If you are new to exploring the referendum issues, where do you start? There are dozens of sites out there and many are conflicting while others are simply poor quality. But, don’t worry! I’ve spent months scouring the internet trying to find places where one can find quality information so you don’t have to. In due course I intend writing several posts outlining the basic issues as I see them but in the meantime I am offering the following links to allow you somewhere to go to find out more. If you find more that you think should be included then please let me know and I will add a link below:
The key issue for everyone is whether or not Scotland can pay its way as an economy. The only source of numbers on tax and expenditure that we can really trust are ones compiled and published by the Treasury. ‘Everyone is entitled to their own opinion but not their own set of facts’. Whether these are accurate or not I have no idea but I do tend to trust that HM Treasury will not actually publish false data… The go-to document is Government Expenditure & Revenue Scotland (GERS) 2012-13 which can be found here http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0044/00446179.pdf
The Scottish Government’s referendum website – http://www.scotreferendum.com/ – provides a source for basic question and answers and is also the place you can order your (free) paper copy of the White Paper – Scotland’s Future – which is the ‘blueprint’ of the SNP/Scottish Government’s vision for how an independent Scotland could look and expands considerably on the basic Q&A. Alternatively you can read or download it here http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/11/9348/0.
You need to bear in mind that the document is NOT the final version of how an independent Scotland WILL look because there are many, many issues that would have to be negotiated with the UK government and institutions like the EU, UN and NATO before a final picture can emerge, not to mention that a political party that is NOT the SNP might be in power so they might (and quite probably would) have quite a different idea about how an independent Scotland should look. But if anyone suggest to you that ‘there are too many unanswered questions from the SNP/Scottish Government’ please check here to see if the question has been answered. You may not like or agree with the answer, but that is a whole different issue.
From the other side of the argument Better Together have put their ‘facts’ here http://bettertogether.net/the-facts but there are facts and opinions mixed together on those pages and should be viewed with the same sort of critical eye that you view the White Paper’s vision of the future. Both sets of documents detail what might occur and NOT what will. One of the aspects of the campaign so far is that Better Together have been repeatedly asked to present a positive vision of how Scotland will fare better within the UK rather than going it alone (rather than just offering scare stories about how Scotland is doomed to failure if it does divorce the rest of the UK). It would stand to reason that this site has the most up-to-date information from the No campaign and if you were going to find a positive message for the future this would be it. I’ll let you decide how positive the message from Alistair Darling is http://bettertogether.net/pages/resources.
The ‘official’ Yes Scotland version of events can be found here http://www.yesscotland.net/. To be honest I don’t think it provides much information that you won’t find at http://www.scotreferendum.com/ so I can’t say I have spent any time there. One thing to bear in mind is that the Yes campaign seems to be characterised by scores of local groups, each with their own websites (mainly on Facebook and Twitter), rather than a centrally controlled campaign managed by the SNP and Yes Scotland. This contrasts with the Better Together campaign that appears to be far more centrally managed. The best way to see what is going on in your local area, should you want to attend a meeting/debate for Yes or No, is to see what is happening on Facebook or do a search on Google.
The site that probably does most to counter the financial arguments put forward by Better Together is http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/. This is an entirely pro-independence site so some accuse it of bias but it is no more so than any other voice out there. I say that if serious business people in Scotland can make a case for Scotland being able to go it alone financially then they should be listened to. To the best of my knowledge they use government financial figures from GERS.
The trouble with the above links are they all represent a certain level of ‘politics as usual’ and there are other voices within the Yes movement that should be considered as well. http://reidfoundation.org/, http://radicalindependence.org/, http://www.cmonscotland.org/ and http://www.womenforindependence.org all represent some alternative voices that are not interested in party politics. Personally speaking, I am solely concentrating in the effort to achieve Scottish independence and am content to sort out the details of how Scotland will be as a politically entity sometime later.
