Tag Archives: Independence

Hubs of Nationalist Indoctrination?

Scotland is a small country with many social and economic problems.

It is a country full of negative attitudes, low confidence, lethargic workers, frustrated ambitions and broken promises.

But Scotland is also a small country with enormous potential.

It is a country that offers a rich array of natural resources, gifted engineers, medical researchers and entrepreneurs.

It is a country with a fascinatingly complex history; an incredible diversity of people from many traditions and many countries; and a fantastic wealth of writers, artists and philosophers, that very few people will ever get the opportunity to discover or appreciate.

That is why I would be completely in support of the Scottish Government’s intention to introduce Scottish Studies to schools pupils of all ages. Under this proposal, it would be compulsory to learn about Scotland’s history, literature, language and culture.

Yet this proposal has been met with cynicism and derisory comment from opposition political parties.

Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative Education Spokeswoman, has raised concerns about the ‘pseudo-nationalist undertones’ of this subject and suggests that there is absolutely no need for it as English and History already cover most of the subject matter anyway.

And the Scottish Liberal Democrat Education Spokesman, Liam McArthur, has warned that SNP ministers could be tempted to ‘hijack the curriculum for their own political purposes’.

I find it absolutely astonishing that there could be such opposition to the introduction of Scottish Studies in Scotland.

It would be fair enough to raise your concerns if another nation’s culture, history, language and literature had been forced on you…but your own?

I find it appalling that an opportunity to improve cultural awareness and create historical curiosity in your own country has become a party political issue – amongst Scottish parties!

Why would you not want to learn more about the culture and history of your country? Why would you not want to understand the language and literature that helped shape your nation?

Are the opposition parties worried that if a dependent nation finally started to appreciate its own worth, it may just start to believe that it could have a positive, independent role to play in the world again?

It is highly unlikely that Scottish schools could become the hubs of nationalist indoctrination, as feared; and even if schools were to share the story of Scotland in a passionate and patriotic manner, the decision to become independent or otherwise would be minimally affected.

But in commenting this way, the opposition parties have effectively declared their hand:

Learning about your country is good, but only in so far as it does not destabilise the status quo.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , ,

Alex Salmond’s patchwork vision

I find Alex Salmond’s latest comments on Scottish independence confusing:

http://bit.ly/yI5fxH

Whilst I am ardently in favour of it, I would hesitate to vote for independence if I believed that the only party promising to deliver it were in danger of delivering a form of independence that I didn’t think was right for the country.

By this I mean I would hesitate to sign up to an independent Scotland if what we were about to receive would be an ‘independent Scotland within the United Kingdom’.

To me this idea seems very unclear. I wouldn’t really understand what I would be voting for. To bring about significant change, you need to have a clear and consistent vision that everyone understands and is ready to support, but I don’t think I understand this.

Perhaps I am politically naïve, or perhaps I have fallen for the Unionists rhetoric, but in my view the situation is clear cut: either you want Scotland to be an independent country or you don’t. There should be no middle ground. The middle ground is near enough what we have at the moment.

Alex Salmond believes that an independent Scotland would retain the Queen as Head of State, just like Canada and Australia; would continue to use the pound as its currency; and in short, would remain within the United Kingdom.

I am not entirely sure what his agenda is. On the one hand, he is adamant that his aim is to secure an independent Scotland. So far, so good. But on the other hand, he appears to want to drip-feed his ideas about what an independent Scotland would look like and perhaps also drip-feed the process over a longer period of time than he would have us believe.

Perhaps he believes that it would be too much for us to grasp if he were to give us the full story up front. Perhaps he fears that the reality of independence would cause too much concern among those not yet in favour of it, and whom he must convince if he is to secure his ambitions for the country.

At times, it almost looks as if he is hedging his bets and privately hoping to secure full fiscal autonomy in the first instance, with complete independence to follow at a much later stage, but only once he has demonstrated that it would be a sustainable proposition.

Perhaps he is playing a clever game of poker with the United Kingdom government. Perhaps he is privately concerned that he would need to concede too much in a separation agreement and lose full rights to the country’s oil reserves, particularly when the oil reserves appear to be one of the aces in his pack.

Full fiscal autonomy may help to get around this in the short term, depending on what he believes he could secure as part of that agreement, which could then be used to set a precedent that would enable the Scottish government to push for full independence further down the road.

The concern I would have with pursuing this strategy is that the people of Scotland may lose their appetite for full independence, and no longer see it as important once it had full control over its own reserves, and revenue raising powers, in what would be a stronger devolution agreement.

The problem facing Alex Salmond is that he knows he needs to convince the majority of people in Scotland to vote for independence, when there are many who are still psychologically and culturally committed to the United Kingdom.

As a result, he appears to be identifying reasons why many people in Scotland are committed to the United Kingdom, and suggesting that we can still retain all of this, whilst being an independent country.

