On the 18th of September, 2014, we in Scotland will be given the historical chance to vote for, and reclaim, our Independence.
Independent from the other two nations in ‘Great’ Britain – England and Wales – that along with Northern Ireland, make up the constituent parts of the ‘United’ Kingdom, ruled by and from London. Scotland is a 1000-year-old Nation, currently residing within a ‘failing U.K. state’. Next year, we have the first real opportunity to vote in a Referendum to become a true Nation-State again and take our place as a wholly free democracy – one of the oldest Nations in the world, yet renewing and reasserting itself as a freer, more democratic and prosperous country.
Scotland has given much to the world. Arguably, in one sense at least, it has given far too much – its people. Since before the times of ‘The Clearances’ where ethnic cleansing was practised that forced many Scots overseas, along with occasional coercion, inducements and opportunities offered by ‘Empire’ and the ‘New World’, we have long been driven away from our home. We have contributed to the world in a way that far exceeds our geography or our relatively small population. Our efforts and achievements in the sciences, engineering, medicine and almost every human endeavour are second to none. There is not a corner of the world that has not been affected by, or connected with, the Scots.
Scotland had an Enlightenment throughout the 17th century and well into the 18th. Since then we have given the world television, the telephone, fax machine, condensing steam engine, the unit of power, penicillin, the (flushing) indoor toilet, radar, pneumatic tyre, pedal bicycle, tubular steel, road tar, iron-hulled steamships (and screw propeller), the blast oven, grand piano, criminal fingerprinting, the refrigerator, universal standard time, logarithms (sorry!), latent heat, Sherlock Holmes, universal schooling for children, modern economics, oil refining, understanding of a cell nucleus, bagpipes (ok we didnt invent them, but they are ours now), animal cloning, microwave, ultrasound and MRI, standard temperature, golf, the hypodermic syringe, anaesthetic, speedometer, cash machine, PIN numbers, perfect whisky, colour photography, kaleidoscope, the waterproof ‘mac’ overcoat, the modern detective agency, profound contributions to western philosophy, common-sense realism, Robert Burns, and of course, the Constitution of the USA! And we keep quiet about a Scot that formed the Bank of England…
And What about Today?
Yet, at home, we are faced with a real, ever present and frustrating difficulty. Our excellence both historically and globally is not reflected by circumstances at home. Our energetic, charismatic and affable character is tempered and diminished; indeed, we are misrepresented by our own media and in many ways, we have been ‘under siege’ culturally as well as economically for decades, if not centuries. We are constantly portrayed as the sick, loud, inebriated boor; and the incomprehensible irony is that this is perpetuated and nourished by many, including own political and other ‘UK’ representatives and those with a vested interest in reducing or removing our aspirations as a people. Our cultural and social character has been assaulted, our enterprising nature, manufacturing base and industrial soul wrenched out by alien, reactionary policies and ideology against our stated will. Continuously. We have at best, been ignored by and within the state; and suffered from indifference and neglect by those who peddle the myth of a ‘united’ kingdom and derive benefit from its dysfunction.
We are arguably the only country in the world where our own ‘political masters’ and leaders tell us we are not capable of, or be trusted with, sustaining and managing our own affairs.
This negative message and perspective has been deployed and entrenched for years. Indeed, it is at the heart of the current ‘No’ campaign and exemplified by what they themselves call ‘Project Fear’. Disgraceful.
What has changed recently however, is that the efficacy of this tactic has decreased; since 1997 Scotland has had a form of relative devolved Governance in the form of a renewed (rather than reinstated!) Parliament in Edinburgh, and although this has some powers and has little control over macro-economic and political matters (it has control over only 16% of the necessary economic levers), the establishment of this new institution has demonstrated to its citizens that yes indeed, Scotland can effectively manage its own affairs. And it can demonstrate true global leadership in key areas of modern and progressive governance, such as the abolition of fox hunting, banning smoking in public places, embracing compassion (releasing the terminally-ill Lockerbie bombing suspect), setting minimum pricing on alcohol, adopting alternative voting systems that better reflect the true voting pattern of its citizens, the refusal to grant authorisation to construct nuclear power stations, maintaining free health services at the point of delivery, and delivering free education all the way from primary schooling to university, to name just a few examples.
The Unanswerable Question
The salient question that the U.K. unionists cannot answer is this: if we have supposedly been under-performing as a Nation within the U.K. for decades, living off the ‘generosity’ of other areas of the U.K. as you would have us believe, then surely the U.K. is failing Scotland? If we have indeed chronically underperformed then surely that is mismanagement by existing governance; has the U.K. state not been given many, many years to improve and make Scotland more prosperous and capable?
