Monday, 7 May 2012

A positive case for the Union

My last piece has been labelled, by some nationalists, as ''negative''.  I believe - increasingly - that this is a default position. If anyone questions the SNP or its (in my view) somewhat sketchy vision of a future independent they are labelled negative.

Moreover, let's face it, there's plenty of negativity from both sides. The genius of the SNP campaign thus far is to talk about relentless positivity regardless of what is actually happening. This isn't a criticism - I admire the politics!

Let us put that to one side.

If it is a positive case for the Union they want, a positive case they shall get. I should note that nationalists are likely to disagree with this. That is fine. Good politics is built on disagreement. What I hope they will see is a positive elucidation of unionist thinking.

It will not be a forensic accounting exercise. That may come another night. My issue with economic arguments is that by their nature they end up being negative (x is better off than y is both positive and negative after all).  

Identity matters
I believe that many people in Scotland view themselves as British. The majority of these will see themselves as Scottish and British. I concede, of course, that many in Scotland do not view themselves as such - that is their right, and it is to respected here. However, we should not brush under the carpet that many do view themselves as - to some extent - British. Being a nation state is about rather more than having a defined population, a flag and whatever else is jotted down in the provisions of the Montevideo Convention.

People tend to dismiss stuffy appeals to a shared history, a shared culture and the shared achievements of the nations of these islands in the wintry North Atlantic. I am not at all sure why they do.

History, culture and identity are of fundamental importance to all nations and all states. What is a nation if it isn't the sum of the acts of those who have gone before? I will focus a little on that sort of ground but I hope to try to anchor the debate in the present.

We will all define Britishness differently (as, for that matter, we all define Scottishness differently). I'm not going to spend time defining a list of values that I think equate to Britishness (because I always feel such lists can be equated to the identity of most peoples). Away from an appeal to values, for me Britishness is about having ties across the borders that cross these islands. It shows an intangible connection that matters to many of us. More Scots live in England than ever before. The English are the biggest minority group in Scotland. The majority of Scots have relatives south of the Border. This might seem irrelevant but it shows to me that increasingly we are not a separate people, living separate lives, thinking separate things. We are increasingly mixed.
 We are increasingly, truly British.

And it isn't just individual people. It is communities. Glasgow is a special place, a dear place, but many of the issues it faces are similar to those of Liverpool and Newcastle. Liverpool is remarkably similar to Glasgow. People who say otherwise haven't spent enough time in either city. More fool them.

The mill towns of the North of England are similar to many of the towns in Ayrshire and the Lanarkshires. The hill farmers of Dumfries and Galloway are remarkably similar to the hill farmers of Cumbria and of Snowdonia. We have more in common than the colour on our passport. Their needs are similar. Their wants are similar.

This shared history, these cross-border ties matter. They matter, so much, that we increasingly hear about ''a social union'' when Alex Salmond discusses the topic. That isn't a criticism of Mr Salmond. I am pleased he has noticed that the social union exists between the peoples of this sceptred isle. I think that is stronger as part of a nation state. This, again, is part of his wise strategy to ensure moderates and markets are not spooked by independence.

A chronic failure?

I've heard more than my fill - and I am sure you have too - of people saying ''Scotland is a subsidy junkie''. Moreover, I've equally had my fill of Scots making the argument the other way when factoring in oil revenue (real or imagined). This negates the whole point. In any state, be it  Britain or an independent Scotland (or, for that matter, within the EU), money will transfer from the rich to the poor, from one area of the country to another, via taxation. It is not a sense of shame that 'x takes from y'. It should be a mark of pride in any civilised society.

These are the sorts of things we should be proud of - and there are others. Together we have achieved things. Things that have shocked and shaped the world.

As Bill Bryson put it ''What an enigma Britain will seem to historians when they look back on the second half of the twentieth century. Here is a country that fought and won a noble war, dismantled an empire in a generally benign and enlightened way, created a far-seeing welfare state - in short, did nearly everything right - and then spent the rest of the century looking at itself as a chronic failure''.

I know that many will miss the word ''generally'' and focus on the mistakes of the empire. He is, however, broadly correct.

The narrative of time...

The empire forms part of a wider narrative that we hear today: the union was originally a merger between two states which was beneficial to both. Over the years, we did many great things together but as the
 esprit de corps of the 2nd World War withers and as the Empire recedes into memory it is natural to think perhaps a de-merger is necessary? That such an act would be good for the people of England and for the people of Scotland? The Union was a useful construct but now it has no use.