All the political parties based in Scotland have their opinions on Scottish independence. The Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats oppose it (as do UKIP) while the Scottish National Party (please note this is NOT the Scottish NATIONALIST Party as it is frequently mislabelled in the media and among No campaigners), Scottish Green Party and Scottish Socialist Party are in favour. And if this doesn’t confuse you too much, some Labour members are actively campaigning for Yes through http://www.labourforindy.com/. I will leave you to find the political parties’ websites by yourself. They don’t interest me as I am not a ‘party political’ man.
Sadly, if you are relying on mainstream media for your information on the pros and cons of independence for Scotland, you will be receiving a very skewed version of the arguments that are being made. It is FACT that at least 40% of the Scottish population appear to be in favour of independence (with slightly more – though less than 50% – currently opposing it according to the polls). So, at the very least, 40% of the media coverage should reflect that view. It doesn’t. Currently there is one newspaper, the Sunday Herald, which supports the Yes campaign while the other 36 national or local dailies don’t (perhaps not incidentally, only five of the 37 major newspapers on sale in Scotland are owned by people or companies from within Scotland). There are none that could be described as neutral though, to be fair, all papers will carry pro-Yes stories. BBC TV and Radio is even worse. I am going to write a lot more on this in the future but let’s just say that the UK state controlled broadcaster appears to be doing pretty much what it accuses the North Korean, the Chinese and the Iranian (to name a few) medias to be doing; reporting with complete bias in favour of the current government, or at least the current system of governance of Scotland. The USSR would have been so proud http://www.newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-news/8867-bbc-scotland-chiefs-defiant-after-news-bias-study-scrutinised-by-holyrood-committee.
So, if getting the news from the ‘news’ outlets is somewhat difficult, where do you go? These are all pro-Yes sites (I have, honestly, tried to find their equivalent on the No side but have yet to do so, but then they do have the BBC…) but they are responsible for a lot of Don’t Knows becoming Yes voters so I will let their quality of information speak for themselves. You have to read all these sites with a willingness to check for biases, but then you should be reading print media or watching the TV in exactly the same way.
The number one ‘investigative reporter’ is found here at http://wingsoverscotland.com/ (this site is going to register with the Electoral Commission so it is an active campaigner not just a news site) while http://newsnetscotland.com/ (a ‘serious’ online newspaper), http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/ (an online news magazine) and http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/ (the ‘Financial Times’ of the independence movement) all contribute hugely to reporting stories which fail to reach the printed or online pages of the mainstream media. http://scotgoespop.blogspot.co.uk/ is a crucially important site that analyses the opinion polls in far greater depth than the mainstream media get around to (also check http://whatscotlandthinks.org/ for a slightly different interpretation of polls – I don’t know enough about the methodology either site uses to know which can be considered more accurate).
In addition to the above sites which are taking a somewhat conventional approach to commentating on the referendum there are other sites which approach the issue from a variety of angles and in different styles. My favourite of all is http://weegingerdug.wordpress.com/ (a Glasgow linguist with a knowledge of the independence movement in Catalonia, which the situation in Scotland is often compared to) but the following are great too: http://www.derekbateman.co.uk (a former BBC journalist), http://grousebeater.wordpress.com/ (not sure who this chap is but he is reputedly a big noise in media production of some sort), http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/ (former UK Ambassador to Uzbekistan who resigned in protest over torture and an expert in international maritime borders), http://lallandspeatworrier.blogspot.co.uk/ (a law lecturer) https://www.blogger.com/profile/04537551777982612769 (the blog of John Jappy, a former UK Treasury official who saw the ‘books’ as far back as 1968 and saw how Scotland’s oil has funded many UK projects which don’t benefit Scotland), http://michaelgreenwell.wordpress.com/ and, last but not least, http://misssymartin.blogspot.co.uk/ (a female voice in a male dominated debate). [On that last point, I am now aware that I probably have not heard – and certainly not shared – enough female voices on this debate. I will rectify this and update further.]
And finally, to cap off this incredibly long post, the following three sites are set up as ‘myth busters’ to counter some of the more lurid claims made by the No campaign: http://www.newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-opinion/4341-a-unionist-lexicon-an-a-z-of-unionist-scare-stories-myths-and-misinformation, http://wingsoverscotland.com/reference/ and http://munguinsrepublic.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/10-reasons-why-scotland-is-better-being.html