A response to Professor Colin Kidd’s interview in the St Andrews student newspaper The Saint

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By Ashley Husband Powton
 
Eleanor Roosevelt stated that ‘Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people’. Throughout his myopic article, Professor Colin Kidd, respected expert in his field, vocal public supporter of the no-campaign and purveyor of his own grandiose important relationships with both current and ex Labour party (Prime) ministers, reduces the independence campaign to an argument more fitting of a cheap tabloid newspaper. 
 

By Ashley Husband Powton
 
Eleanor Roosevelt stated that ‘Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people’. Throughout his myopic article, Professor Colin Kidd, respected expert in his field, vocal public supporter of the no-campaign and purveyor of his own grandiose important relationships with both current and ex Labour party (Prime) ministers, reduces the independence campaign to an argument more fitting of a cheap tabloid newspaper.
 
Peppered with unsubstantiated claims, increasingly wild assertions, and shamelessly one-sided in its analysis, I, for one, am bitterly disappointed, and affronted.

Academic colleagues and students, regardless of political allegiance or persuasion, must have found Kidd’s contribution to the debate dismaying, lacking in the research, evidence, insight, thoroughness and balance demanded of an esteemed professor writing for a student publication. The piece misses not only the very qualities that secure professional accolades and academic respect, but  also the very process and thinking that is instilled in us as his students, the proper and accepted presentation for credible argument.

Kidd’s portrayal of a ‘fanatical minority’ in favour of independence pitted against a steadfast unionist majority is misleading and inaccurate. It willfully ignores clear and consistent polling evidence to date.

According to the results of a poll published by Panelbase on the day that Kidd’s article appeared, 40% intend to vote ‘yes’ in September’s referendum, 45% ‘no’ (a minority), with the remaining 15% ‘undecided’. When undecideds are excluded, the figures are 47% ‘yes’ and 53% ‘no’, meaning that a swing of just over 3% is required for a yes majority. This poll is only the latest example of a general trend of support shifting towards ‘yes’.

Even more dishonest than his portrayal of the level of support for independence, however, is Kidd’s portrayal of the campaign for independence and its supporters. Kidd’s repeated assertions that unionists are the ‘true patriots in this campaign’ and that ‘nationalists do not have a monopoly on patriotism’ implied that the campaign is a battle over identity.

As anyone who has any knowledge of the campaign for Scottish independence is aware, such dialogue is conspicuously absent from the yes-campaign, where debate and aspirations revolve around achieving greater social justice and equality, and democratic representation and accountability.

The urgency of the case for independence was clearly illustrated in the same edition of The Saint. The food bank ‘Storehouse’ in St Andrews has seen the number of parcels it provides increase by a third since August of last year. In 2010, the Trussell Trust – one of the main providers of food banks – gave emergency food parcels to just over 4,000 people throughout Scotland. By last year, that number had increased to more than 56,000.

Food banks for the working poor in 2014, which are struggling to provide help to all those in need, is just one example of the consequences of the hostile welfare cuts being imposed by Westminster. 90% of cuts are still to come. Regardless of which party is elected in 2015, Labour and Tories alike are thirled to a destructive neo-liberal agenda and committed to a merciless programme of greater austerity which punishes the poor and most vulnerable in society.

For supporters of independence, a yes-vote is about rejecting the indefensible and reprehensible status quo and opting for a different future.

  • It is a rejection of the hostile and increasingly right-wing policies of Westminster governments.
  • It is about creating a more equal and just society, reversing the trend of an ever increasing gap between the richest and the poorest.
  • It is demanding an alternative to rule by a rich and privileged elite.
  • It is about ensuring that Scotland is never again subject to the damaging policies of governments it did not vote for.
  • It is about planning our own positive and constructive role on the European and international stages, free from xenophobia and military aggression.

The real independence debate can be summed up by asking the following: ‘What sort of society do we want in Scotland, and who is more likely to deliver it, Westminster or an independent Holyrood?’.

There are 37 national or daily newspapers in Scotland. Just five of them are owned in Scotland. None of the 37 supports independence. Contrary to the politically expedient ‘one man and his dream’, Alex Salmond, again, summed up at the weekend: ‘This referendum is not about this Party, or this First Minister, or even the wider Yes campaign. It’s a vote for a government in Scotland that the people of Scotland choose, pursuing policies the people of Scotland support’.

Scotland is buzzing with the true yes campaign, a growing collection of diverse and enthusiastic individuals, groups, organisations and think-tanks, who are united in their excitement, hope and positive anticipation of a better future for Scotland. The non-party political, grass roots Yes Scotland campaign encompasses a huge range of diverse groups, such as Business for Scotland, Mums for Change, Academics for Yes, Scots Asians for Yes, Generation Yes, Third Sector Yes, and Youth and Students for Yes.

There is the Women for Independence group, the Labour for Independence group, the England for Yes group, and the National Collective for Artists and Creatives. There is the Radical Independence Campaign, the Jimmy Reid Foundation, and Nordic Horizons.

There is a wealth of rich and insightful online blogging and journalism from the likes of Bella Caledonia, Wings over Scotland, and Newsnet Scotland.

Bigger than private prejudice, greater than any individual, more important than traditional party-political loyalties, and more powerful than the fear of the unknown. Those committed to academia and education need to demonstrate a more fundamental conviction for the edification of the people: democracy. In the spirit of that democracy, let’s have debate, let’s have honesty, let’s have truth.

Lastly, it is very unbecoming to the author to resort to misogyny, consummate politician and accomplished stateswoman, Deputy First Minster Nicola Sturgeon is not a token, simply there ‘to woo the women vote’.

Click here to read Professor Kidd’s contribution to the independence debate.