I disagree fundamentally with this narrative and this analysis. I may view the union as a merger (I do not view Scotland as a surly or unruly tenant nor do I view England as a domineering husband) but the merger has 
changed each and every one of us and each of its constituent parts. Scotland is a proud place but it has shaped, and been shaped by, the union as has England, Wales and Northern Ireland. At its best, the union is four nations - and the people of them - working together for the betterment of all. That has been true for centuries and is just as true now. Those who argue that Britain is an artificial construct are surely correct but is it one that the majority of us care for. After all, most nations are artificial constructs.

We have achieved more than we could have done apart and that continues to be the case to this day. That is not something to be buried under the carpet. It is something to be cherished. Something to be damned proud about.

But what have we achieved? Well here are a few...

  • The NHS - the vision of an Englishman and a Welshman - has helped us all. Scotland benefited from the vision of Bevan and Beveridge. 
  • The BBC - the vision of a Scotsman - has helped us all, and many beyond our shores. 
  • The Civil Service - much derided as red tape and bureaucracy but, still, the finest around at its best. Kickstarted by a Londoner and a man from the West Country.
  • Our armed forces - you may disagree with the causes that they are often sent to fight in but they are, pound for pound, the finest forces in the world. Scots have always played an enormous part in that.
  • Our soft-power in the world - something that never gets mentioned. It is my understanding that Britain, for example, was the second largest donor (in terms of total amount) to the Haiti earthquake victims.
  • Our economy - built by us all, and as perilously balanced as it may be - is the 7th largest economy in the world. These little islands, this islands off France, house some of the richest people in the world.
And works continues across borders - and not just for headline projects like the Supreme Court. For one - a tiny one - the steady flow of Scottish brains to English universities and the steady flow of English brains the other way is a simple one example. People may say ''but we'd still be able to go the English Russell Group universities post-independence'' . Maybe. What I am getting at is that many in Scotland - without even thinking of it - apply to English universities without thinking they are going somewhere ''other''.
The Silent Partner?

The idea that Scotland is a silent partner, or a junior partner, or is domineered by England is anathema to me. This Scotland? This Scotland that has rocked the world in which we live? Domineered by England? Dominated by anyone? No chance. Why do these people talk Scotland down?

The Scotland I cherish isn't dominated or domineered by anyone. It has always played an enormous role in every aspect of British life. It continues to do so. We are all the richer for the impact of Scots in politics, law and other fields of public life - but let us not forget that whilst Scotland's influence in the main political parties, and in the trades union movement, is vast that Scots have equally benefited from the geniuses in other parties and other movements.

Listening to some of the proud Scots who trumpet the achievements of our sons and daughters - and we should be proud of them - you would think that no one from elsewhere in the United Kingdom has ever done anything.

We all benefited from the geniuses that Scotland has given the Union. And we are richer for Churchill, Darwin, Turing, Wilberforce, Bevan and Pankhurst.

Another narrative that has been cultivated - largely because Scotland has not returned many Tories in recent years - that Scotland is a more progressive, more social place where community somehow matters more than it does in rapacious, conservative England. England - and Southern England in particular - may be a more conservative place but remember, for a moment, that the co-operative moment started in Rochdale; the Trades Union movement started in Manchester; the WSPU was founded by Pankhurst in Manchester and Engels and Marx wrote in that Northern city. You may disagree with these movements. My point is merely that Scotland has embraced these and been affected by them.

So yes, Scotland has made a mammoth contribution but for every Keir Hardie, there is a Nye Bevan. For every Viscount Kilmuir, there is an A.V. Dicey. For every John Boyd Orr, there is a William Booth. For every Lord Reith, there is a Sir Charles Trevelyan. All Britons. All making Britain a better place.

I argued above that the problems that our people face transcend the borders that criss-cross our country. 
Some will argue fairly that places in Scotland have individual, specific problems that need a more local parliament to address them. That is no doubt true and I welcome the additional powers that look to be coming to the Scottish Parliament. Perhaps what we should learn is that less power should reside at Westminster, less at Holyrood and more at the local level?

I have not written about the economy in this piece. That is for another night. Tonight, I've tried to focus on identity, history and why the union is a living, breathing matter. I've tried to focus on what stronger together actually means.

Scotland has always been somewhat separate with her laws and legal system, her educational system, her proud ancient universities and her Church. Scotland, equally, has always played a massive and integral in the Union. That Union is a living, breathing entity and one that is forever changing, and forever changing us all. 

