In the first televised debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling, the latter claimed that Scotland remaining in a currency union with the rest of the UK would be like partners sharing a bank account after a divorce (or words to that effect).
The marriage/divorce analogy has been used a lot by the No campaign and like the ‘family of nations’ one I think it doesn’t really work – not least because the campaign for Scottish Independence is not a campaign to break up a relationship, but rather to strengthen it by giving both partners a more equal status (of course, I say ‘both’ but another flaw in the analogy is that there are more than two partners in the UK ‘marriage’, but hey ho…).
In order to examine the analogy more closely, I’ve tried to think of a marriage/love relationship which is as close to the situation of Scotland and the UK as possible. All of the partner’s responses are things I’ve read or heard said by various No voters or campaigners adapted as closely as I could to fit the relationship situation. It’s a little bit tongue in cheek, but hopefully illustrates my point…
So, imagine that a good friend of yours has been in a relationship for quite a while. They’ve had their ups and downs, but both partners seem to love each other and they share a lot. But your friend hasn’t always seemed very happy recently and when you ask about it, they tell you that they wish they were permitted to make decisions for themselves like other adults do in our culture.
‘What do you mean?’ you ask.
‘Well,’ they reply, ‘I have to hand over all my wages to put in the family pot and then he/she gives me back an allowance out of it. I’m allowed to spend what I like on most things, after my share of looking after the children and the house (which, by the way, includes the expensive changes my partner has made to his room, which I didn’t agree to), but I don’t get to have a say in the biggest and most important things. And if I complain, I’m told I should be grateful for what I have.’
You say to them that this doesn’t sound like a great basis for a relationship, despite the good bits and advise them to discuss the matter with their partner. After all, you say, the strongest relationships are built on communication and mutual respect.
Your friend doubts that a reasonable discussion is possible, because they’ve tried in the past, and even if their partner says things will be better, it never happens. Still, they agree to give it a go if you come along to witness. This is what you hear:
Friend: Darling, I wanted to talk about formally making our relationship fairer, I’m just not happy with things the way they are and whenever you promise to change, it doesn’t happen.
Partner: Please don’t leave, I love you, can’t you see how destructive a separation would be?
Friend: I’m not leaving, I’m not going anywhere, I’m just asking for a more equal relationship…
Partner: Hmph, well, you’ll never manage without me, I’ve always given you everything, you hear?
Friend: But surely all my earnings have contributed a lot to the household? The housekeeping money you’ve given me isn’t even as much…
Partner: Well if you leave, I’m not letting you use any of our stuff.
Friend: But can’t we come to some kind of amicable agreement? Surely it would be easier for both of us if we talk about this rationally and peacefully, share what we can, have a gradual transition towards a better relationship?
Partner: No. My family is hurt by what you’ve done, causing division like you have after all we’ve done for you. I’ve told them all about it. They’re angry, things will never be the same.
Friend: But I love your family, that isn’t what this is about, I never wanted division, just a fairer relationship.
Partner: Well, let’s see how you cope when those people we threatened show up…
Friend: To be fair, I didn’t want to be involved in that…
Partner: (sobbing) Can’t you see how good we are together? It’s us against the world, we’re stronger if we stick together. The whole community fears and respects us.
Friend: Yes, but we don’t have to lose the good stuff, we could be equals, allies, still sharing all the good things we created together, but each making our own decisions, respecting each other. And to be fair, it’s possible to have respect without quite so much fear…
Partner: You just think everything’s my fault, that it will all be perfect if you leave. Well it won’t. Bad things will happen and then you’ll be sorry. And you’ll beg me to take you back, but it’ll be too late.
Friend: I never said it was your fault; it’s just that the balance is unfair. Don’t you think we’d both be happier if we were more equal, like all our neighbours are?
Partner: Oh, the neighbours, you just want to invite them all round all the time, well I’m not having it. We’ll have to put in an extra security system and how are you going to pay for that? I don’t want all this division…
(This could go on for ages, but I think it’s quite long enough as it is…)