Friday, 6 September 2013

Equality Network debate

My opening remarks to last night's Equality Network debate on Scotland's Future:

I’m pleased to be here among people on both sides of the debate who I’ve known and worked alongside for decades, and I am proud to call them friends. If we disagree on independence, so what? It’s not the most important thing in the world. 
Human rights - including LGBT rights - matter more. War and peace matter more. Education and health matter more.
In those terms I’m confident that there are many more things we agree on than disagree on in this room. I think that’s worth bearing in mind. 

My view of the independence question is simple - I’m looking for the best outcome for the most people. 
I have nothing ideological in me about the union; no sense of nationalism for the UK. My politics is not based on geography, it’s based on the values of fairness, equality and social justice. 
And it’s simply my judgement that we get the best outcome for the most people through Scotland staying in the UK. 

I believe that partly because I believe in the redistribution of wealth as a principle, and Scotland staying in the UK enables that to happen to a far more significant extent than if we were separated. 
I believe it also because I care about people across the UK, and I know that within the UK we can do a lot more for them than just set examples. 
Some people say the UK can’t be reformed and we need to give up and start afresh. I fundamentally oppose that sort of defeatism. I want a progressive, inclusive and fair society for everyone in the UK, not just those of us north of Berwick. 
But I don’t think we should be sitting back and waiting for it, and moaning when it doesn’t come - I think we should be out fighting for it. All the gains we’ve made as an LGBT community have come from fighting, not sitting back. Progress is not inevitable, but it is achievable.

Social justice has always been achieved by bringing people together in common cause, not dividing them. That’s never more true than in this community. 
When we defeated Pat Robertson in his attempt to buy into Scotland’s banking sector, it was an alliance of LGBT groups, women’s groups, church groups and political groups that beat him. It was by coming together that we achieved that. 
And I think unity, rather than division, has been key to many of the victories we’ve had as a community.

There is an argument that a socially progressive Scotland could be an example to the rest of the UK come independence. In my opinion, devolution is a far better place from which to influence the rest of the UK on LGBT equality. 
The actions of foreign countries have a much weaker influence on us than the actions of parts of our own country. 
And within the UK the influence can go two ways, as witnessed by the distinct whiff of one-upmanship when England and Wales passed equal marriage before we did. The reality is that nothing like the same sort of influence happened when our closest neighbours the Scandic countries did it. Devolution is a far better platform for setting examples.

Much of the debate so far has been about reinforcing the apparent political differences between Scotland and the rest of the UK. 
The truth is all democracies have areas where different views prevail - that would be the case in an independent Scotland as it is in the UK. The central belt overrides everywhere else. 
If we were to divide up the UK along political lines, we wouldn’t be splitting at the England/Scotland border. We’d be drawing a line from Wales to Hull, or thereabouts.
In any case, there’s a name for redrawing boundaries because you don’t like election results - gerrymandering.

This vote is about where national power lies; nothing else. We must not pretend it is about policies - that’s what elections are for. 
Independence would create a new island of self-interest in the world. And a new island of self-interest creates competition not co-operation. Competition to attract multinationals with tax breaks. Competition which favours corporate interests over the interests of people. 
I don’t want that. I want to be part of a reforming movement which aims to improve the whole of the UK. I want us to continue to work together for social and economic justice and for LGBT equality. And I think we can do so, better, together.


  1. And yet during Labours tenure in UK government social divisions became larger and the rich got richer, there is no evidence what ever that any of the points made above were given the slightest priority. "We are intensely relaxed about people becoming filthy rich." and "unemployment in the North is a price worth paying." takes a scythe to your arguments. Labour had 13 years to fix Thatchers broken Britain and failed by wearing her clothes. She regarded New Labour as her finest achievement. This theme that Scotland would be selfish to become independent and look after it's people, is completely hollow when you study our history. Glasgow has some of the worst social trends in the world for a very good reason. It has been a Labour fiefdom, for generations. If your social utopia was to be the answer why have you failed so very badly in Glasgow. Anas was a total disgrace last night, and has done Labour even more damage. His bombastic soundbite rhetoric has been exposed as the shallow grave it is. here is a great video for your entertainment.

    Your sincerely Hen Broon

  2. I wasn't at the event, but I know Duncan and would like to respond to Hen Broon, who links the potential for a socially progressive society with Labour, Labour with Duncan and Glasgow's socio economic issues as the result of it being a 'Labour fiefdom'. In doing so, Hen misses Duncan's points completely, and by attributing (by implied political association) a failure to achieve "your social utopia", illustrates exactly the defeatist and narrow minded bias which Duncan is arguing against.

    1. I honestly don't think this "defeatist & narrow minded bias" line is tenable. It is undeniable that, whatever the achievements of New Labour (or indeed old Labour post '45) they have to be seen in the context of what they failed to achieve, as well as what they did. One doesn't have to be a true believer in "social utopia" to believe that the Labour movement could and should have done much better BOTH for the people of Scotland and the UK more generally.

