More than 40 people went to Althing’s first debate of the season at Tingwall Hall on Saturday night to discuss the motion “Scotland made the right decision on 18th September”.
Speaking for the motion were Ian Tinkler and Geordie Jacobson, and opposing them were Vic Thomas and Brian Nugent.
A show of hands before the debate revealed that 15 thought Scotland had made the right decision, 25 thought it was the wrong one and four were undecided. At the end of the night 16 thought the decision was right and only three were undecided, with the 25 unchanged in their opinion.
The night was lively, with a burst of bad temper at one point.
Mr Tinkler opened by deploring nationalism (implying Scottish nationalism) – he cited Hitler’s Germany, Argentina, Serbia and Russia – and said he had seen children blown to pieces due to Irish nationalism.
He could understand Irish nationalism, he said, but when had Scotland been oppressed? It was a “paradox” that Scotland wanted to get rid of Westminster but join Europe, swapping London for Brussels – the same argument could be used for Shetland becoming independent.
He said: “Humanity does not need to fragment. There has already been fighting in George Square, the divisive nature of nationalism caused that.”
Mr Tinkler then said that the UK offered the most stable democracy and the fastest growing economy in the western world, and Scotland would have lost businesses such as the Royal Bank of Scotland and Standard Life in the event of a yes vote.
He also hinted at distrust of Alex Salmond – how could a socialist republican go to work for a bank? And Mr Salmond said he had had legal advice on Europe when that turned out not be be the case.
Regarding defence, Mr Tinkler raised the spectre of an “expansionist Russia” against which an independent Scotland would have no defence.
An exchange about nuclear submarines and NATO followed later in the debate, with nationalist stalwart Charlie Gallagher vilifying Mr Tinkler for criticising his (Mr Gallagher’s) “personal friend” Alex Salmond, and saying he would swear at Mr Tinkler if ladies were not present.
Speaking against the motion, Mr Thomas, “not a member of any party”, said the referendum had “energised the younger generation”, and the demand for independence would grow rapidly as the Westminster elite, with their “manipulation to benefit the wealthy”, degenerated.
He called Westminster a “selfish, bankrupt system”, and said there was “no real UK”, it was established by invasion and stealing resources.
The “wealthy public school elite” was like a cancer, feeding off the poor and low-waged, and the promises made to Scotland before the referendum were “exposed as farcical and undeliverable”. The aftermath of the referendum, he said, would “shake Westminster to its rotten core”.
Retired local government officer Geordie Jacobson defended the union, saying that the referendum result reflected the “sovereign will of the Scottish people”.
He believed in “inter-dependence, not independence” and being part of the UK enabled Scotland to tap into greater resources. These included the Air Accident Investigation Branch, the National Grid, the BBC, air traffic control and GCHQ: “all essential for our standard of living but none without cost…funded by the democratic process”.
And he was glad he would not have to change his money into euros, or groats, or anything else.
Fervent nationalist Brian Nugent (of the Free Scotland party: “I’m still waiting for the call”) said 45 per cent of the electorate had, on 18th September, chosen “not to live in Britain”, and voted for “hope over fear”.
He said Scotland had been oppressed by Mrs Thatcher, who had closed the steel industry, and the electorate had been “badgered and bullied and conned” into voting no. The referendum had not been “fair”, and he questioned the concepts of a “family of nations” and “shared history”. He said the union of 1707, for which people were bribed, was a “shotgun wedding” that had resulted in “300 years of brainwashing”. The vow made by the three main parties prior to the referendum was “meaningless waffle” and they would give to Scotland the minimum they could get away with.
A question and answer session included discussion of the NHS. Audience member Robert Sim wanted a Norwegian model in which taxes were higher but “everyone is looked after”. Not so, said Mr Tinkler: “There is no safety net in Norway”. Wealthy Norwegians pay for some medical and dental care, and in Sweden, the health service is aimed at children – adults flock to the UK for open heart surgery.
He argued that people should be able to choose how to spend their money, but Mr Nugent said: “Let’s make the state stuff so good that the private disappears.”
Regarding centralisation, audience member Jimmy Smith said Edinburgh, was as guilty as Westminster, doing away with Shetland Enterprise and honorary sheriffs – he had voted no and would do so again.
Audience member Martin Tregonning warned against trying to “unpick” every vote, which would create a running sore. Scotland, he said, had made the right decision at that time – later it might be different.
Summing up, Mr Tinkler said Scots had not been “so simple” as to believe the “fear factor”, and the referendum result had been the correct one. He predicted Scotland would get more powers, including income tax.
Mr Thomas said the independence issue was not going to go away, and everyone needed to “show respect and settle down”.