Letter from Holyrood: The distraction of the referendum

If you have read a newspaper recently, or turned on the TV or radio, you’ll know that it is less than 100 days until the independence referendum.

And while the summer is often known as ‘silly season’ – because the media tends fill its columns and airwaves with less serious news – I suspect there will be less silliness this summer thanks to the important question of the referendum.

But only a little less.

The referendum has thrown up all kinds of bizarre claims and counter-claims on both sides. No doubt it will continue to do so.

However, the serious matter of the decision itself remains, and many impartial voices have begun to speak up and express their concern that we would face cuts in public services, higher taxes and higher mortgage payments as a result of independence. The latest of those independent reports suggested independence will leave us an eye watering £4.7 billion worse off than we would be in the UK. That is equal to the whole budget for schools!

I have made no secret of the fact that I believe the referendum has been a distraction from important issues which need addressed. But, as the majority party, the SNP won the right to pursue it.

Even now, though, most people I speak to are more concerned about jobs and opportunities, the education provided for their children and grandchildren, protection of the most vulnerable, and a fairer, more equal society.

We should bear in mind that no referendum result guarantees any of this, though I believe a yes vote would make it harder. Pooling and sharing resources across 60 million instead of 5 million is a great protection for things like pensions.

Progress on equality and fairness is hard won, and will have to be argued for whatever the result in September. It will not be achieved with one cross on one ballot paper on one day.
So, I look forward to getting back to politics about how we live, not where we live, on 19 September.