Editorial: We Want Vision – Thoughts on the STV Debate


Those of you that watched last night’s referendum debate were likely left disheartened and confused. It featured two white males in suits discussing politics in a confrontational manner. Whether this was the fault of the politicians, the broadcaster, the mediator, whoever – it doesn’t matter. What is important is that this does not represent the referendum debate that I have been, and continue to be involved in, on a day to day basis.

What I’ve taken most from the coverage of the STV debate is not what was actually discussed, but how it shows how far we’ve come, and how completely and distinctly different it felt compared to the rest of the campaign.

What we’ve seen for the last two years or so is a mobilisation of the population like we’ve never seen before. And these people aren’t being motivated to do so because of what politicians are telling them to do. They are doing it because they see this vote as a chance to create a society that is fit for a wealthy, innovative 21st Century nation-state. And this is what the referendum is all about. It’s about putting money into people’s pockets that are currently empty as they queue outside food banks. It is about having a government that looks at the needs of the people of this country, and tries to tackle them, not use their tax funds to build weapons of mass destruction. It is so much less about the problems of the past in squandered oil money, and more about the potentials of the future and how best to harness our massive renewables potential.

Yet, the televised debate focussed so much on currency. Is this seriously of consequence to the people that currently don’t have money in their pockets anyway? Perhaps Irvine Welsh puts it more succinctly than I ever could:

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There are over 200 sovereign states in the world. All of them have a currency in one form or another. An independent Scotland would not be so uniquely bizarre that it wouldn’t have a working currency, and given our vast wealth, whatever one we choose to use will be stronger than most. We will in all likelihood use pound sterling. If by some chance we don’t, we’ll use something else. But as Irvine Welsh said, it is about where that money is going that is important. And the motivation of so many people to see that wealth more fairly allocated, and most importantly sustainably, than it has ever been under any Westminster government is exactly why this debate goes way beyond televised debates with politicians shouting at one another.

Independence is about vision, and the strive for a better society and ultimately a better world. To get bogged down in issues like currency is disheartening – to think that a country like Scotland, that possesses incredible natural wealth, would fall into the abyss because we may or may not use the pound within a currency union is nonsense. We are a rich, intelligent country – we’ll have a successful currency one way or another. It’s how that currency is spent on improving the lives of the impoverished that matters most. Yes offers a vision of how this can happen with independence. The No camp, or the political parties that make up the campaign, offer no sense of how these ills can be cured by remaining in the UK.

It wasn’t just the obsession with limiting the conversation to issues like currency, pensions, EU membership (questions and issues that have been answered and dealt with time and time again), that was frustrating. What this did was drown out any possibility of envisioning the kind of society that we want to see, and the best form of government to take us to that kind of society. This was exemplified by the out-of-hand dismissal of one audience members’ attempt to move the debate on from pensions to discussing an issue important to her – Gaelic language. The almost bemused appearance from Ponsonby, as if to say ‘why would we discuss such a triviality?’, let down what was otherwise a good performance from the moderator.

Another obvious let-down was the incredibly male-centric nature of the occasion. Two white-men in suits doesn’t represent an accurate portrayal of the make-up of our society, but does significant amounts to represent the inequality that continues to exist within our society. I can only hope that if another prime-time television debate happens, more is done to include the diversity of voices that exist within this campaign, and within the country more broadly.

The Yes campaign has an incredible groundswell of support from so many different backgrounds, with various different grassroots groups playing their role: from Radical Independence’s Mass Canvassing (in communities where people may not have even had a television, laptop or internet connection allowing them to watch the STV debate), to National Collective’s Yestival Tour.

People feel distant from politicians, and will likely continue to do so until a radical change is made to the system that brings about this disconnect. But with this campaign, we can already see the change happening. People are being engaged in the debate on their own terms, and with their own interests. The TV debates aren’t changing that, or maybe even influencing that. From my own observations across social media, the only ones switched on enough to have been excited by the debate last night are those ‘within the bubble’. If you’re on the outside, or desire to see real, radical change, you’re likely to have been turned off, left confused, or simply bored. The issues discussed didn’t represent the issues that have inspired people to get involved in the campaign.

Yet, it remains so, so vital to not get downhearted. Change is happening inspite of the media gazing on male politicians when incredible grassroots campaigns going on around them, certainly not because of it. As Kieran Hurley tweeted:

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Change is happening around us. What last night has most taught me is how the existing political system doesn’t engage the population. Voting No won’t change that political system whatsoever. Voting Yes gives us a chance to make sure that it happens. So let’s put fears and risk aside, and bring about the change that will engage the population in a new democratic system that corrects society’s ills and inequalities, and use occasions like last night to remember and motivate ourselves with the belief that a change is necessary.

David Aitchison
National Collective


There are 5 comments

  1. alexporter69

    This article starts off pretty decent. I don’t watch these debates because I learn little from them and the people involved are not impressive in my view – the opposite in fact. Plus, I don’t have a tv, not because I’m poor as is suggested in the article but because I choose not to have one rather than bleat on about propaganda and bias.. My main bone of contention with this article above is what I see as complete ignorance of what currency is and its significance to the referendum debate. The author gets it correct when he argues that the debate was the best of the political dross around and that includes the argument on currency from them both which is completely bogus.