      As long as the unionist consensus held, a devolutionary settlement was probably achievable. "People of good will" across the Scottish political and social spectrum probably could have brought about a solution that was acceptable to most Scots, most of the time within a reformed UK system. Labour in Scotland in particular had a window of opportunity, the widespread popular support and the legitimacy to act as cheerleaders for a devolutionary settlement which not only satisfied Scots aspirations, but reformed the UK as a whole.

      It signally failed to do so.

      We can argue about why it failed so spectacularly, and naturally Labour loyalists will reject the analysis, but Thatcherism and bastard child Blairism have rendered the point moot. Scotland and England are following different trajectories; there is no realistic chance of a progressive overhaul of the UK system which satisfies the aspirations of most Scots, nor are Scots likely to be swayed indefinitely by unionist appeals to their better nature that it is preferable to go at the speed of the slowest UK boat than to forge ahead for ourselves.

      There is a narrow mindedness and defeatism inherent in not fixing what you can probably fix on a smaller scale, because you too busy fighting unwinnable fights to reform a system incapable of change.

  3. "This vote is about where national power lies; nothing else. We must not pretend it is about policies - that’s what elections are for."

    Aye, Duncan's now totally blown those 508+ BT nonsense 'predict the future and the policies and actions of whichever govt. is in power at the time' questions right out of the water.

    1. Duncan clearly believes that the people of Scotland should not govern themselves.

      Scotland - being merely a wee region of the UK - should do what it is told by governments who we did not elect to Westminster, and by those in the HoL who aren't even democratically elected.

      Furthermore, any wealth that Scotland generates should be shared equally across the rest of the UK. Scotland has no right to seek a better future, and how very dare anyone "north of Berwick" even think of such a thing. We must give away anything and everything that might make Scotland a better, fairer, more progressive country. It must all be shared because that's the "best outcome for the most people" in the rest of the UK.
      But, equally, if there's poverty, deprivation ill-health and unemployment anywhere across the UK then Glasgow should rightfully share in it too - because Labour has always believed that's the right way to reward Glaswegians for their dedication down the years to voting for Labour in Scotland.
      That's the Duncan Hothersall ideology.

  4. The problem with this piece, and your comment on twitter that independence supporters are defeatists is summed up this sentence:

    "My view of the independence question is simple - I’m looking for the best outcome for the most people."

    Of course, it's a laudable aim. Who can argue with such an admirably utilitarian point? Seen in this light, independence for Scotland is not only wrong, it is actually bad, even morally reprehensible. By voting for independence and rejecting the Better Together arguments of the unionists Scots are, according to this argument, abandoning the rest of the UK to the tender mercies of a truncated and damaged rump UK and exhibiting cowardice for leaving the field of battle with the aim of constructing their own "cosy, well off" state.

    The issue of course is that there is not a scintilla of evidence that the utilitarian "city on the hill" Duncan hopes for is achievable for Scots or others by staying within the UK. The best economic and social outcome for most of the people of Scotland would almost certainly be achieved by full independence. Why else would unionists have largely abandoned the "too poor" argument? Simple: it is no longer credible.

    The much vaunted positive case for the union, such as it is, now rests therefore on appeals to history, emotion and a subtle form of moral blackmail; Scots, uniquely in the world, should forgo the potential benefits of self-determination in order to prop up the creaking, dysfunctional and deeply regressive UK system. The potential economic and social benefits of establishing an independent state should be rejected in order to "smooth out" the disparities of wealth across the UK.

    Scotland in effect is to function as the airbag for the rest of the UK. We can have our pretendy parliament (as long as it doesn't get above itself of course!), but ultimately power devolved is power retained.

    Duncan insists bravely: "I believe that partly because I believe in the redistribution of wealth as a principle, and Scotland staying in the UK enables that to happen to a far more significant extent than if we were separated."

    Really? To begin with, what is the evidence that this will happen? Of course it IS possible, but is it likely? If the recent political history of the UK tells us anything it is that the resounding answer to that question is "NO". It is in fact much more likely that Scotland staying in the union will have a negligible impact on dragging standards in the rest of the UK up or nudging it down a more progressive path, if nothing else simply as a result of the relative disparity in size. For Scots however there WILL be an opportunity cost in foregoing the potential economic and social benefits of independence to allow Westminster to decide how it will allocate resources across the totality of the UK.

    It isn't defeatism Duncan, it's realism. There is precious little evidence that Scotland can influence the course of the UK as a whole, whether alone or in combination with like minded people or forces in Northern England, Wales or elsewhere.

    You may be content to continue bashing your head against a wall, but don't expect the rest of us to follow suit. You are right about one thing: it is about power, not policies, and in the UK Scotland will rarely if ever be in a position to dictate terms or meaningfully influence the direction of travel if the English majority decide to take a path we disagree with.

    If those of us who believe in independence, particularly those who have switched from calling for devo-max, honestly thought the whole of the UK was capable of being improved we might be more inclined to accept your positive case. I wish the rest of the UK well (particularly as I still live there!) but I'm not prepared to see the prospect of a progressive Scotland sacrificed in the vain hope you can make the UK supertanker do a U-turn, because there is no evidence the crew are for turning!