of going it alone. If they feel the cons outweigh the pros, that does not mean they are preaching “doom and gloom” and “negativity”, as Salmond would have it. They are simply assessing the case for change. Independence is not “the positive choice” for Scotland. It’s just a choice. Maybe it’s the right one; maybe it isn’t. But the decision shouldn’t be influenced by such cheap reality-shaping tactics.
- Scotland in danger of ‘sleepwalking’ into independence, warns Labour (theguardian.com)
- Independence blueprint to be debated (bbc.co.uk)
- Alex Salmond promises the pound in White Paper on Scottish independence (telegraph.co.uk)
- Scottish independence white paper details revealed (scotsman.com)