Does anybody actually read stuff in the Scotsman? Does it matter if it makes sense or not? I read Brian Wilson’s latest version of We’re a’ Doomed because it was based on Quebec which interests me and which I know from experience is frequently used to misinterpret events in Scotland. Only this time it went further and misinterpreted reality. http://www.scotsman.com/news/brian-wilson-why-quebec-finally-saw-the-light-1-3374072
It seemed to be saying that since people have fallen out of love with the Parti Quebecois today, nearly 20 years after voting No in the referendum, it proves that independence wouldn’t have worked. He says that as we know ‘independence is forever’ – unlike the Union presumably – and since Quebecers don’t like the party of independence so much today, therefore it would have been a mistake to vote for them in 1995.
Quebec voted No by one per cent and today people are against another referendum. Wilson relates this to Scotland and writes:
There would be no opportunity to think again, as the Quebecois have clearly done. If that one per cent had tipped the other way, the huge majority against independence which now exists would be wasting their time saying so. They would just have been left to count the cost or ship out.
First of all, that one per cent win is surely the definition of democracy…that’s where the majority win…that is the same as the British system and the basis of elective politics. Clearly Wilson isn’t aware of it. It is why we have (against his wishes) a Scottish Parliament and why we are in the EU.
Second, if Quebec had become independent, the nature of the debate there would change so that a referendum (on independence) would be irrelevant. People would be debating and voting on the issues that matter to them in an independent Quebec, not in federal Canada.
You might as well say that if we vote for the SNP at Holyrood today, it proves that voting for Labour in 1999 was a mistake! The thesis is to pretend that your vote doesn’t change anything, so that independence in Quebec would not have altered it a bit, it wouldn’t have made people happier, wealthier, it wouldn’t have developed or improved and voters would still be in the same mindset they were 20 years earlier in federation. When they didn’t like the policies of the ruling party so much they wouldn’t just vote for other parties within an independent Quebec, they would vote to end their independence!
Where, in all world history, has that been the case? Who gives up their independence? When Australians dump Labour for the Liberals, are they saying: Let London take over again…please?
Quebecers have decided they don’t want another referendum, not now. The only way that is relevant to Scotland is if we vote No and opinion says we’re not happy to go straight into another, as people will say. Maybe Quebecers no longer look to sovereignty as a solution in their current condition. That doesn’t negate what they felt in 1995 and doesn’t tell us anything about what Quebec might be like if it were now independent.
The Wilson case is fraudulent. But then as Donald Dewar said, there is nothing he can’t turn to partisan advantage. But my point is that this piece is so illogical that it should have been returned as unusable. It asks us to imagine that the state Quebec finds itself in today is the same state it would have been in had it voted to leave Canada in 1995. How can anyone know that?
The PQ lost this time because people want to concentrate on jobs and the economy not the constitution. That is their wish at this time and they don’t buy the idea that a new referendum campaign will deliver that. That’s not what half the people thought in 1995 and it isn’t what many of us believe in Scotland today where controlling our own economy – and national dignity – in the face of the humiliation of claimants and growing use of food banks, has become essential.
But you simply cannot say that because people reject an idea today under one system of government – federalism – it therefore means they would have rejected it under independence. In fact it is extremely unlikely the referendum question would even be a topic for discussion if Quebec had become independent – it would be an irrelevance. Such is the Looking Glass world of the one-eyed Unionist whose hatred of his own country’s self-determination is used to defy all logic. Why it is printed in a mainstream paper as a credible or even sensible argument is baffling.
It isn’t that we can’t learn from Quebec for good and ill. My own experience was based on a two-part documentary for Radio Scotland in 95 in which I was doubtful about the sovereignty movement’s motives. I made that explicit in an article for the Edinburgh University Public Affairs magazine.
The key difference between the referendum processes for me was the question. Quebec’s was a rambling effort that essentially asked the people for a mandate to negotiate with Ottawa for more powers and concessions with the background threat of secession if the federal government didn’t agree.
Scotland’s question in contrast is commendably concise and to the point and means we take our sovereignty, assert our independence and then negotiate the split.
The two concepts are quite different and I didn’t agree that the Quebec option amounted to independence at all.
I also think that Quebec’s movement is dogged not so much by worries about political independence but by linguistic chauvinism. The dogmatic adherence to language as an essential qualification for (some) employment restricts access to the talented from outside and deters economic migration. It attempts to defy globalisation and social mobility. Incomers resent it. That kind of exclusive policy is the opposite of modern Scottish nationalism and the Yes campaign.
Rather than contorting the evidence to fit a tortuous case against our country as Wilson desperately does, the real lesson we should take from Quebec is to be internationalist and inclusive in outlook and to be clear in our intent.
Scotland’s openness to all and welcome for immigrants is a strength in the global economy and serves as a badge of decency and humanity. Our short, direct question makes clear our intent while the willingness to share (services and resources) where appropriate is our mark of goodwill. But don’t expect the Britnats even to begin to understand…by