Tag Archives: Independence Referendum

Opting into Scotland

Generations of workless families; undernourished children living in poor quality housing; the choice between eating a healthy meal, or heating your home; low educational attainment, low life expectancy and ill health; alcoholism and drug addiction; theft, violence and vandalism; corruption and exploitation; sectarianism, racism and bigotry.

This is the state of the country we live in today. It is neither great, nor is it united. Unashamed adherence to neoliberal economics, the reckless pursuit of individual wealth and the preservation of elite privilege, hereditary power and status at the expense and misery of others, have created one of the most unequal and unethical societies in the developed world.

To commit Scotland to the United Kingdom is to commit this depressingly sad future to the absolute supremacy of Westminster with its London centric policies and its belief that granting Scotland the right to develop its own taxation and welfare systems in the manner best suited to addressing a raft of social inequalities in Scotland, would be inconsistent with being in the union.

In other words, there is no clearer indication that we will never be able to address Scotland’s social and economic problems whilst part of the United Kingdom than that the policies required to do so are simply not compatible with the terms of the union and the Westminster agenda.

The specific powers required to introduce the right type of social and economic policies for Scotland cannot be devolved without radically disrupting the primary focus of the union, a scenario which has been mockingly referred to as the ‘race to the bottom’, by the Better Together campaign.

The decision to remain in the United Kingdom is therefore the decision to opt out of regaining the full range of powers needed to make Scotland a fairer, more progressive and more socially just nation; it is the decision to opt out of Scotland, to leave this country forever at the disposal of a Government with no real ability to make our society any better than it is. The union doesn’t work for Scotland’s benefit.

The set of skills which enables the majority of individuals to engage meaningfully and respectfully in a wide range of social and cultural activities is the set of skills which will only ever take root and flourish within a new type of political, economic and moral framework that genuinely values education, equality and social justice over wealth generation, global positioning and military clout.

It will be up to the people of Scotland to make sure that, in the event of independence, the newly acquired powers are used to bring about the changes the country actually needs. It may take a couple of generations to reshape our damaged society.

But in doing so, we would be addressing problems specific to Scotland using powers previously reserved to a Government that has always had an entirely different focus – which is to get what it needs out of the union, rather than to get the best out of Scotland.

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History, Myths and Value Systems

An article in today’s Herald reports on the decision of the Scotland Office to temporarily block the publication of certain files relating to the Scottish devolution process, with Whitehall ministers having the final say on their release. SNP MSP Jamie Hepburn describes it as “cheating Scotland of its history”:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/westminster-blocks-moves-to-release-secret-devolution-files.19837622

It is unsurprising that this would happen, of course, given that the independence referendum is not that far away and there are likely to be vital pieces of information – which quiet deals were made, when and by whom, who gave away what and why – that could have an effect on how the people of Scotland vote in 2014.

One of the difficulties we have when trying to make sense of key political events today is that their causes, and reasons for occurring, may be inextricably linked to certain people and events in the past, the motives of whom, and the significance of which, are not always easy to understand.

The problem is not necessarily that we are poor at understanding occurrences in the past. Sometimes it is that we are simply unable to arrive at a true account of events because of inherent ambiguities and compelling alternative interpretations, with no means of corroborating any of the versions given.

Other times it is because the truth – as in the case cited above – has been deliberately withheld for political reasons, with lighter and more digestible accounts of events offered up to us in their place through carefully controlled press releases and media coverage.

All of which can make it difficult to fully understand why certain political decisions are being made today – or why some key ones were made in the recent past – and therefore deny us the opportunity to make informed judgements about our country’s future.

The sickening part is that it is perfectly legal for our ‘democratically elected’ Government to manage the truth in this manner on our behalf, and as a result, through the variety of institutions in which we are immersed, control the history we think we lived through in the past, and manipulate the present we believe we are experiencing today.

Almost on a daily basis we have representatives of the United Kingdom and Scottish Governments accusing each other of peddling dangerous myths about independence or otherwise and attempting to mislead the people of Scotland through their own particular slant on events.

Whilst the passage of time will help to loosen the grip of the political and economic myths we build our lives around today, we may never achieve complete transparency in these matters until it is too late for the truth to make a difference. That’s just how this country operates.

