Top positive review
5 of 7 people found this helpful
*The* book about the upcoming referendum
on 6 April 2014
Despite being English I have been taking a very strong interest in the upcoming Scottish independence referendum. If successful it will (as this book's front cover shows) change the map of my country and result in a whole set of consequences, some good, some bad, both for Scotland and the remainder of the UK. In my opinion this issue is not been given the attention it deserves in the English media and public discourse.
I have no strong views on the matter either way - from a purely emotional/historical viewpoint I think it would be a shame to sever the UK, though I also have much sympathy for Scots angry at finding themselves ruled by a government they did not vote for (again) and in a country in which the economic, social and political power is so heavily and increasingly centred in just one area - namely London and the South-East of England.
This book is perfect for someone like me who wants an objective, non-partisan overview of the arguments on both sides and a primer on the background to the referendum, Torrance begins with an overview of how Scotland got to this point, with a look at devolution, the 1979 referendum and the development of the Union overtime. He then goes on to give a separate chapter on individual issues such as the economy, defence, culture etc. before ending with a look the the two campaigns and their respective personalities. Along the way he covers all the hot-button issues the referendum debate has been throwing up - the monarchy, EU and NATO membership, the pound, Trident and so forth. He gets a good balance between giving a thorough overview whilst not drowning the reader with facts and figures. I found especially useful the frequent references and comparisons to other countries - obviously Ireland, as the last country to leave the UK, gets frequently mentioned, as does Quebec and Canada which is probably the closest parallel to Scotland/UK.
There are also a couple of chapters which take a 'what if' approach, in which Torrance pretends to be writing in 2024 looking back at the result from both the yes and no perspectives. I'm not a huge fan of this kind of long-range speculation (remember all that cr*p about the 21st century being one of peace and cooperation we saw back in 1999-2000? Or those 1970s tomes positing a Japanese-dominated world in 20 years?) but they are quite short and raise some interesting points (not least what will happen to the SNP in the event of a 'no' vote).
Obviously some will see bias here or there against their favoured side, though as a dispassionate observer I found the book to be remarkably even-handed and fair to both sides. For example Torrance criticises the SNP for the fact that in some policy areas they remain very wooly and unclear in what they actually want to see (e.g. a future Scottish army), but he also criticises the Better Together camp for a campaign based more on scaremongering voters with the potential negative effects independence could have rather than making a positive case for the Union.
Overall I would heartily recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the referendum or British politics generally. It is well written, strikes a good balance between fact, anecdote and analysis and has a humorous disregard for the blandishments of both sides in this seminal debate.