As an Englishman, I am a unionist because I realise that we are better off with Scotland's immense contribution. As a Scotsman, I'm a unionist because I want to make that contribution and because I see the contribution that our friends and brothers from England, Wales and Northern Ireland have made.

I do not believe that this can be adequately replicated by the social union nor do I believe that the benefits of independence (and, of course, there are some) outweigh the feelings of identity that I, and many others, feel.


Saturday, 14 April 2012


A few thoughts on The Economist front cover which has sent many Scottish nationalists crackers over the last few days. Nicola Sturgeon thought that the front cover was offensive to all Scots and not just Scottish Nationalists. Alex Salmond, who normally doesn't put a foot wrong when dealing with the press, said that The Economist would ''rue the day'' that it published the front cover. No one knows what it means. Perhaps we will see a boycott of The Economist? One wonders, given the political thinking in this northern land, if they would even notice.

The cover was not a particularly strong joke but those of you who read The Economist (NB: A magazine founded by a Scot in Scotland, just for interest) will know that this is what The Economist does. Whilst it is not Private Eye, it does - notoriously - have a sense of humour and does poke fun. Indeed, one of the reasons the joke at Scotland's expense was so weak was because it was similar to a joke the magazine told only last year (see above). In recent months there have been jocular front covers about Greece (Acropolis Now) and Berlusconi (The Man Who Srewed An Entire Country). You'll notice that Americans didn't get annoyed about this. Barack Obama didn't promise us that The Economist would rue the day. Neither did Berlusconi. Neither did Papandreou. Maybe this is the political equivalent of First World Problems?

A couple of thoughts:

(a) It is perhaps worrying that when The Economist treats Scotland like an independent nation (indeed, treats the country exactly like it treats America...) the response from our politicians (particularly those who are in favour of secession) is to behave like spoilt children. It seems to me a case of wanting one's toast and wanting it buttered with jam. If we do not treat Scotland like a grown up country, part of the community of nations, we are guilty of some gross slander. If we do treat it like all the other countries - which includes poking fun at it - we will rue the day.

(b) That said, as ever, the SNP have played a PR blinder. Some of the outrage from those on the Twittersphere was no doubt genuine but much of it was faux outrage (and I wonder if it was co-ordinated?). It wasn't a particularly bright cover but because the Nationalists could focus on the cover - rather than article within which asked more difficult questions of the Nationalists - it meant that they have side-stepped the tricky part whilst also managing to get some PR attention. Plenty of Scots up and down the country who will not read The Economist (and that particular article) will have seen the kerfuffle, seen their government ministers getting awfully annoyed and think this is the ''typical English attitude''.
Gerry Hassan, the respected writer, has been good enough to take the article inside The Economist on. Good on him. Barely anyone else did.

As I have said previously on this blog: Firstly, Scots - and, for the purposes of the debate, I am one - enjoy the right to self-determination and should, given the electoral choices made at the last election, exercise this right at a referendum in due course. Secondly, patently, Scotland *could* work as an independent nation.

I won't take Mr. Hassan on at every point. In some areas, he is correct. In others, well, as you'll see, I don't have the space.

But, firstly, Mr Hassan attacks The Economist's view on the EU and currency.

The Economist:
Though Mr. Salmond claims Scotland would enjoy automatic EU membership, European Commission lawyers are doubtful. A candidate Scotland would have to negotiate entry terms - and commit to join the Euro one day''.

Mr Hassan disagrees with this analysis as is his right. He accuses The Economist of being mischievous and says that as Scotland and England created the union that was the UK thus Scottish independence leaves not one new state, but two new states: Scotland and the rest of the UK (rUK).

I would contend that it is Mr. Hassan that is being mischevious. This is not, purely, based on a contentious Constitution Unit research of a decade ago. Professor Nicholas Tsagourias, a Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow, wrote an excellent piece on this matter only two months ago. My knowledge of international law could cover a postage stamp but I think Tsagrouias's take on these matters is fundamentally sensible.

Even if you do not agree with the good professor's analysis, I think it is more than a little disingenuous of Mr. Hassan to pretend that opinion doesn't exist. It is not quite the ''either/or'' he paints. And I would wager that he knows it. (Especially as that article was published in a newspaper that Mr. Hassan writes for).

