There was a time when I was a unionist. I opposed Scottish independence because the union with the rest of Britain had served us well, although initially imposed utterly against the will of Scotland’s people, who were never asked. It gave us access to England’s trade routes and colonies, which suited our entrepreneurial nature, and it gave our artists access to a far wider public, and our nation access to deep pockets, which was important as England had pretty much bankrupted us by ensuring the failure of our plan to create a colony in Central America, a plan that had been massively subscribed to by our nation and our moneyed classes. On the whole, caveats aside, the British Union had been good to us. And as an ardent supporter of the European Union, it struck me as foolish to leave one union only to join a bigger one that included everyone we had just got away from.
But I always understood that it was Scotland’s decision to make; the Scottish people’s decision to make. And I supported federalism, at all levels, within Britain as well as beyond it. That included regional governments within England as well as home rule for the Celtic nations of these islands (and home rule had been a Liberal policy at the time for over a century, considerably longer than the SNP had even existed).
In 1997 came the referendum to reconvene the Scottish parliament. I was an enthusiastic campaigner for that despite having just suffered a stroke, and victory was sweet. I admired SNP leader Alex Salmond’s handling of the campaign and his relationship with the then leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Jim Wallace.
In that campaign, I attended a party for the count and met SNP members, who seemed reasonable and to have reasonable arguments. And I was reading newspaper article comments, where the arguments of the dreaded “Cybernats” made a lot of sense to me. I became convinced that an independent Scotland would be viable, lost all fear of it, but still supported the union because I believed in abolishing international borders and not creating them.
Then, in 2007, the Scottish National Party won the Scottish parliamentary elections, but with a minority of the seats. There could now be a coalition between them and my party, the Liberal Democrats, and a referendum to let the Scottish people express their support for independence or for the union. But to my astonishment, dismay and disgust, the LibDems refused to accept that: the heirs of the Liberal Party’s century long commitment to home rule, these passionate (once) about democracy and self-determination political progressives, stood with the fusty and exhausted Labour Party against allowing Scotland’s people to decide their own future.
It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. All of Britain’s democratic deficit flooded my mind; the reality of Scotland’s being governed almost all the time by governments it opposed and of being forced into subservience to the London based parties was, I now saw, indefensible on any democratic grounds.
In 2011, after four years of good, competent government without even having a parliamentary majority, the Scottish people gave their verdict on the SNP by returning it to power, but this time with an outright majority that ensured there WOULD be a referendum.
We’re in the middle of the campaign now; the referendum will be held on 18th September this year. And my goodness there’s been a lot of information that makes a compelling case for independence.
In the 1970s, when oil was discovered off the Scottish North Sea coast, the UK government quickly realised that if the already restive Scottish population knew what vast wealth they were sitting on, there would probably be an irresistible demand for independence. So they lied– flat out lied– and told us the oil wasn’t worth THAT much, while burying the true numbers and confining them to secret vaults. If you search for the McCrone Report you can see the whole sorry tale.
Meanwhile, it turns out that, since World War Two, there have been virtually no UK governments elected which would have been any different without Scotland’s votes. Only in the 1970s was there a period when Scottish MPs actually made any difference. That decade ended with a majority vote for a devolved Scottish assembly, which was deemed insufficient under the dishonest and undemocratic rules imposed by the Westminster government (that said there had to be a majority of votes AND 40% of the entire electorate for it to pass; in other words, not voting was effectively counted as a No vote).
It continues. Far from being too poor to be independent, for every single one of the last thirty-three years, tax revenue per head in Scotland has been higher than in the rest of the UK, which means we’re actually wealthier than the rest of the UK, and than every single region of it other than London, which continues to suck at the teat of these islands and devour money raised in Scotland and elsewhere. AND Scotland spends less of its income on social welfare, including old age pensions, than the UK as a whole, which means we can actually BETTER afford to look after our ageing population than Britain can, contrary to all the scaremongering by the No campaign.
Britain’s “independent” nuclear deterrent, Trident (which in fact isn’t independent at all as it can’t be used without the permission of the USA) is sited here in Scotland. All of it. Which gives Scotland a higher concentration of nuclear bombs for its population than anywhere else on Earth. Westminster explains that it can’t go anywhere else because it would be too dangerous to put it near a major population centre. But… it’s in Scotland’s central belt, where most of our people live, and only thirty miles from Glasgow, our largest city. An independent Scottish government could remove it, and if that government is the SNP, WILL remove it. The remaining UK could then choose to put it thirty miles from one of ITS cities or get rid of it. Scotland could then spend all the money we’re paying for it to better use (along with the £50 million we spend every year sending useless MPs to Westminster).
In independent Scotland, there would be no bedroom tax further impoverishing those too poor to pay their own housing costs, no threat to our free education or free prescriptions unless it’s from people we elect ourselves, and no more of the hated “fit for work” tests by the appalling Westminster appointed Atos “Health Care”, which have been known to remove benefit from people with no legs, no sight or with just weeks or even days to live. We will be able to further improve our already excellent record on renewable electricity generation as a hedge against the day, about forty years from now, when the oil runs out. And when that day does come, we have a full quarter of Europe’s wind and sea generation potential (and 37% of its annual fishing catch, without the power to negotiate for that).
Of course there will be challenges and difficulties, and times when our governments make mistakes both small and huge, but that’s normal for ANY country. With independence, they will be governments elected by US, and not by people elsewhere who do not have our interests at heart. None of the quibbling, whining and boasting about a pound here or five hundred there can gainsay that democratic fact.
It’s time for freedom. It’s time for independence.