Gerry Hassan recently set out 11 reasons why independence for Scotland would be a good idea. Reading them, I just kept thinking that independence was a bit of a drastic solution. The Scottish Parliament already has powers that would enable it to do something about child poverty and inequality - yet the SNP has slashed the social housing budget.
He also mentioned changes to the NHS in England. I think the phrase "in England" was pretty critical. Are they happening up here? Does anyone want to see them happening up here? No. We don't need independence to insulate ourselves from that - and, frankly, it's not strictly speaking our business. We certainly need to have a proper look at a constitutional settlement which creates a federal UK and deals with the West Lothian question, but we don't need independence.
Hassan also cites the UK being the most centralised country in Western Europe. Indeed it is. Here in Scotland, though, we have three political parties, Labour, the SNP and the Tories to a certain extent who would centralise anything that sat still for long enough. It's not long since the SNP were talking about centralising control of schools. The SNP and Labour are passionate about the appalling idea of a single Scottish Police Force. The Tories were for it and might be against it depending on who they elect as leader in two days' time.
As far as nuclear weapons are concerned, well, actually, moving them from Faslane to Cumbria doesn't do it for me. I want them off my island, thank you very much.
It's his last point that made me think, though. He talked about how Tory Governments at Westminster create a "crisis of legitimacy" because Scotland doesn't vote Tory. Neither does most of the north of England, too. However, the first past the post electoral system doesn't deliver the parliament people ask for. If it did, there would currently be around 140 Liberal Democrat MPs to match our 23% of the vote. There would be more of a balance at Westminster, leading to the likelihood of parties having to work together.
That would deal with both the legitimacy issue and the boorish, macho, misogynistic culture which is much more prevalent in Westminster than it is at Holyrrod. The disgraceful treatment of Eilidh Whiteford, SNP MP for Banff and Buchan, by the Chair of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, the pugnaciously tongued Ian Davidson, which she wrote about eloquently in Scotland on Sunday, is a symptom of a much deeper malaise. Bellegrove Belle wrote about the experience of women in politics and cites Winnie Ewing's experience at Westminster. Alex Salmond doesn't seem to have had such a horrendous time - he was quite happy to stay in Westminster when forced to choose in 2001, so I suspect Ewing's and Whiteford's experiences are more to do with misogyny than unionism. By the way, I had been quite cross with Alan Reid, our representative on the Scottish Affairs Committee for going along with Ian Davidson's apology. I still am, but I was struck by Eilidh describing him as "mild-mannered". He is lovely and it's unsurprising, but good to know that she acknowledges that he's not a bully.
I think most women in politics will have their stories to tell about occasions when they have encountered sexism of some sort. It might not have set them back, but it's made them feel uncomfortable. My party is not blameless by any stretch of the imagination as Ruth Bright wrote recently for Liberal Democrat Voice. Even benign comments, like the "ooh, catfight" comment by a senior party figure who actually does know better on hearing of an election being contested by two women, are not an example of good practice.
I came across this paper by Stephanie Jones, Nickie Charles and Charlotte Aull Davies on the difference in culture between Westminster and the Welsh Assembly highlighting a critical mass of women and family friendly practices making a difference. I certainly think the Scottish Parliament is better than Westminster, although its gender balance is slipping and there are ugly moments like when Labour caused problems with Angela Constance's maternity leave. They said it was cos the SNP were a nightmare in previous sessions of the Parliament. That makes it all right then! I despair. There are plenty ugly aspects to our political culture in Scotland that need to be dealt with, but that's for another day.
Women tend to do better in PR systems of elections and they produce parliamentary arithmetic which requires consensus. So it simply introducing PR at Westminster could have a very healthy effect not only on politics but could deal with some of the things that are wrong with the union. What's not to love?