Why I support an Independent Scotland.
In September next year, all voters resident in Scotland will have the opportunity to vote in a referendum on the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
It’s a simple enough question but it is packed with nuances and subtexts leading to different answers by people with similar outlooks. For my part I intend to vote yes to this simple question and I want to use this essay to explain why.
1. Scotland is, was and can be an independent nation. These three tenses would seem to be mutually exclusive but the key lies in the meaning here of independence. Before 1603, Scotland was as independent as any other nation in Europe and much more so than most. Until 1707, our sovereignty was mixed with that of England but our parliamentary power (such as it was) was still independent. Between 1707 and 1998 we were a rump of the United Kingdom, which itself was increasingly centralised from London.
Before 1885, we had almost no separate voice from the wider British/English cacophony but from 1885 until 1998 we had an uneasy together but unequal relationship. Political power was still controlled by London, but we had a separate voice within the government in the form of a cabinet Minister for Scotland. Post 1998 we had, of course regained some political power through devolution and I think we can safely say this has been successful.
Throughout all this time several factors have remained constant and are reminders of our separateness. We have maintained our own systems and institutions: education, ecclesiastical, legal, sporting, artistic and social. Scotland often feels different from the rest of the UK in so many unquantifiable ways and I believe it is because of the continuous maintenance of these systems that it has given us a different direction even whilst closely tied to England.
Unfortunately the ability to build on these differences is hampered by a lack of political and executive authority. Too often we have to go cap in hand to the UK government who may or may not be pursuing policies that, whilst they may be right for England – or more likely London – are manifestly not right for us. The devolved parliament has been a success but frequently we vote for parties and policies that Westminster overrules or opposes and so stifles.
2. Financial security. This is one subject beset with lies, damn lies and statistics. For me I think it is a near irrelevance. Scotland is part of an extremely wealthy United Kingdom and any separation would likely involve a split on population grounds. Essentially 10% of existing national wealth, assets and liabilities. I have yet to hear a good argument as to why we would immediately better or worse off. Of course, long term it is difficult to determine, but so is it difficult to determine if we stayed together. Suppose Westminster has to raise taxes to bail out the city once more or decides to wage another stupid and costly war?
3. Political direction. Scotland politically is left of centre. We have a more egalitarian, less hierarchical society than found in England. Creating wealth and lowering tax rates is less of a priority than creating a better society and lowering poverty. Too often direction from Westminster governments has been in opposition from the democratic will of the people of Scotland. Even at Thatcher’s peak, she had little success in Scotland, yet the traditional, less divisive, Torry governments of Home and Heath, had a real presence in Scotland. At the local level, the Conservatives were once a major force in city and county councils.
For too long, the Labour party has held a dangerous political majority at many levels, especially in the Central Belt, and an independent Scotland will allow real political opposition without the extremes of London Conservative think-tanks. It may even see the resurgence of a distinctly Scottish Conservative Party, one that can appeal to Scottish voters and as a democrat I believe this is a good thing.
4. Tradition. I like tradition, I’m a history graduate and, of course, I think we can learn much from the past; but we must never allow ourselves to be defined just by our past. Independence will give us the opportunity to remove the shackles of dogmatic indifference and build a modern, secular relevant state for the 21st century. We are too often stuck in the 2-party traditions of Westminster with its arcane rules designed to allow country gentlemen (and I mean men) to rule over the affairs of commoners as patricians over plebeians. I want to see a government that actually works. One that is truly representative of gender, class and ethnicity and where none of these things is a barrier to achievement and inclusion.
I want to see a second chamber made up with those who achieve in business, arts and sciences; with members chosen by the public and not by fortune of birth or pointy hat and crucifix.
Scottish History must not be used to create dogma. As much as I admire Bruce and Wallace, they were of their time and have little relevance to creating the society we want to build now. Let’s leave Braveheart and the Jacobites to the tourists.
These four reasons are a start to the conversation. I believe I am open to changing my mind but at present I will vote for an independent Scotland so the people of this country – no matter where they were born or whether they voted no – can work towards a better, fairer and more relevant country for everyone.