Wake up and smell the petrol!

Craig Dalzell and Common Weal do excellent work. I have no doubt that their paper on a Scottish Statistics Agency (SSA) is a worthwhile addition to an impressive and valuable body of work. But I am focused on the fight to restore Scotland’s independence. And this sort of thing is, at best, no more than tangentially related to that fight.

Would Scotland benefit from better collection, collation and analysis of a wide range of statistical information relating to all aspect of our economy and society? Of course!

Would such an agency be absolutely required after independence? Of course!

We already knew these things. Craig Dalzell’s paper fleshes out the detail. But it asks no new questions and provides no new answers. It adds nothing whatever to the constitutional debate.

It may well be argued that this was not the intention. But, because Common Weal is closely associated with the Yes movement, it is inevitable that both sides of that constitutional debate will seize on the paper – each for their own purposes.

Had there been any question that Scotland needs a statistics agency, or any reasonable doubt about our ability to create and run such an organisation, then this paper would almost certainly have served to answer those questions and allay those doubts. But, just as there is no serious uncertainty about Scotland’s economic viability, so there is no reason to wonder about whether we can manage the nation’s infrastructure.

So why should we be talking about either as part of the constitutional debate?

There is not, and never could be, an economic argument against independence.

There is not, and never could be, a practical argument against independence.

There are very powerful economic and practical arguments against the Union. It doesn’t work at all well and costs Scotland dearly in terms of realising our potential. Let’s hear more of those arguments. Let’s stop being defensive. Let’s stop acting as if we have to prove our right and ability to be a normal nation. It is the Union which is anomalous. It is for those who advocate the preservation of the Union to persuade us of its value to Scotland. We don’t have to prove anything.

Discussion of what Scotland might be like after independence is perfectly fine. But not if it is seen as making the case for independence. That case is already made. The answer to the question of whether Scotland should be an independent country can only ever be ‘Yes’. It’s not even a sensible question. We should be asking whether there is any rational case at all for Scotland remaining part of the UK.

Useful as debate about post-independence policy may be, it is a distraction from the main issue. The constitutional issue. And it may be a very dangerous distraction. The threat to Scotland’s democracy from ‘One Nation’ British Nationalism is real and imminent. Our democratic institutions, our distinctive political culture, our most precious public services and our potential to develop as a fairer, greener more prosperous nation – all are in immediate jeopardy.

An arsonist is dousing our house in petrol. And we are arguing about what colour to paint the bathroom.

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