Open University academic and Policy Press author Gerry Mooney has written extensively on the subjects of Scottish social policy and devolution. On the eve of the referendum to decide whether Scotland should become fully independent from the UK Mooney shares his views on how a ‘Yes’ majority return on Thursday could lay the foundation for a more socially just Scottish society. Interview and report by Rebecca Megson.
Gerry Mooney is a ‘Yes’ man. Unapologetically so, in fact.
What’s more, he is bursting with excitement about the possibility of Scotland returning a majority ‘Yes’ vote for independence tomorrow. He believes that this will be the first step on the long road to developing a different kind of society from the rest of the UK, a society that is centred on equality and fairness.
But Mooney is quick to point out a misunderstanding about the ‘Yes’ vote, one that he suggests is being deliberately made by the Unionist politicians – that is those on the ‘No’ side of the debate.
“A ‘Yes’ vote has been portrayed as a vote for the SNP, for Alex Salmond and for Scottish nationalism”, says Mooney.
“In reality, the vast majority of people voting ‘Yes’ wouldn’t actually go on to vote SNP and are not nationalists. What a future independent Scottish Parliament would look like, we simply don’t know yet. That will have to be decided further down the line, through Scottish general elections.”
This isn’t the only misunderstanding about the referendum debate south of the border, according to Mooney. Whilst the UK national news focuses on what he calls ‘blazing representations of Scottish nationalism’ – men and women in kilts and tartans, calling upon the spirit of Braveheart – his experience is that this has been very much on the margins of the debate in Scotland.
“On the ‘Yes’ side there is no need to assert Scottishness, it is taken for granted, whilst for the ‘No’ camp they have to almost ‘overdo it’ in stressing their Scottishness,” says Mooney
“It is the ‘No’ campaign who have actually had to do a lot more because of the independence campaign as far as nationalism is concerned. They’ve had to defend their Scottishness, to develop and portray a sense of Britishness and a British nationalism that includes Scottishness.”
“Many people are unhappy with the policy decisions being made by the UK coalition government in London”
The real debates in Scotland over the past couple of years leading up to the referendum have centred on future Scottish public services and social policy, rather than rampant nationalism. Mooney says:
“Many people are unhappy with the policy decisions being made by the UK coalition government in London. There is a lot of opposition to austerity, to the privatisation of schools and the privatisation of the NHS. These policies are out of tune with what many in Scotland would like to see.”
Irrespective of the outcome tomorrow, Mooney believes the political and policy landscape will never be the same again in Scotland. Even if the ‘No’ campaign wins, if the ‘Yes’ campaign gets 48% of the vote, as some polls are predicting, that isn’t a voice that is going to disappear. The consequences of a ‘No’ vote are, according to Mooney, uncertain.
Mooney’s enthusiasm for Scotland’s independent future is infectious. He feels that the spirit of devolution will be equally as infectious for the rest of the country, predicting calls for greater devolution in Wales and the instigation of an Assembly in the North of England if a ‘Yes’ vote is returned.
“The rise in the dominance of London and the south of England in the last 10 years has really shifted the view on devolution. London seems as remote and alien to people in the North of England as it does to people in Scotland.”
Until recently, the ‘No’ campaign and the main political parties at Westminster have largely ignored the possibility of Scotland returning a ‘Yes’ vote. Mooney says:
“It is astonishing to see that the UK government has suddenly woken up to the fact that this referendum is happening. In the last two weeks, as the polls have shown that the ‘Yes’ vote was consolidating and catching up with the ‘No’ campaign, the ‘danger’ button has been pressed down in London.”
Mooney is amused that, as he sees it, the panic in Westminster has led to Scotland making the lead item in the news every day. Renewed focus on the country is, he believes, largely being seen as too little, too late.
“It looks extremely desperate. Until these past two weeks the ‘No’ campaign has been completely and utterly negative, portraying Scotland in crisis if it votes for independence. Now, all of a sudden there are promises of more powers and discussion of what being part of the UK can do for Scotland.”
There have been a lot of promises made by London if Scotland votes ‘No’ but Mooney feels that there’s very little sense of what the promises are likely to amount to in the long run, or if Westminster politicians can be trusted.
He says: “We don’t know what a future Scotland will look like – we can’t guarantee it will be the future we want and hope for but we will have more power to create that society if we’re independent.”
“However, we can be certain, if it’s a ‘No’ vote there will be more austerity, more cuts, more poverty and rising inequality.”
Mooney has no illusions that the change will happen overnight. However he is confident that the creation of a new Scotland that is focused upon the pursuit of equality can only be realised if Scotland delivers a ‘Yes’ majority tomorrow.
More from Gerry Mooney
Read Social justice and social policy in Scotland – available at the special discounted price of £15.00 (RRP £28.99) from the Policy Press website this month.
Articles by Gerry Mooney
OpenLearn articles can be found here
The Conversation articles can be found here, including the recent: ‘Campaigns fight to define what Scottish Social Justice means’
On Discover Society: ‘Scotland: State and devolution…but not revolution…as yet?’
In the Scottish Left Review on ‘Poverty and Independence’
Gerry’s other publications can be viewed at his OU webpage