If Scotland was a failing branch of a company, it would be closed down by now. The fact that we haven’t been jettisoned from the UK proves otherwise. Likewise do they not see the hypocrisy of their illogical stance, where according to them it is quite acceptable and legitimate to question E.U. authority and centrality, but yet unacceptable to question the real gravitational pull of London and that negative effect on the constituent Nations and regions within the U.K?
I think that also, the act of Independence (and by the way, it is constantly forgotten that the ‘UK’ or at least ‘Britain’ does’t actually exist without Scotland) would bring about change in England – a rethink of what it is, what its relationships are, and hopefully rids itself of its post-colonial mindset. ‘England loses a surly lodger and gains a good neighbour’. I look forward to that mutually productive, good neighbourliness.
The Opportunity for a Second Enlightenment and Independence
The opportunity stands before us; we are diverging from England in many ways and when added to the growing need to recapture ourselves and our spiritual and economic prosperity, and to remove the injustice and dystopia that the ‘United’ Kingdom has engendered and presided over for many years, then the need for an overwhelming YES vote next year is unquestionable; below I have offered just a FEW of these issues that illustrate this imperative:
* Actually secure a truly National Government we voted for, offering and delivering on policies that we want
* Take its rightful position as a Nation-State along with others
* Create closer ties with other European countries and establish better trading and cultural links
* Re-population; Scotland has a population density of only 67.2 people / km2, whilst England’s density is 395 people per km2. It is well documented that we need more people in Scotland to help maintain and grow the economy
* To reverse the ‘Brain Drain’ of talented people living and educated here, only to leave
* Scotland’s existing financial position is stronger than the UK’s as a whole – to the tune of £4.4 billion; Scotland’s public finances over the past 30 years have been stronger than the UK’s to the tune of £19 billion
* Independent small Nations in Europe, such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland – the most comparable to in independent Scotland – are more prosperous than Scotland, with fairer, more equitable societies
* We are one of the potentially richest Nations on earth, given our viability to harness and exploit renewable energy, with around 25% of European tidal potential, 10% of its wave and 25% of Europe’s offshore wind resources (altogether worth up to £14 billion each year by 2050), with further options to increase its existing hydro power
* Scotland is the EU’s largest oil producer, with more than half the value of North Sea Oil and Gas still to extract; we could like Norway, put the tax income from this into a public fund, for the future development and well-being of our citizens (currently Norway’s is worth around £450 billion – which is more than £90,000 per person)
* Our continuing focus on education and increasing opportunity and innovation for all can only be enhanced by Independence (we already have more universities per head of population than any other country)
* Scotland ‘the brand’ is seen abroad as referring to dependable, skilful, honest, and friendly people; we have around 100 million people around the world who claim some kind of kinship or affinity with our country
* An opportunity to ‘change the National narrative’ to one of an equitable, libertarian and progressive country
* The best people to make the choices about how Scotland is run and how it will be in the future, is the people who live there
‘UK’ is not ‘OK’
* The ‘United’ Kingdom / Great Britain have been, and always will be, instruments for the benefit of London and South East England and a ‘southern elite’
* The ‘union’ in 1707, between England and Scotland to form ‘Great’ Britain, was to dissolve both countries politically and come up with a new encompassing state. The U.K. is arguably England simply continuing as if nothing had or has changed, absorbing Scotland
* From 1950 to 2000, Scotland was the only country of similarly-sized European countries, (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Ireland), to have a falling population, and the major factors affecting population in Scotland compared with many other European countries have been high out-migration and a relatively high death rate
* Most of the U.K.’s head quarters for commercial businesses and public organisations are concentrated in England, disproportionately, along with the accompanying revenue and jobs. (The disparity in GDP among countries and regions of the U.K. is far greater than that of any other country in Europe)
* Large scale – and large cost – ‘public’ projects are mainly undertaken to benefit the South East (just some examples are the Olympic Games, the Channel Tunnel and other transport links and networks, for example £48 billion pounds being spent on high speed trains that only go from London to Manchester or Leeds in England, but Scotland still has to pay almost 10% of the cost, when we have other spending priorities)
* Scotland’s wishes are overlooked, overturned, and ignored; its people treated with indifference or outright disdain
* The majority of the English think that Britain is England and treat it as such, and use the terms interchangeably
* Scotland is on the geographical periphery of Europe; it is on the spiritual periphery of the UK
* In many so-called ‘British’ wars, the Scots have been killed in larger proportion to those from England
* The ‘United’ Kingdom is not ‘united'; indeed it is also the 4th most unequal society in the developed world
* There is no fully constructed, legal, constitution that protects its citizens; London changes rights on a whim (the UK can go to war without even discussing it with Parliament. Disgraceful.)
