It's fair to say that I don't get too involved in politics. I vote, certainly, but I don't run for local office or campaign for my MP etc etc.
However, as you might (or might not) be aware, Scotland will next year have a referendum on independence*. I'll be voting no, by the way, for a whole host of reasons.
*For those of you not aware, Scotland is a region of the UK that a few years ago got limited self governing powers. The SNP (Scottish Nationalist Party) won at the last election with the main aim of holding a referendum on complete separation. So, once the SNP realised that they needed to ask the Westminster government to hold that referendum for it to be binding, they did, Westminster said yes and next year we get a vote. Woohoo. Yes = independence (no-one is quite sure exactly how), No = stay as is.
Anyway... recently published is 'Scotlands' Future', a white paper on the proposed devolved country. Lets, for one second, put aside the fact that the paper is massively light on content, vacuous and in some cases downright unbelievable. Did I say I was in the 'no' camp? :-) What interested me, was the fact that the white paper has the Scottish Governmen logo on it. Not a 'Yes' campaign, or an 'SNP' logo, but the government logo. And, surely, the Government is meant to work for all the people? I.e. the people in the 'No' and the 'Yes' campaign. Whilst the SNP might be in power at the moment, the party and the government are separate things aren't they?
Anyway, I didn't know - so I thought I'd ask my elected representative as I think that's what they are there for? Actually, I sent it to two of them. I have seven, apparently. Here's what I wrote;
"I’m a Broughton St resident and have a question that I hope you may be able to answer, or perhaps pose in a wider forum?
I am an Englishman living in Scotland with my Scottish wife and also a small English business owner working in Scotland. I’m therefore obviously extremely interested in the referendum next year. For the record, I am firmly in the ‘No’ camp! Having received ‘Scotlands’ Future’, I have a particular question about the funding of this publication.
To me, the content and tone of ‘Scotlands’ Future’ is blatantly partisan, promoting the SNP’s ‘Yes’ campaign throughout. Whilst I appreciate that such a publication needs to exist - I would like to ask if this is funded by the SNP or the Scottish government? If the latter, as I believe, is the use of Scottish taxpayers’ money in this case a) allowable, b) publicly known and c) Is there a comparable ‘Better Together’ document in the works?
I have similar concerns about http://www.scotreferendum.com/, which is presented as a Scottish Parliament website, yet is also blatantly partisan. This page for instance: http://www.scotreferendum.com/questions/isnt-the-scottish-parliament-going-to-get-more-powers-anyway-if-scotland-votes-no/ reads as if it is taken straight from the SNP marketing handbook.
I would very much appreciate an answer to this enquiry and should you find this line of thought interesting enough to raise in a wider circle I’d very much appreciate that too. "
I'm all up for a fair debate, but it does strike me as a little bit unfair (OK, alot unfair) that the government materials - that you're meant to trust - are so partisan. In case the above links don't work - here's the page I linked to for example:
Now, I'd hope that even the most ardent independence campaigner would agree that stating "the ONLY way for Scotland to get more powers is through independence" is a bit of a reach. As apposed to, perhaps, another 200 years of electoral change? Or new powers being granted next year? Or Scotland deciding they are quite capable of making Scotland a better place themselves? Or, well, anything that hasn't yet been foreseen.
I'd expect this in a party political statement or manifesto as it is OPINION. But here, we're presented with government materials presenting opinion as FACT. Which, to my mind, is wrong and extremely dangerous as voters will treat it as fact. Party political statements are presented as such for a reason, so the voter can frame the information given. This is presented as factual information from the government.
Incidentally, my Northern Irish friends tell me this would be strictly banned in NI.
Let's watch those gears kick into action shall we? So far, my independent MSP (Mary Blackford) has taken a look at it and forwarded half of the question on to the 'Better Together' campaign (who campaign for a 'no' vote) and also forwarded the other half of my question to the Deputy First Minister. She is an SNP member, so is fairly strongly in the 'Yes' campaign. Let's see what happens ....