UNDECIDED ABOUT SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE?
Here is a summary of issues, and references about the prospect of an independent Scotland. This applies to anyone who accepts that people living in Scotland have the democratic right to self-determination.
Broadly speaking, areas of concern tend to centre around Identity, Politics and Economy.
If you are undecided, maybe it’s because you want to maintain a British identity. You may want to be Scottish, British and European. Neither the 2014 independence, nor the 2016 EU referendums settled the major constitutional questions of our time. No-matter how many obstacles stand between the Westminster and Scottish Government positions at the moment, with regard to agreement on indyref2, it is highly likely that we will be making the choice again at some point.
If you choose independence, nothing can take away the many iconic cultural, social and political advances that have united us over preceding decades, and will always be relevant to who, and where we are now. I’m thinking music, art, literature, opposition to Thatcher, support for the workforce and much more. It works both ways. We won’t break the bonds with our neighbours. At least not those who have a desire for a peaceful and just future.
A changing face of British, or sadly, and more honestly, English nationalism has driven a wedge through the tolerant and open society that most of us would want to identify with now. However, if it’s tough being British and a progressive at the moment, spare a thought for the EU citizens living here post Brexit.
In Scotland 62% of us voted to remain in the EU. We have a mandate (one of several) to make a decision about our future based on that, but there are overwhelmingly positive reasons for choosing independence, that existed long before the EU referendum.
You may abhor the idea of any kind of Nationalism anywhere. Are Icelanders or Norwegians, for instance Nationalists, or just people who chose to determine their own future? In an independent country we’re all just Citizens. We can be empowered to make better, more relevant decisions without Westminster interference. We can make our own mistakes too, and we can take responsibility for them, and never have to blame anyone else. A coming of age for us as a nation.
Crucially, we can be, and hopefully will be Interationalists. An isolationist future in Brexit UK is neither an expansive prospect for us, nor a good look from outside.
And the kitchen sink. 2014 is a good enough place to start, though much has changed, and the stakes are higher on both sides of our constitutional argument.
How many people voted No, for the one reason that they hated Alex Salmond? And yet he resigned one day after the referendum. How many people voted No because of The Vow? The regret was pretty swift for so many. As immediate as David Cameron’s appearance outside Downing Street the following day; “You’ve had your 15 minutes of fame, now let’s get back to England (EVEL)”
I paraphrase wildly but you get the idea. On by one, reasons that seemed perfectly sustainable at the time, for staying in the UK have been eroded away; from the threat of loss of pensions (there’s a UK agreement about preservation of pension rights), to loss of EU citizenship. The phrase “A week in politics is a long time” has never been more apt than in the interesting times in which we live. The political landscape changes at the drop of a hat, or a whim between Cameron and Farage.
With the Constitutional Question resolved, maybe we can start to imagine a place where Westminster’s First past The Post voting system is replaced by something more representative and less tribal, in every election held in Scotland. Cross party working becomes easier, desirable and often essential. and we finally start to get the government we vote for.
Holyrood becomes a place where we can say No to Trident, and act upon it. Yes to our own immigration policy, and act upon it, to name but a couple of major reserved issues. “The Day Job” is the only job, and the often distracting and obfuscating influences of reserved powers, on the running of Holyrood, (often clouding devolved issues too) becomes obsolete. In short, we claim as our own, a place where we can no longer (very justifiably) say that Scotland is not being listened to. We get to seriously listen to each other.
In 2020, and onwards, we have to face the real global challenges of Climate Emergency, and for this reason, it’s time to leave the oil in the ground, along with discussion about where we would be had we followed Norway’s lead in management of its resources. Let’s move on.
Consider a map of Scotland. Look at the coastline, the interior forests and freshwater lochs. Consider the potential for wave and wind power, new technology and innovations. This, even before we consider the wealth of human potential from home and overseas.
Gordon MacIntyre Kemp of Business for Scotland https://www.businessforscotland.com/ has produced a study, Scotland The Brief, available in booklet form, from the website, outlining how Scotland can thrive as an independent nation. He notes, for instance, that Scotland has 34% of the UK’s natural wealth, 90% 0f the UK’s total wind power, 70% of the UK’s fish landings, 60% of the UK timber production and a highly educated population. This is a fraction of our potential, and does not even begin to take future trading opportunities, into account, following on from our already thriving food and drink exports.
Much is made of GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) statistics annually. It contains spending outside of Scotland that doesn’t benefit Scotland economy and that Scotland didn’t generate.
Common weal is a “think and do tank” campaigning for social and economic equality in Scotland https://commonweal.scot/ A report from the Common Weal states that;
“The very Act of independence will result in significant redistributions and reallocations of government resources, which will likely result in economic benefits accruing to Scotland…”
One glaringly obvious benefit is that In an independent Scotland there will be no Trident expenditure, and no major contribution to projects, such as Hs2 that do not benefit Scotland.
Borders are about trade, as well as controlled movement of people. In a speech to traders, shortly after officially leaving the EU, cabinet office minister Michael Gove admitted that there will be years of confusion at Britain’s borders because of Brexit, with goods checks now “inevitable” immediately after the transition period ends at the end of the year.
Common Weal’s policy paper on Borders acknowledges that –(in an independent Scotland) “If the rest of UK decided to establish a ‘hard border’ it would be a decision without precedent and would cause major harm to their own citizenry and economy, but if they were to decide to do so it would have to be set up on the rest of UK side of the border and all costs would therefore fall on the rest of UK.”
So we may have a government hell-bent on borders, at least until they become unworkable. However, unless the Westminster government choose to commit further acts of self-harm, at the end of the Brexit transitional period, use of anything other than Smart Border technology seems highly unlikely.
The summary of opportunities following independence, as referenced above, barely touch the sides of our potential to thrive. However, it would be remiss and unrealistic to acknowledge some of the many, and well documented threats to our economy and communities as Brexit unfurls. More and more information reveals itself as time goes on.
For instance, a premature announcement from the Pentagon in February 2020, revealed that Britain has committed itself to buying a new generation of nuclear warheads to replace Trident, based on US technology, and at will cost the UK billions of pounds. Fears of wholesale privatisation of the NHS are, of course, widespread.
I have focused primarily on the prospect of an independent Scotland as part of the EU, given the mandate to ask the question again, based on the EU referendum result. Whilst accepting that 38% of the Scottish vote was to leave the EU, it is for others to discuss alternatives or make arguments against re-joining it.
Whilst on the subject of alternatives, many of us will have noticed that the spectre of Federalism has re-emerged lately. With a UK government on a trajectory to far-right isolationism, there appears to be no evidence of any appetite for federalism, nor any sign of an opposition able to make it work in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, Federalism as we currently understand it, ties us into centralised defence and foreign policy spending and execution.
There is no doubt that optimism and positive change is catching. Note the swell of awareness and grass roots activism around climate change. We have not given up on our future, and a progressive constitutional change in Scotland can only trigger hope and example to others. We do not do our neighbours any favours by committing to going down with the Brexit ship.
There are many ways to become more informed about, or involved in the independence movement; For further info see;