    Our money is the key issue of sovereignty. Our money is represented by currency. Who creates the currency then has power over our money? Who regulates how it is created? Who can dilute its spending power or our store of wealth or our share of the economic pie (stealing our savings?) as citizens? Who determines the terms on which it is created? This is the critical issue in terms of sovereignty. Sorry but Irvine Welsh clearly know zilch about currency which is why his reasoning is foolish.

    The reasoning in the article and Welsh’s is flawed in my view largely because both sides of the media campaign are being dishonest about what currency means themselves.

    The SNP or Salmond decided that an independent currency would be a weakness. They therefore argued for the Sterling-Zone. This would leave control over these key sovereign economic powers to London.

    Not only is this an economic mistake but it is a political mistake. Wanting to keep Sterling means you are backing the UK economy and its financial system of regulation. In so doing you lose the economic case for leaving the UK. This is where the referendum is being lost. By looking at focus groups which told the SNP that an independent currency was unpopular they came up with the Sterling Zone wheeze but that was out of complete political ignorance over the fact that currency impacts on the entire economic debate. Indeed, exchange rates impacts on the price of everything in the country – no other economic power has that impact.

    Had they chosen an independent currency, they could – as the Catalans have – argued that the UK economy is bankrupt both financially and morally. The corruption of the CIty could have been pointed to as evidence and the ever rising UK national debt. However, if they argued that the UK was shafted then people would rightly ask “so, why do you want to keep such a profoundly flawed currency?”. So, the SNP ceded the entire economic case through this currency blunder.

    And so not only could they not mount a fantastic economic case for independence but they left a gaping hole over plan B. Plan A should have been independent currency and plan B could have,for example, a parallel currency which uses sterling during a transition phase.

    The weakness of the SNP strategy allowed the Unionists to relentlessly attack the SNP and this is why so many – who really know little about currency such as Irvine Welsh – to drone on about why it doesn’t matter. It matters more than any other issue – just not in the way the politicians have told us.

    Just about everyone who is pro-independence excepts Salmond and his cohorts backed an independent currency. With enough education the entire Yes movement would have been galvanised and gained momentum, would have had a powerful case on the doorstep to make and the politicians would have got stuck in to the state of the UK economy on tele. Salmond would not have been left floundering – as a yes campaigner told me he was – on the tv last night.

    The whole issue of currency is critical. Disseminating otherwise is profoundly counter-productive. The leadership on this issue has been arrogant and blind. Never tell people that the value of the money in their pocket is not important – it is a seriously patronising mistake and political suicide!

    1. ChuckieStane

      Alex, bang on the money (if you pardon the expression).

      CU was proposed presumably as a less scary option so as not to frighten the waverers and perhaps as a bulwark against enforced euro entry.

      The fact is, it is destroying the case for indy and the refusal of Westminster to play ball means it is scaring the waverers off indy more than any other issue.

      Pro-indy activists are being forced to promote and defend something they don’t believe in – fatal to the positve “believe in better” message of indy.

      It is not too late. Darling rammed the point home – rUK will not play ball. Throw this intransigence back at them and let us have the courage to stand on our own two feet. Osborne/Balls/Alexander declared for the rUK, not the union.
      The currency union line has shown a lack of self-confidence. The gradualist approach can only take us so far before we have go for indy, for better or worse. With six weeks to go we are nearing the point of no return. Are we to slink off feart again?

      1. arthur thomson

        Well Alex and Chuckiestane I have to admit to being a bit perplexed by your comments. They come across to me as utter bullshit – maybe John Bull shit. BT and its chums are working hard to get everyone fixated on the currency issue as a diversion from the real issues. Fortunately the public are not daft, can see the tactic for what it is and it will only benefit the Yes campaign. Define or be defined and from now on we need to stop wasting our time answering to people who are just being disingenuous.

        1. Endrick Shellycoat

          iScotland will use £Sterling whether within a Currency Union with rUK or without any such CU. There is no need to have a Plan B, C, D whatever…. just a need to hammer home the fact that we can continue to use £ and there is sod all Westminster can do to stop us from doing so.

        2. ChuckieStane

          I agree with your analysis regarding BT working hard to get everyone fixated on currency but we have to be realistic and admit their tactic is working. Alex Salmond failed to get the message home on the real issues because the debate was dominated by the Plan B guff. CU may be the preferred option and rUK may in the end accept it (as I think they will) but if this issue is overshadowing everything positive.
          The unionists’ attitiude on this issue have been hostile, agressive, condascending and blatantly anti-Scottish. Salmond should have thrown it back and ask Darling why they won’t agree to CU and ask him if he would support CU if Scotland votes yes. BT’s negativity should be used as a positive and that includes being able to say that if rUK insist on punishing Scotland for voting Yes then we must be prepared make our own way on currency. Alex Salmond should have listed the real issues and said that Scotland is not prepared to give up on those issues for the sake of currency.
          Plan B is all we are going to hear for the next six weeks. It will be a tragedy if indy and all the change that could arise is lost over this issue.
          I will ignore your “John Bull” insult.

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