He is equally disingenuous when discussing Scotland's financial sector. It would be difficult to argue that the financial sector in Edinburgh is booming - given that the biggest banks only exist because of state support and, only on Friday, we heard there may be further redundancies at SWIP after thousands of redundancies at RBS in December (across the group but affecting Scotland). Indeed, the only really good news financially recently seems to be the creation of a Green Investment Bank in Edinburgh by the United Kingdom government! There are good news stories, admittedly, but booming is a stretch.

Talking of financial services, Alex Salmond MSP
, only last week, was claiming a fair share of the United Kingdom's assets after independence. Who could possibly disagree? If we are to agree that Scotland should get its fair share of the UK debt (which I think may well be disproportionately large for a nation of its size) then it should also get an equitbale division of assets. The magic number is 8.4%, apparently. That said, would that mean that the RBS would become majority owned by the rUK? And if so, why would it need to stay in an independent Scotland?

He is correct to note that Scotland is the largest offshore renewable market in the EU. Even though that is true I think this is an evasion of the point - nobody is denying that the offshore renewable market in Scotland is large. What, I think, people are saying is that it is not significantly large (nor is it likely to be so any time soon) to hang one's hat on.

These are quibbles that Mr. Hassan and I are likely to have (assuming a writer as talented as he reads this little blog which, admittedly, is a large assumption) over virtual pints for many a long year. You either buy the oil argument or you don't. You either think Scotland can adequately survive on oil, whisky, banking and wind or you don't. Where he is most interesting however is when he discusses The Economist vision of the United Kingdom as a ''Global Kingdom''.

I'm not sure that they do want Britain to become a ''camelot'' of deregulation. Indeed, the previous issue of The Economist actually called for more and not less regulation of formation agents (particuarly in the tax havens that Hassan thinks are integral to the vision of a Global Kingdom ). I cannot, deny, of course that The Economist is generally in favour of a smaller state, greater individual responsibility and free markets but the caricature that he paints of its view of a future Britain is as ridiculous as many portraits of an independent Scotland we see in the popular press.

When one starts an argument on a fallacy, I have shown a recent examples where the magazine wants greater regulation (of Crown Dependencies, to boot), it can only really be sustained by more of them. London as a playground of oligarchs? That may well be the case right now but does The Economist want such a thing? It would be odd for a magazine that has been consistently in favour of libel law in England and Wales to be so (HereHere, and here). If it wants oligarchs in London a really bad way of keeping them is to campaign for Libel Reform for 9 long years. 

To then say that ''this is an economy and culture where the importance of English football Premiership league tells us a lot. A majority of its clubs are foreign owned and have offshore financial arrangements, while a majority of all European football club debt is within the twenty clubs of the Premiership. It is not just a metaphor but a direct example of the grotesque distortions of ''Fantasy Island Britain'' is odd.

It is particularly odd given the parlous state of Heart of Midlothian and, more obviously, Rangers. No club in the English Premier League (foreign-owned or otherwise - I don't see the relevance. Who cares?) is as perilously perched as Rangers who seem to be the bumblebee of economics. No one knows how, exactly, they are still flying but they are.

If there is an unsustainable football league in Britain today it isn't the English Premier League but the Scottish Premier League. Perhaps, when clumsily grasping for a metaphor that is the one we must grasp: that the SPL, on its own, separate from England, has survived for a while and had some high points but just can't cope in its current form.

Finally, he goes on to criticise The Economist's ''Megachange: The World in 2050''. There is a lack of facts (which I concede). He claims that ''Megachange'' states that the best tomorrow we can hope for is a bigger version of today.

Which would be fine, of course, if that wasn't precisely we get from the Scottish nationalists at every turn! We cannot get long-term answers about any number of things (sorry if you've heard this before)

  • Should Scotland keep the Queen as head of state? (NB: I've heard both but the admirable David Torrance has noted that the SNP has never formally renounced its policy on this matter. Salmond bats away such questions.)
  • Should Scotland keep the pound, establish its own currency or join the Euro?
  • Is it acceptable, if we keep the pound, to have a monetary union controlled by our largest neighbour? 
  • Should we join the EU or ''do a Norway''?
  • Should we have a joint-armed force with the UK or separate armed forces? 
  • Should we have a second chamber in the Scottish Parliament? If so, should it be a House of Lairds or democratically elected?
  • Will we be a big-state/high tax or small-state/low tax?
  • How will healthcare be administered?
  • How is social care determined?
  • How will foreign policy work? Would we have our own Diplomatic and Espionage services?
A cruel wag would say that the nationalists are now saying ''keep the Queen, keep the pound, keep a version of the NHS, welfare spending will be pretty much the same and we'll still be in the EU... but we'll be independent''.

