Talking Point: A referendum challenge

Written by on 23 October 2013

The starting gun to next year’s independence referendum has long since been fired –and there is less than a year to go until voting day.

But until now, there has been a great deal of caution over picking a side in public.

While, understandably, many individuals and organisations are either still undecided or wish to avoid controversy by nailing their colours to the mast, it has meant we have yet to see the full debate over the impact independence could have.

For this reason Scottish Environment LINK, representing more than 30 environmental organisations, challenged Better Together and Yes to spell out exactly how their favoured constitutional position would help bring about its vision for Scotland.

LINK has tried to ignite the debate and get everybody thinking about whether a Yes or No vote would promote a society which “values and nurtures our landscape and cultural heritage” and which “learns from and plays its part in the rest of the world.”

Great strides have been made in environmental legislation since devolution – a Climate Change Act more demanding than Westminster’s , Scotland’s first national parks and heading towards a new national marine plan.

But the question is, has devolution taken things as far as it can?

Stan Blackley, an environmental campaigner for 23 years and now part of Yes Scotland, said at the Scottish Greens conference, things had reached an “impasse” –the only way forward now was independence.

Many environmental issues know no borders; the spread of Ash dieback across Europe, and similarly, fears over bee populations and climate change, are caused by the emissions of countries across the globe and not just constituent parts of the UK.

So, the No campaign Better Together says the answers to the global challenge lie not in the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK “but in the decisions of governments, parliaments and people, what they value and how they deliver”.

Others, like Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, who recently stuck his head above the parapet, say an independent Scotland to be the better option.

Although stressing this was his personal opinion, not that of his employers, it will be interesting in the months ahead to see if pressure groups, campaigners and other high-profile individuals can shed more light on what is, at times, a very narrow debate focusing on spats between politicians either across the parliament floor or between London and Edinburgh.

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