“May you live in interesting times”
This phrase is supposedly translated from a Chinese curse. For ‘interesting’ read troubled and forever in turmoil. Scotland right this minute is an interesting place but its certainly no curse!
I have been a keen observer of politics in Scotland for nearly 40 years; Growing up in the industrial central belt and watching our industries being destroyed or privatised. Later as a student defending the right of free education, apartheid and any other perceived social injustice going, I was always reminded of Marlon Brando’s famous rebut “What are you rebelling against?” “whadda you got?”.
But in 40 years I have never witnessed anything like this. There is a seismic change in Scotland – this is not just about a referendum, it is about a complete change to how people, an entire nation, engage with politics.
In a few days the Scottish people will be asked a simple question; “Do you think Scotland should be an independent country” there are only two answers “Yes” or “No”.
The Scottish government has set out their case for an independent Scotland in a whopping 649 pages. What we must keep sight of however is that this is THEIR vision of an independent Scotland. If we answer the question above with a strong ‘aye’ then it will be forever in our hands to shape that vision of Scotland, no longer will we be told how to run our own affairs, no longer will our votes in a UK government election be swamped by the superior voting numbers in the south of England, Scotland’s Future will be in Scotland’s hands.
“But you already have a parliament and new powers are on the way?” comes the cry from the MPs in Westminster. Yes we do but lets look at that in more detail. The establishment of a Scottish parliament was a wonderful thing, don’t get me wrong but these plans were not scribbled down on the back of a cigarette packet (unlike the more recent devolution offerings we’ve been thrown lately). The Labour Government who engineered this was very careful. The establishment of the Scottish parliament was designed to lock out the Labour opposition in Scotland forever, establish a permanent power base up north and ensure through the way the electoral process was run that no other party would ever gain a majority in Scotland… ever. If our Scottish parliament was so autonomous why was it that three of the main parties; Labour, Conservative and Lib Dems were all just branch offices of their Westminster equivalents with all policy being dictated by head office in London?
That ‘cunning plan’ was derailed in 2011 when the SNP who in the last administration had grimly clung on to a minority government, swept aside the Labour party with a huge majority and left them reeling.
At that moment the traps opened – the SNP have one goal, its very existence is based on the concept of independence and a majority government had the mandate to call this referendum.
Lets deal with a basic and undisputed truth; Scotland CAN be a successful independent country, no one on any side of this debate has ever sensibly disputed that fact. What has been debated has been the ‘should’ rather than the ‘could’. Scotland has a phenomenal set of resources, our economic case can be set out in four numbers: 1, 20, 25 and 60:
1. This is our percentage of the population of the EU; 5 million in Scotland, 500 million across the EU
20. This is our percentage share of EU fishing stocks that lie in Scottish waters
25. This is the percentage of renewable energy potential, wind, wave, hydro and tidal energy that Scotland is capable of generating compared to the rest of the EU
60 This incredible high number is the percentage of EU oil resources that lie in Scottish waters
What new nation would not envy being able to start its journey with statistics like that? And we have not even mentioned the multi million food and drink industries, life science, research, enviable education establishments and technical innovation.
Independence is about Scotland’s potential, but this is just one part of the story, it is also about finding an alternative path to the one we are forced to tread. In all but four UK wide elections since the war Scotland has had no influence over the outcome and in recent years we have been forced to accept a government that hardly any of us in Scotland have voted for. We currently have a Conservative led government with only one sitting MP from Scotland. This is not democracy its occupation in all but name.
Tied to the apron strings of Westminster we have been forced to send our young folk to die in illegal wars, helpless as a government who’s attack on the poor has got so out of control that they are planning to abolish the Human Rights Act so they can continue demonizing the poorest in our society on an industrial scale.
And what about our industry? In 1979 we were told to vote no to independence to protect our Industry. There were 35,000 people employed in ship building on the Clyde. Now there are less than 5,000. Our steel industry, coal, car manufacturing and the rest have all been ripped apart. Those benefits of the union, it’s a real swell party isn’t it?