When we elect a Government, we are not simply authorising politicians to make decisions on our behalf; we are also gifting them the right to manage the truth behind those decisions. And when a Government appoints itself, as the case may be, we may find that the value systems they carve out from the truths they have been entrusted with begin to diverge from our own in drastic fashion.

In 2014, Scotland’s choice is not simply about where the ultimate seat of political and economic decision making for this country should be. It is about choosing the values that best reflect Scottish interests and the needs of the people of Scotland.

It is about choosing Scottish priorities, such as free education and welfare policies to support social justice, over Westminster ones, such as dismantling the NHS, engaging in illegal wars and keeping Trident out of harm’s way of London.

But the problem is this: these values are easily lost in the mix of dangerous myths and historical inaccuracies we are asked to accept as fact; they are easily promoted by clever rhetoric as the root cause of our economic problems and the reasons behind many of our social ills.

When you manage the truth behind political decisions, you ultimately manage the country’s value systems. And when you manage that, you are a short step away, not only from ‘cheating a country of its history’, but also depriving it of a better future.

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The Problem of Scotland’s Right to Self-Determination

In 1707 the Act of Union was passed into law as a political solution to the problem of Scotland.

The possibility of political union had already been raised a couple of times during the previous century, but rejected on each occasion by both sides. When King James VI of Scotland succeeded Elizabeth I to the crowns of England and Ireland in 1603, he strongly favoured a political union and attempted to bring it about.

However, Scottish nobility rejected the idea as they feared that Scottish interests would be secondary to English in a London based Parliament, whilst English feared that Scotland would be favoured because of their Scottish King.

The pivotal moment came when the Scottish Parliament passed the Act of Security in 1703 in response to the English Parliament’s 1701 Act of Settlement, which had been designed to guarantee a parliamentary system of Government and to determine that succession to the throne would settle on Princess Sophia of Hanover and her Protestant heirs.

Scotland’s response was to declare its right to choose its own successor to the then Monarch, Queen Anne; but England’s immediate concern was that if Scotland were to do this, the Scottish Crown may be passed back to the Roman Catholic Stuart line of succession, bringing with it a belief in the divine right of Kings.

This could have raised the possibility of Scotland forming closer allegiances with France, who openly supported the House of Stuart’s divine right to the throne, thereby threatening the security of England as they fought against France (indeed, Scotland had been a recruiting ground for the Duke of Marlborough’s armies). To avert this threat, a full incorporating Union with Scotland was deemed necessary and urgent. It was the only solution to the problem created by Scotland’s right to self-determination.

The Act of Union in 1707 therefore had the aim of ensuring that the Act of Settlement was enforced in Scotland, guaranteeing parliamentary authority, rather than monarchical absolutism, Protestant succession to the throne, and preventing any potential French alliance that could have destabilised England’s future security.

A combination of economic blackmail, in the form of the Alien Act in 1705, which blocked the import of core Scottish products into England, and financial inducements secretly distributed to key sections of Scottish nobility, was used to ensure that Union would be achieved.

The latter worked particularly well given that the Scottish Parliament was divided by too many different personal agendas and lacked strong leadership; furthermore the economy was struggling as a result of poor harvests on the back of massive financial losses sustained by the Company of Scotland in the Darien fiasco. The timing seemed right for the governing classes in England and Scotland, but for different reasons and with different levels of national support and dissent.

In return for agreeing to dissolve the Scottish Parliament, thereby adopting the Act of Settlement, Scotland was given access to England’s colonial trading markets. In the first instance, Scotland’s economy remained depressed, and suffered tax increases which many believed were used to support the English war effort and help repay English National Debt.

Eventually, however, the imperial rewards of the Union with England began to materialise, both in terms of the expansion of its core industries and development of new ones, but also in terms of overseas opportunities for Scottish middle class professionals and elite merchant traders. Despite the feeling that Scotland had been forced into giving up its independence, and despite widespread public outrage at the time, clear benefits slowly emerged in certain sections of Scottish society.

Three hundred years later, there is a growing sense that the political, economic and social future of Scotland would be better served by undoing the Union of 1707, in order that Scotland may once again exercise its right to self-determination. Although the benefits of independence are not universally supported, a clear message has been sent to Westminster that there is a very strong feeling that the United Kingdom Government does not serve Scotland in a manner that enables it to maximise its resources and its opportunities.

