I was delighted to be asked to present one of the Stevenson Lectures on Citizenship at Glasgow University. The lecture text is below - and I'm assured there will be a YouTube video of the event available, which I will embed here. We had a near-full house of about 250, and I fielded a stream of excellent questions. If you attended the event, or not, all questions welcomed below in comments.
Stevenson Lecture on Citizenship
Scotland After Yes: A New State Facing a Challenging Century
March 19, 2014
What will Scotland be like after a Yes vote in the independence referendum? Tonight I’m going to give myself the opportunity to imagine that in some detail. My conceit is that I will use three obviously significant dates of Scotland After Yes, and one date of particular significance to me, to structure my lecture.
- 19th September 2014 - The day after a yes vote
- 24 March 2016 - Independence Day (the conclusion of the independence settlement)
- 5 May 2016 - First post-Indy Scottish General Election
- 10 March, 2039 - My 75th birthday
19th September 2014 - the day after a yes vote
In order to begin to imagine what it will be like - and more importantly feel like - the day after a Yes vote, I want to put this referendum in the context of previous constitutional referenda in Scotland.
1979: There was a numerical majority for a Scottish Assembly, 51.6% of votes cast for Yes, 48.4% for No. But George Cunningham (Scots born but a Labour MP for islington) and his "40% rule" prescribed a 40% majority of the total electorate voting Yes, than just a simple majority. Falling short ensured there would be no Scottish Assembly, no buffer or alternative source of power to the subsequent decades of Thatcherism. How different history would have been…
1997: A two-question referendum: “I agree/do not agree there should be a Scottish parliament”, and “I agree/do not agree that it should have tax-varying powers”. Again, this is an odd referendum in its formulation - given that the Scottish parliament has rarely used its tax-varying powers. But there was a resounding Yes to the first, and slightly less but still solid majority to the second. (It’s worth noting that if the current Scottish Government (SG) had their way, we’d be facing another two question vote in Sept: One, do you want Scotland to have more powers? Two, do you think those powers should be for independence, or devo-max/enhanced devolution?)
2014: Conceding their desire for a third question to the UK government, in order to get a legally watertight referendum result, the SG signed Edinburgh Agreement for the simplest possible referendum Q: Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes/No.
This IS a binary choice - indeed, a dramatic choice. A No to independence means that for a generation (15-20 years), the spectre of Scotland as a possible nation-state will not haunt either Holyrood or Westminster. Scottish power will still, essentially, be power devolved from Westminster - any changes in our status must pass through the political process in London.
A Yes to independence means that, for the forseeable future (unless we do a Crimea), all of Scotland’s resources - human, institutional and natural - will come under the full powers of an Scottish democratic nation-state. We, the people, the citizens, will have taken full responsibility for the direction and fate of our country.
And that’s what we’ll realise when we look blearily in the mirror, either painfully hung-over or not having slept at all, on the morning (maybe early afternoon) of September 19th, 2014. We will have stretched ourselves for a goal that looked achievable and plausible. And we will have believed that we were capable, that we possessed the strengths and the talents, to reach that goal.