We have incredible resources and yet we have one in every four children born into poverty, 14,000 people in Scotland relying on foodbanks to survive and 800,000 Scottish households unable afford to heat their homes. How can any right-minded individual maintain an even temper and not say ENOUGH? The level of inequality in Scotland is one of the largest in the developed world. This is not tragic, a tragedy is something that’s bad but out our control – this is criminal plain and simple.
And in a few days time we can end this. Not with guns and bombs, not with the shedding of a drop of blood. We can end all of this….. with a pencil.
Who would not want us to take our future into our hands? Well clearly some people don’t otherwise this would be a short referendum. Opposition to independence has come from a UK government sponsored campaign backed up by a coalition of the three main UK parties. The big guns of the government propaganda machine have been turned on Scotland and they have a formidable arsenal. The UK press, almost to a man are behind them. The BBC a supposedly impartial broadcasting company has time and time again been proven to be churning out biased material against independence.
In the campaign against independence we have witnessed the most outrageous attempts distort the truth, to terrify the voting public and the most shameful and inaccurate headlines in the newspapers ever published in peacetime. The big tanks of the British establishment are trundling up our main street and we stand in their way armed only with a ballot paper….. and a ‘yes’ badge.
The no campaign have got it spectacularly wrong. They have misjudged the psyche of the Scottish people. If there is one thing the Scots don’t like its being told it’s that they can’t do something, to get back in line, to stay silent and calm
We don’t do calm.
The Yes campaign could not be a bigger contrast. All over Scotland ‘yes’ badges and posters have appeared in cars and house windows like wild flowers in the forest. Dangerous words like ‘optimism’ and ‘hope’ are thrown like incendiaries. While the no campaign preach to the converted in closed venues to people with closed minds the Yes campaign has been out on street corners and town halls, creating the greatest grass roots political campaign in this nations history. In every shop, pub and workplace the conversation and the debate continues; the guy who has the burger van round from us runs an opinion poll on the blackboard beside his menu of square sausage and bacon rolls. Our kids made their own ‘Yes’ badges to wear. Our office window, tucked between the pub and the chemist has become a permanent alternative information source with daily changing facts and info graphics. In our doorway we have a small box of resources; posters badges and leaflets and a constant stream of people are picking them up. Some give the door a knock and give us a cheery thumbs up, others come in for a chat, finding comfort from the media storm in a few exchanged words. Just as I was sitting down to write this article a lady knocked our office door. She told me the story of how she was a committed no voter but her husband was always a yes. In the last few months she too turned to yes but sadly her husband died. He would never see an independent Scotland but she was galvanized to fight that much harder in his name – she asked if we could contact the local campaign office, organize a march to the polling stations to show our solidarity.
What we are witnessing is a step change in British politics. In 1707 when this union was formed the populace had no say in its formation and demonstrated in the streets against it. Before the 1830s less than 3% of the population were allowed to vote and this figure was even lower in Scotland, Democracy has crept into society and has been passed grudgingly into the hands of the people, The rights of the common man, the rights of women to vote have all involved struggle. I believe that what is happening now is another step forward. With Social media people have become politically awake, engaged and connected. The Media’s grip on how we are told to think has been weakened by bedroom bloggers, branded as ‘cybernats’ by a media fearing the loss of control they are witness to.
And they are afraid, very afraid because with social media we have almost become a ‘hive mind’ and that means the real power is moving from the government to the people.
Independence for Scotland. It wont be some Walt Disney fantasy world with bunnies and bluebirds, the streets will not be paved with gold and the rivers won’t run with whisky. We will face the same problems as every other country but we will have it in our own hands to make decisions about how that country is governed. Our government will be within reach, accountable and replaceable.
The energy that sparkles through Scotland now can be harnessed and this new and engaged populace will work together to face the challenges of the future. It doesn’t matter what currency we have, the pound, the Euro, the Irn Bru bottle what matters is that we can work together with our friends in the rest of the UK not as a subjugated state but as an equal. America will have a new friend in the family of nations not a diminished one.
Wha’s up furrit? …………Aye!