I don't want to get into it in much depth. I know I'll get platitudes and bromides like ''An independent Scotland is in favour of justice, tolerance and respect''. Which is fine but I'm sure Saudi Arabia, Nicaragua and Wales all same the same. Moreover, I'm painfully aware that a fine response is ''it is up to the Scottish people to decide''. I agree. But no one, right now, is giving us detail. Why Mr. Hassan isn't consistently turning his intellect on asking the First Minister ''what is your vision for Scotland?'' I don't know. We can all dream but, well, we have to wake up.

To then go on to claim that The Economist ''for all its pretentions of evidence-based policy is actually founded on blind faith, dogma and a narrow, inflexible economic determinism'' is  astonishing given that all this links back to Scottish independence.

Salmond is known to be a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants politician, is known to wing it on policy matters and, as we get no detail, and we are getting more and more appeals to a sense of Scottishness and identity/ I think, if nothing else, both sides here are as guilty of blind faith and dogma. Someone call the police, we've got a racial incident involving a pot and a kettle. (I've talked about identity before)

To go on to say that this is an ''over-earnest, humourless and constantly predictable in its one-dimensional, very masculine take on the world'' is almost too juicy for words. This media storm in a pint glass has been the definition of po-faced. Earnest Scots getting antsy on TV and social media over a fairly harmless front cover!

That said, I'm not sure why free markets are masculine or, for that matter, why a smaller state is but, by-the-by, given that a fairly jokey front page managed to provoke nationwide wrath and handwringing and, also, a thought-provoking and well-written (but, let's face it, fairly humourless) response from Mr. Hassan then, well, again, the charge of over-earnest and humourlessness could be charged against leading members of the nationalist cause. I'm too polite to say whether they are constantly predictable but I predicted this response when I saw The Economist front page. A friend says the Nationalists are ''offended by everything but ashamed of nothing''. That is harsh and unfair but this debacle does point in that direction.

He is on much firmer ground when quoting the irrepressible John Kay. There are, of course, risks attached to staying in the Union and going it alone. I'm not sure, however, that many credible unionists are painting armageddon scenarios. I am not - as you'll have seen above. Kay is right that the gain in sovereignty (what gain, we'll likely end up back in the EU and have the influence of other small nations. Ask Ireland how they managed to keep their corporation tax in the discussions late last year) would be mitigated by globalisation. The argument that we'll be listened to by the European Union as some form of key player is, bluntly, utterly laughable. (That, I should note, is hardly a winning argument against independence. It might be a winning argument for an independent Scotland reconsidering EU membership).

Given that Scotland can gain lots of sovereignty via devo max and given that with such a system we are likely to be able to harness (and mitigate) globalisation it seems to me that there is an option which delivers most things to most people.

Finally, I promise, the charge of Pravda against The Economist is bizarre. Does Mr. Hassan *really* think that we are living in some form of libertarian paradise where The Economist is the mouth-piece? If so, I'd love to know how big the state would need to be before it was too big? I'd love to know what powers the state lacks right now that it desperately needs?

Far from being Pravda, The Economist might offer us some salvation! This dark land, rife with socialism, and burdened with a heavy public sector, could learn something.

Scotland is the home to many things. It is full of wise people. Scotland is the home of The Economist. It is also the home of well-meaning free-market capitalism (with generous provision for the poorest). Let us have some more of this and a little less jumping on high horses.


Monday, 5 March 2012

Aspects of Independence

Away from (occasionally) writing on politics and (more frequently) football, I am - for my many sins - involved with Edinburgh branch of the English-Speaking Union.

We are running a series of events about different aspects of the independence debate.

The first of these will take place on 29th March, 6pm at ESU Scotland's gallery with Alex Massie, former Washington correspondent of The Scotsman, contributor to Foreign Policy, and Spectator journalist speaking on the topic:

Strange Love: Or why the Tories should learn to stop worrying and love the SNP''

The other spring talks are:

26th April  - Joan McAlpine MSP (title to be confirmed0
31st May - Professor John Curtice - Independence and Polling.

If you'd like to attend please contact for a space. There will be a small charge to cover wine etc at the event.


Thursday, 9 February 2012

Whither identity?

In these early weeks of the referendum campaign the Scottish public has been blitzed with argumentation.

