COMMENT: On Common Sense and Scottish Independence

Common Sense - a copy of the first cover of Thomas Paine's treatise, published in 1776
Common Sense – a copy of the first cover of Thomas Paine’s treatise, published in 1776

When Thomas Paine published his galvanising political treatise, ‘Common Sense’ in Philadelphia in 1776 on the eve of the looming American revolution, it established (among some other and now-conventional and commonly-accepted democratic traditions) that the sole purpose of government in democratic society is to protect life, liberty and property.

This was so well received by the Continentals – the former British colonials-turned-revolutionaries who succesfully fought for independence from Britain/UK to establish the United States of America – that the consequent common catchphrase of the American way has since been the ‘pursuit of life, liberty and happiness’.

The debate over Scottish Independence has been covered widely by the media across the world, and opinions for and against have been offered by many, not least by the Pope and US President Barak Obama.

The CBI, BP and some other bodies have expressed their support to the No campaign, while others support Scottish Independence and some Scottish businesses have even left the CBI in protest of that organisation’s position.

For the avoidance of doubt, Scottish Energy News is not advocating for – nor against – Scottish Independence (not least because Scottish Energy News does not have a vote).

Rather, Scottish Energy News applauds and commends the policy position adopted by the London-based Oil and Gas UK trade association, whose corporate policy on Independence was plainly and clearly put by Malcolm Webb, its chief executive.

Emphasising Oil and Gas UK’s neutral stance on the Independence referendum, he said: “This is of course a hugely important matter – but it is one for the people of Scotland and their politicians to debate and decide.

“Our role as the industry trade association is to respect the democratic mandate which emerges from the vote on 18th September and then engage with and represent our industry within the political reality which then prevails.”

 We believe that Mr Webb has got this just right. It is for the people of Scotland, and not for businesses – wherever they may be located – to make that decision, and in keeping with that, our policy is to inform on Energy issues in Scotland, but not to refrain from offering personal opinion

And that should be that.

People vote in elections. People will vote in the Independence Referendum. And business won’t.

The Independence Referendum is rightly a matter – entirely – for the people of Scotland when they cast their votes on 18 September 2014.

But what Scottish Energy News does advocate is for Common Sense on Scottish Independence.

This means that when it comes to energy – and for ‘energy’ read ‘Scotland’ – the people should be allowed to make up their own minds. Without fear. Without harassment. And certainly without being subjected to online bullying.

Meanwhile, Mr Webb should perhaps have a quiet word on diplomacy and democracy with his BP counterpart – and his American president – whose comments on Scottish Independence have caused such a stooshie).

It is interesting to note that some prominent individuals and corporates in the Scottish financial sector have already taken a leaf out of Mr Webb’s book, while others – who should ken better – haven’t.

It can never be good business to start blaming people (aka ‘customers’) for the outcome of a vote / referendum – which is yet to be held and when the result is not certain and cannot be guaranteed (one way or the other).

We say ‘Yes’ – to Debate. And ‘No’ to Blame.

So let the people decide.

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