03 Dec Scottish independence: a question of logic
Opinion by Alex Robertson
THERE IS an old trick used in Logic and mathematics to establish if a proposition is true or not by first assuming the proposition is true and then examining the consequences, If one of the consequences can be proved to be untrue, then it follows that the original proposition is itself untrue. That trick fell into my mind when I began to suspect that there is another way of looking at the referendum question and how to vote. It’s called Reductio ad absurdum.
Let’s assume that Scotland is an independent and sovereign country already. And further, let’s assume that the referendum question is whether we want Scotland to join in a political Union with England. How would you answer that question?
One or two consequences of saying YES to that question have interesting aspects.
Firstly, Scotland would have to store nuclear weapons of mass destruction within its borders, plus the means of firing them off, and pay our share of the cost of doing all that. And the assumption is that most Scots agree with that. Would you really vote to join the Union if that was one of the inevitable consequences?
Next is the question of the representation of Scottish interests in the new joint parliament. Scotland would get around 10 percent of the seats, the voting strength, in the new parliament. Its interests could be outvoted very easily no matter what political party actually held power there. Even getting heard would be difficult, since in the world of real politick, other parliamentarians would be very aware that it really didn’t matter what the Scottish MPs said or did. Would you vote to join the Union if that was one of the inevitable consequences?
Or how about if joining the Union meant giving up control of whether your industries and interests were to be represented by the London government regardless of Scottish interests. After all, the only political party in the new Union which has a strong political interest in winning Scottish seats in elections is the same one which also depends much more on winning over the middle class urban and suburban voter support in England. Whose interests do you imagine they will heed most?
And do you think the interests of Scottish farmers and fishermen will be better represented by a government in another country in a parliament which cares far more about how its policies play in English constituencies? Would you vote to join the Union if that was one of the inevitable consequences?
Even if you think losing control of these things, and a whole lot more besides, (like fighting in foreign wars, social welfare laws, freed education, prescriptions, staying in the EU), is worth it because there are other, greater benefits to be gained by joining the new Union. Can you list what these benefits might be? How sure you are of getting them? And how do you ensure that promises made during the referendum campaign by the pro-Union camp, given the track record, are actually kept?
Finally, if you are ready to sacrifice your control over the consequentials to joining because you believe the promises of greater compensating benefits being delivered, and can list and measure them, then is your perception of the future partner’s prospects safe and sound? Are they likely to survive economically? Are they on the ‘up’ when it comes to civic standards, and are they living in the real world of the 21st century or mired in some post-imperial glow of warm fuzzy notions of world power and ‘punching above their weight’?
If you find any one of these consequentials unacceptable or false, then it should tell you that the original proposition to join the Union is also false and unreliable.
There you go. It should be easy now to decide if you want to join the British Union. If you are, good luck. But if you are not, then wouldn’t it be better to put all our heads together and make plans to make Scotland a new homeland fit for our children and grandchildren?
Alex Robertson is a retired entrepreneur and is now a writer and columnist. Alex is Director of the pro-independence Think Tank, Scottish Centre for Constitutional Studies
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