(Note: Not the USA “Union”)
I think the reason the percentages in Scotland flipped from indyref 2014 to the referendum on Brexit vs. Remain is that suddenly the stark prospect of being completely at the mercy of the central government in London was inescapably before the country. In 2014, long before Cameron’s idiotic attempt at undercutting UKIP began, the 55% didn’t have to face that prospect, thinking that their evils were then sufferable and therefore saw no reason to dissolve the bands which connect them with another. As much as I could from the western side of the Atlantic, I supported the Remain effort, signing petitions, posting and reposting opinion articles on Facebook, tweeting and retweeting relevant materials.
Since the Brexit vote, the European Commission has granted €4.4 million to Scotland’s Tidal Turbine Power Take-off Project, which is being jointly conducted by University of Edinburgh, Aachen University in Germany, and Delft Technical University, north of Rotterdam. The project is expected to last three years, well past the farthest date for the UK’s exit from the EU. So apparently the EU is not holding the votes of Scotland’s neighbors to the south against the country being dragged out against its will. This bodes well for Scotland’s possible reentry after its independence should it choose to pursue that path.
Up until the Brexit/Remain campaign, I had had a fairly negative view of the EU on several points. First, the way in which that collective body treated one of its own members, Greece, in 2010, as well as Cyprus the same year, followed by Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and, to some degree, Italy. The imposition of austerity upon those nations, Greece most of all, punished the working and poor citizens of those countries for the sins of the rich. The fact that the EU’s most powerful economy, Germany under Angela Merkel, was able to overrule those who sought to mitigate the damage to the welfare of those nations’ less fortunate demonstrates that it is not in America alone that money equals speech.
A recent article by Amir Fleischmann for Jacobin, “The Myth of the Fiscal Conservative”, carried the subtitle, “Austerity measures don’t actually save money. But they do disempower workers. Which is why governments pursue them in the first place”. Like the benefit sanctions against which SNP MP at Westminster Mairi Black recently spoke in a video for The Guardian. Further down his article, Fleischmann states that, “Fiscal conservatism is a myth, because cutting government programs doesn’t actually reduce government spending”. Which says as much about the current governments in both the UK and the USA as it does that of the EU and what it has imposed upon its members in need.
The other major bone to pick that I have with the EU is its treatment of refugees, most of whom are fleeing wars and other conditions created by some of its member states. Besides making a questionable deal with a country it won’t admit to its ranks because of the authoritarian nature of its current government. I mean, of course, its agreement with Turkey for the latter to hold back as many as possible from reaching the borders of its member states. It has also bullied some of its smaller members into holding those who do manage to arrive in what amount to concentration camps in poor conditions to prevent them from getting into bigger and more wealthy countries in the north.
That last phrase, “in the north”, is key, though perhaps “core” might be better. Because all of the victims of adverse consequences imposed by the EU, with the exception of Ireland, lie in Europe’s south, and the latter, which once played a major part in saving Europe’s civilization, is on its periphery. The nature of this discrimination against weaker nations and outsiders seeking refugee from war-torn countries showed forth brightly in the recent decision of the European Court of Justice that permits employers to discriminate against Muslim, Sikhs, and other minorities by forbidding them to wear turbans, hijabs, and other articles of religious clothing at their jobs and firing them if they insist on doing so. Chancellor Merkel, head of the government of the EU’s most powerful nation politically and economically compounded that atrocious decision with a call for a ban on hijab in every place in Europe where that would be legal. And, as I mentioned above, in the EU just as much as in America, money is speech.
Once upon a time, the EU may have intended to be primarily a means of social and cultural exchange for its constituent members, but what it has become is the primary agent for the sprread and enforcement of the ideology of neoliberalism on behalf of its wealthiest states and their wealthy citizens, along with Northern, and to some degree Western, European racism. It has, in effect, moved power from the polling station to the marketplace, from the ballot to the wallet, as have the governments in both the UK and the USA.
Former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover once stated that the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States from the Black Panther Party was not their guns but their Free Breakfast Program for Children. Old Labour stalwart Tony Benn explained the real motives behind this mentality, not directly speaking of Hoover of course, in his interview with Michael Moore for the latter’s documentary SiCKO. Tony’s coffee cup next to him read, “Old Labour and Proud of It”. The “Old Labour” which actually struggled on behalf of working and poor people, as opposed to the “New Labour” of Clinton-allied Tony Blair and his cronies and acolytes.
I think the best way to discuss Tony Benn’s comments is to quote them directly. He said, at first answering how the NHS came to be, that,
“If you go back, I think it all began with democracy. Before we had the vote, all the power’s in the hands of rich people. If you had money, you could get healthcare, education, look after yourself when you’re old. And what democracy did was to give poor people the vote, and it moved power from the marketplace to the polling station, from the wallet to the ballot. And what people said after the war was very simple. They said, ‘If we can have full employment by killing Germans, why can’t we have full employment by building hospitals, building schools, recruiting nurses, recruiting teachers. If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people’.
“I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world, because if you have power, you use it to meet the needs of you and your community. And this idea of choice which capital talks about all the time, choice depends on the freedom to choose and if you are shackled with debt you don’t have the freedom to choose.
“People in debt become hopeless and hopeless people don’t vote. They always say that everyone should vote, but I think that if the poor in Britain or the United States turned out and voted for people that represented their interests there would be a real democratic revolution. So they don’t want that to happen, keeping people hopeless and pessimistic. See, I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all frighten people, and secondly, demoralize them. An educated, healthy, and confident nation is harder to govern. And I think there’s an element in the thinking of some people: we don’t want people to be educated, healthy, and confident because they would get out of control.
“The top 1% of the world’s population own 80% of the world’s wealth. It’s incredible that people put up with it, but they’re poor, they’re demoralized, they’re frightened, and they think perhaps the safest thing to do is to take orders and hope for the best.”
Upon independence, Scotland will have a chance to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form as shall seem most likely to effect the safety and happiness of all its people. In the movie The Patriot, starred in by the same actor who played William Wallace in Braveheart (Mel Gibson, in case you didn’t know), the film’s protagonist, Ben Martin, asks fellow South Carolina assembly members why he should trade one tyrant three thousand miles away for three thousand tyrants one mile away. A free and independent Scotland will be also be able to decide a new direction, one all its own choice, for international and trade relations.
Along with people such as Robin McAlpine of Common Weal, Icelandic legal scholar Katrin Oddsdóttir, and others, I would suggest the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), currently composed of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. Once admitted, Scotland would immediately have access to all its markets gained through its twenty-seven trade agreements, including the EU, without the compulsory conditions imposed by the latter association. For example, as pointed out by McAlpine in a recent article for CommonSpace, Scottish fishers would not be bound by the dictates of the EU’s Common Agriculture and Fisheries Policies.
As for intra-European travel, the UK, nor Ireland for that matter, has never opted into the Schengen travel area anyway, and as an independent state, Scotland will be free to do so. Three members of the EFTA have opted in, while the fourth, Switzerland, has dealt with that matter through bilateral agreements.
If you can find money to kill people, you can find money to help people, because the needs of the many should outweigh the greed of the few. And people shouldn’t be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.
Alba gu brath. Thig ar latha, our day will come. Keep the faith. Peace out.