* The UK has all but robbed the tax income from Scottish North Sea Oil and misused those funds
* London is increasingly simply a function of, and for, the financial sector based there; Scotland’s balance of commercial and industrial sectors has been wrecked by the policies, ideology and agenda of London-centric economic models
* We pay more into the UK exchequer in taxes than we receive, and Scotland raises more in taxes per head of population than the rest of the UK and our public finances are stronger, yet we have some of the worst levels of poverty in the UK and poverty-related health issues are some of the worst in Europe (life expectancy in de-industrialised areas of Scotland being up to 8 years less than in wealthy areas of London and the South East), and the marked, conscious concentration of wealth in the South East is both staggering and appalling
* 29% of Scots are living in fuel poverty despite being born in a fuel rich nation
* There is more interest and time taken to report on the sport of Cricket (a predominantly English sport) in the U.K. televised media from London than on the entire affairs of Scotland; the BBC television broadcaster indeed has its own ‘Scotland Correspondent’ as if we were some colonial backwater and news from Scotland is treated as distant and quaint at best
* There are many examples of an undemocratic, non-elective system of privileges and patronage for an elite that is supported and nourished by the U.K. state (for example the ‘House of Lords’ that creates and presides over legislation and which is constituted by non-elected ‘peers’ and party cronies)
* No country ever left London rule and then asked to get back in. That in itself is sufficient proof.
* Our core, intrinsic values are constantly diverging
* In the last several decades Scotland has not had the U.K. government it voted for, for two thirds of that time.
* We do not want to be involved in illegal wars and invading other countries
* We do not want to be a ‘nuclear superpower’, nor wish to have nuclear weapons (of mass destruction, that is ‘WMD’ people!) located in our Lochs in Scotland, but London does
* London wants more Nuclear energy production; Scotland wants more ‘green’ energy generation
* We are primarily left-social-democratic, London and England are right-wing and lurching and convulsing further to the right; (even the so-called ‘Peoples party’ – Labour – has moved well right of centre and continues to follow the Conservatives at every opportunity); indeed the very right wing and reactionary UKIP got 20% of the vote in recent English council elections
* We are less averse to incomers and immigrants, and indeed would welcome even more new citizens from England and abroad
* We believe in the sovereignty of the people over parliament; they believe in the sovereignty of parliament over the people
* England – at least the South East where the majority of the population are – is looking seriously at the option to leave the European Union; Scotland on the other hand is very pro-E.U.
* Scotland has a tradition of supporting public services and in recent years, this has diverged from England’s growing appetite for privatisation of public services such as water supply, health, and further education
* England’s idea of its own identity is not only London-centric, but unhealthy; it is based in large part on the ideal of an empire that no longer exists and retelling of a narrative relating to and ‘celebrating’ world wars. Scotland has moved on from both of those ghosts from the past
* There is no vision deriving from London for any form of progressive and improved future, merely ‘looking backward to go forward’. Austerity and evermore division and inequality are London’s priorities. In Scotland, we are driving forward with our own vision for the future; one of innovation and prosperity for all
So, you can see we have good reason to change in Scotland. Not just to merely adapt and incrementally progress, but to radically change. Radical change comes in no better, fulfilling form than to liberate one’s own country. To remove the constitutional and chronic condition of entrapment within a very unequal state. The world is changing, particularly in light of a severe global recession and this is encouraging a personal and collective realignment of all of our human values and connections. As the singer Eddi Reader described it: “Independence gives us uncertainty with power, but the U.K. gives uncertainty without power“.
In essence, history will judge us on what we do next. Do we grasp this terrific opportunity to right wrongs, to raise our personal standards and abilities both at home to improve prosperity and well-being for all here, and abroad as good ‘global citizens’? Do we in Scotland demonstrate yet again, our particular brand of ‘Scottish ingenuity’? I can hear the sound of a ‘Second Enlightenment’ coming… and it is being accompanied by the bagpipes…
(Article commissioned for the ‘Global Economics, Politics & Strategy Group, LinkedIn; Aug 2013)