An independent Scotland would once again be a problem. Not only in terms of weakening the United Kingdom economy by removing significant natural assets and revenue generators from the equation, such as the Oil & Gas industry, and the developing renewable energy industry, with Scotland enjoying an estimated 25% of Europe’s wind and wave potential, and 10% of its tidal potential.

It would also pose a threat to the economies of the remaining countries in the United Kingdom if it were to offer commercial incentives and lucrative tax concessions to attract new inward investment into Scotland, rather than elsewhere in England, Wales or Northern Ireland. In addition, the cost of dismantling the United Kingdom is likely to add significantly to the national debt of all concerned.

The problem of Scotland today is that the transition to independence would have a destabilising economic effect on the rest of the United Kingdom and would likely cost hundreds of billions of pounds to manage. Just as in 1707, when the Union was a political solution to safeguard England’s national security, and perpetuate the Act of Settlement, saving the Union today would be a political solution to avoid economic damage and safeguard international clout and position.

Whilst there would be upheaval on both sides, and there would definitely be no economic miracle forthcoming, it is quite disingenuous of politicians to romantically promote the idea that we would be much better off staying together, when their true underlying motives are driven by lazy convenience, maintenance of position and retention of power.

At root, the problem of Scotland is, and has always been, that its right to self-determination is just too inconvenient, and too much of a threat, to the personal interests and corrupt agendas of certain sections of the social, business and political elite, from BOTH sides of the border, who are firmly in control of our wealth, and who would have far too much to lose on an individual basis.

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Your Pocket Money Is Getting Cut

Today is the 8th of May, 2015.

It’s a cold morning, with a cruel nip in the air. It doesn’t feel like spring at all.

Something doesn’t feel right. But that’s Scotland for you.

We have just woken up to the news that David Cameron has secured a second consecutive term as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. This time the Tories didn’t need to create an unelected coalition; the Liberal Democrats lost all credibility last time around, and Labour persisted with Miliband. Enough said.

Yet somehow, despite the fact that the UK economy continued to trundle along with almost zero growth, dipping in and out of recession; despite the fact that the public sector was decimated; and despite the fact that they promised us another five years of austerity, the Tories managed to return to Government, full of bluster, nonsense and spin.

And sadly, with a once in a lifetime opportunity to change things, the people of Scotland stood back and let it all happen. Despite having an opportunity to change its future for the better, to take responsibility for its own affairs, Scotland decided to retain the status quo.

It was too afraid to do otherwise.

Meanwhile, Scotland’s Oil and Gas industry has continued to churn out significant tax revenues for the UK Government. It has been vital to its highly prized AAA credit rating. It has funded a couple of wars and helped pay for large UK infrastructure projects.

Projections are still looking good for the coming thirty years and beyond.

Our Renewable Energy industry has continued to develop and is now starting to show signs of making a substantial economic impact, whilst securing our energy supplies for future generations, long after our oil and gas supplies have been fully exploited.

Our Food and Drinks industry has continued to make significant returns in overseas markets and our Life Sciences industry is working towards its 2020 targets of doubling its output from its 2010 levels.

Excellent.

But the penny has now dropped.

It has become glaringly obvious that Scotland never was a nation that survived thanks to a generous subsidy from the UK Government. That was a cleverly constructed myth. You can get statistics to tell you anything. That’s why politicians love them. And we are easily duped by them. That’s why politicians love us.

It has become glaringly obvious that our incredible natural resources, our academic rigour and our entrepreneurial spirit were all more than capable of helping us build a successful, prosperous and independent country.

We just had to believe it.

But at least we have got the Trident nuclear deterrent programme to protect us and bring much needed employment to Scotland. At least we have got a strong military to take us into illegal wars, whether we want it or not. It’s a dirty game, but hey, it keeps us in business.

At least we have got another country making our most important decisions for us, so that we will never have to think too hard about anything ever again; particularly all the things that are just too big for us to cope with on our own.

Now that we’ve turned our back on change, we can sleep-walk into the future. Like dutiful little children who will never grow up, because we don’t have to. But at least we can say, unlike three hundred years ago, this is what we voted for in 2014. So what happens next?

Independence? Forget it.

What about Devo-Max then? Don’t make me laugh. That was never on the cards.

Oh and by the way, kiddies, your pocket money is getting cut.

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