To me that doesn’t sound quite right. I need to be convinced that Alex Salmond will create the right future for Scotland, but I suspect that he is not one hundred per cent sure himself what this would look like.

In the meantime, in trying to please the majority of voters, he may ultimately run the risk of creating a patchwork vision that few people really believe in, and few people would really want.

Tagged , , , ,

…And Be A Nation Again

I am fiercely patriotic. I am proud to be Scottish. I say these things without really knowing what it means to be Scottish, and that seems strange. It can’t just be about being born in Scotland. It must be something more than that. It can’t just be about having Scottish ancestry. Again, it must be something more than that.

So what is it that makes us feel that we belong to a particular country? What is it that makes us feel that we are one particular nationality rather than another? What holds us together as a country, with a shared feeling of national identity and (occasional) pride?

Scotland was once a country of invention and enlightenment. Scientific, Medical, Engineering and Industrial innovations were our trademark contributions to the world. Great philosophers, philanthropists and entrepreneurs shaped our thinking and our way of being. Our highly regarded education and legal systems were once the envy of many.

But times have changed. Scotland has changed. Today Scotland has emerged as a country of unfortunate contrast and unnecessary diversity: fantastically beautiful countryside and horribly ugly industrial towns; incredibly intelligent thinkers and emotionally depraved thugs; honest hard workers and dishonest cheats; culturally sensitive citizens and narrow minded bigots; high achieving sports people and grossly unhealthy, dietetically impoverished individuals.

Scotland is a nation that no longer feels truly confident in its own position in the world. Scotland is a nation that needs to rethink its approach to society, government, education, economics and law. Scotland is a nation that needs to be honest about its failings in the past and discover a new way of being in the world.

Scotland is a country that gave away its independence because it tried to achieve something big; it failed massively and then no longer believed in itself. And that has remained deeply embedded within the Scottish psyche ever since.

But at long last, Scotland is a country that has another opportunity. Scotland has an opportunity to rediscover what it means to be Scottish, albeit in today’s terms; it is an opportunity to discover just how far a renewed sense of worth and national pride could actually take us in today’s chaotic and broken world.

Scotland is a country with an opportunity to stand on its own and be a nation again. I am fiercely patriotic and despite not really knowing what it means to be Scottish, I am happy to declare that I am proud to be Scottish, and I sincerely hope that, despite how much fear certain people may try to create around the idea, we take the opportunity to be a nation again, when it finally comes our way.

Tagged , ,

Why Free Education for Scottish Students may be judged unlawful

The Scottish Government’s principle of ‘free’ education for students in Scotland is a noble one to have. It is one that many Scots have benefited from in the past, and is hopefully one that many more will benefit from in the future.

However, there is a problem. Despite the First Minister’s insistence that the ‘rocks would melt with the sun’ before he introduced fees for Scottish students, it is not immediately obvious how much longer Scottish institutions will be able to operate in this manner.

The reason for this is not so much to do with plugging the funding gap that has forced other UK institutions to introduce student fees of up to £9,000 from next year because, or so we have been told, the Scottish Government believes that it has found a sensible way of balancing its budget in order to making free education a continuing possibility.

The reason why the Scottish Government may not be able to offer free education in the longer term is that it has come under a legal challenge. Under EU Law, it is not permissible to discriminate against anyone from another EU state. This means that students coming to study in Scotland from other EU states must be treated in the same way as Scottish students, therefore benefitting from free education, and costing the Scottish Government in the region of £75m per annum.

However, whilst EU Law prohibits interstate discrimination, it does not legislate on regional variations within one member state. Scotland is not an EU state, but is rather a region within an EU state, in the same way as the other countries are that make up the UK. What this means is that whereas Scotland cannot charge fees to students from other EU states, there is nothing to prevent Scotland charging fees to students from other regions within the UK.

It seems to be a farcical situation and there have been suggestions that the policy may soon be challenged under the UK Equality Act. If this type of legal challenge were successful, it would mean that every student coming to study in Scottish institutions would have to be given the right to free education, which would definitely be unaffordable.

The Scottish Government believes that its policy is both sustainable and lawful. Many people believe that it is unsustainable and unlawful. Some think it is a cynical ploy by the Scottish Government to help plug its funding gap by charging high fees to other UK students, whilst at the same time reinforcing its nationalist agenda and generating resentment and ill feeling within the UK.

Of course, an independent Scotland would no longer be a region of the UK, but could apply to become a member state in its own right, and only then would it need to choose between giving free education to everyone, including non Scottish UK students, or falling into line with the fee structures of other UK institutions.

If it transpires that Scotland genuinely cannot balance its budget in the way the Scottish Government have told us it can, then as a country we would definitely need to reconsider the principle of free education as a continuing possibility. It would be sad, but economically unavoidable. However, in the meantime, I think it would be absolutely outrageous if Scotland were forced to abandon this principle – just because UK Equality Laws dictate that it would be ‘unfair’ on other non-Scottish UK students.

Tagged , ,
Advertisements