Both sides - for secession and against it - have dangled any number of arguments in front of us. Listen to one side and we'll be richer and happier if only Holyrood had more powers, if only power was closer to the Scottish people and wasn't skewed towards the English. Listen to the other and we'd be poorer under such a system and that we'd struggle to hold on to our AAA rating.

You've heard it all. You've heard misdirection from both sides and half-truths from both sides. The populous at large, in a room full of smoke and mirrors, is supposed to be able to carry out some fairly complex analysis.

What we have heard precious little about is national identity or, for that matter, identity at all.

What no one is telling you is that this referendum will split families and, indeed, individuals. As I said in my first post, there are patriots and good people on both sides of this debate and there are patriots and good people who are still to be convinced but I am unsure that many have considered what this referendum is really asking us to do.

It is, of course, asking us  to define Scotland's future - should we remain part of the United Kingdom or should we secede from it and become our own nation? But more than that we will be defining ourselves as a people and individuals. People across Scotland will be faced with questions they do not normally ask themselves.

Last weekend, at Murrayfield, many individuals who support the continuation of the Union wore their Scotland shirts, sang God Save The Queen and Flower of Scotland and hoped beyond hope that the boys in blue would beat the English. They are comfortable in that system in the same way that many immigrants view themselves as ''British-Indian'' or ''British-Pakistani''.

Most of us have more complex identities than we are given credit for and, generally, people do not want to have to choose between different parts of their identities. It is not a nice thing to have to do that. It is something we would rather avoid doing.

Therefore, it is perfectly natural for many Scots to feel both Scottish and British. They see no distinction. They see no contradiction. They realise that we are made up of various parts and these parts rub along together. 

There are also good people who view themselves as Scottish and not British. That is fine too. Who am I to question someone's identity? Who is anyone? But, over time, this issue will come up and it will be uncomfortable for many.

In many ways, as the First Minister's fairly bizarre comments about ''... that union, that United Kingdom if you like, would be maintained after Scottish political independence'' point to something a little deeper. Increasingly, it seems that what some in the Nationalist movement want is an independent Scotland in a United Kingdom or - I suppose - devo-max. They want sovereignty but they do not want to force individuals to face the psychological dilemma of choosing between parts of their identity.

No one wants to say any of this. It is why the parties are talking about power, authority, the economy and the pound in their pockets. Ultimately, few Scots will be bought or sold for a few hundred pounds a year in tax. They will vote with their hearts, how they feel, what they feel. That's not the sort of stuff that is swayed by guineas and rhetoric.

The referendum will cause much soul-searching. That is when this debate will truly come alive and become much more sombre than the knockabout stuff we've got at present.


Tuesday, 17 January 2012

What is positive?

Whether or not you are a fan of his, or a fan of the beliefs he espouses, Alan Bissett's contribution to the debate is well worth listening to. It can be found here. Admittedly, to me this  an articulate version of the cloying ''I'm dead Scottish'' attitude that always makes me cringe.The reaction to this is telling. Plenty of Scottish Nationalists have posted this on their Facebook pages or on Twitter feeds saying that this ''sums everything up'' or similar. Really? It says everything he is against and nothing he is for (presumably the opposite of everything he is against but politics doesn't really work like that - or it shouldn't). I thought this was odd. 

Saturday, 14 January 2012

To our tale....

Presuming the current wrangling and chicanery comes to an end, we will have some form of referendum in some time of autumn 2014.

The exact nature of that referendum - will it be two-option, will it be three-option, how will it be worded, who will get to vote and so forth - will be battered out over the next weeks and months. It is right and proper these things are discussed. There are good arguments (for both sides) for having a three-option referendum. There are good arguments (for both sides) for having a two-option referendum.

At this moment, I think I'd be keen to have a two-option referendum but I can see the argument both ways and may return to this subject at some point in the future.

I have set up this blog - a spin-off from the football blog Left Back In The Changing Room - because I am a politics junkie as well as a football geek.  This blog will examine the various issues of debate which I am sure will happen over the next two and a half years.

I do not intend to blog massively frequently but will do from time to time. My sports blog will continue to be my first love but I will occasionally analyse issues pertaining to the independence debate.

I am a unionist - in the sense that I think that the Scots, and the other people of these islands, would be better continuing with the Union that is the United Kingdom. If you are not a unionist, or you haven't made up your mind, you are more than welcome here. Maybe you'll be persuaded either way by myself or in the comments. Welcome aboard!