On 18th September the people of Scotland will be granted the opportunity to end the 300-year-old union with the rest of the United Kingdom and declare themselves members of an independent state. A Yes vote would entail full sovereignty in the form of a Scottish parliament based in Edinburgh, and I would urge all readers to contemplate the exciting possibilities such a scenario gives us.
As a patriotic Scot, I am deeply saddened by the restrictions that have been imposed on us by successive Westminster governments. Scotland has a host of natural resources and financial, cultural and educational institutions, all of which would allow it to compete on the international stage. Furthermore, an independent Scotland could oversee far more progressive social policies than it does as part of the union, with political decisions being taken by parties actually chosen by the Scottish people, rather than being overruled by Westminster. Lastly, I wish to refute certain claims made by the ‘Better Together’ campaign over ownership of the pound, and assure you that Scotland will retain rightful ownership of its currency.
Despite the economic scaremongering of the No campaign, with complete control over our oil and gas revenues, Scotland would actually have the potential to become a more prosperous nation. In the event of a Yes-vote, official government figures indicate that the GDP per Capita of Scotland would rise from 99% to 120% of the UK’s, what with the additional North Sea Oil output.
While the economics of independence are of fundamental pragmatic importance, we must also take into account the less tangible issue of the participation and happiness of the people in a democracy. The Conservative party currently leads the elected government in the UK, despite the majority of Scots voting for the opposition. There is a clear divide between the political views of those north and south of the border, and so the political union between Scotland and the rest of the UK does not allow for the views of the Scottish people to be adequately represented. A vote for independence is therefore a vote not only for a better economic future, but also for the principle that the people should be governed by those for whom they actually vote.
An independent Scotland would be able to reverse the vicious assault on the welfare state implemented by the Tory government. We would be free to reverse the ‘bedroom tax’, raise the minimum wage, and maintain universal free education for everyone. An independent Scotland as such would be committed to creating a fairer society.
“How would this all be paid for?”, ask cynical unionists. One popular suggestion is diverting funds from the UK’s current Trident program, £163 million of which is currently paid for by Scotland.
The most common, and perhaps the most convincing, argument made by the No campaign is that Scotland would be unable to keep the pound. A currency union is by far the most sensible decision for both the Westminster government and the Scottish parliament, despite the fact that many leading figures (including the governor of the BoE) are adamant that such a union would be impossible. A currency union would benefit both countries as not only would Scotland retain the BoE as a lender of last resort, but the rest of the UK would benefit from the added income from Scotland’s oil and gas market. One only needs to look across to our European neighbours, Belgium and Luxembourg, to witness such a union working successfully. I predict that in the event of a Yes vote, the Westminster scare-mongering will cease and real negotiations will begin.
In conclusion, it is undeniable the upcoming result will be sure to change the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK, even in the event of a No vote. However, I am confident that Scotland will make the right decision and vote for independence, economic prosperity and social justice; we will finally be free from foreign rule.
The nationalist rhetoric these days is one of social justice. Scots are told that independence will make our nation fairer, and our society more just. Alex Salmond claims that Scotland needs independence to protect the existence of our NHS. Nicola Sturgeon even asserts that independence will end child poverty. Yet this does not square with the fact that much of the government apparatus dealing with these issues, such as Scotland’s health service, is already devolved. Ironically, the only redistributive policy proposed in the White Paper is to give rich corporations a tax cut.
What is more, separation from the UK would hurt us economically. Scots’ pounds, pensions and public services would suffer. In light of the clear message from the rest of Britain that a currency union would be in nobody’s best interest, it seems likely that if Scotland were to retain the pound, it would do so from a much weaker position – the dangers of which Paul Krugman has recently highlighted. If we were to break away from a pension system paid for by 60 million people, our increasingly ageing population would have to bridge a huge funding gap. If we incur the extra £6 billion of cuts, which the Institute for Fiscal Studies have told us would have to come over and above any austerity when we leave the UK, then there is no doubt Scotland’s public services would suffer, thereby hurting the most vulnerable areas of our society. Families, pensioners and the unemployed stand to lose a lot if we buy into a false vision, based on unfunded promises, given by nationalists whose first priority has always been leaving Great Britain, regardless of the cost.
And that cost would not be insubstantial. It would hit the 600,000 people whose jobs depend on the UK. It would cost us international influence in the world. It would cost us a home market of 63 million people, who give our economy the strength to back up any part of the country in a crisis. These are costs that Scotland simply doesn’t have to take on.
A No vote is one for the best of both worlds, and it is not a vote against change. The Scottish Parliament is due to receive even more decision-making powers after the referendum, whilst Scotland can continue to benefit from the strengths and securities of the UK. It is easier to build social justice with a bigger economy, and it is better to build it for more people.
Perhaps the best thing we have ever built together, as four nations, is our NHS. The health service has, in fact, become one of the central issues of the debate on independence. The SNP have started to spread scaremongering stories of how we would be forced to privatise the NHS in the case of a No vote. This is simply untrue; the only people who could privatise our health service are the Scottish Government, because they are the ones who have full control over it. Indeed, in reality the NHS in Scotland is far more likely to be damaged by the economic risks of separation. This is shown by the reaction of the markets to the recent poll suggesting Yes had a slight lead, with the pound hitting a 10-month low against the dollar and huge Scottish firms falling in value with it. The damage this economic uncertainty would do to public services is one of the prime reasons why I voted no to the nationalists’ separatism.
You will hear from some Yes campaigners that they aren’t nationalists, and they may not be the kind of patriotic, flag-waving nationalist that Alex Salmond is; but their politics are just as narrow. If you have to qualify every statement of the principles you believe in with “in Scotland”, you’ve become a nationalist. The 300-year-old project that is our union has not been perfect, but the problems facing the people of Cardiff, Liverpool and Belfast aren’t so different from those we see in Glasgow, at least not to the extent that we ought to walk away. If Scotland votes yes, it will not only fail to make life better for those of us living here, it will be a statement that we are turning our back on our neighbours.
Just last week, every single Scottish Labour MP showed up in Westminster to vote through a bill that was the first step to the abolition of the bedroom tax. It illustrated their priorities; improving life for those hit by an unfair policy across the UK. It demonstrated their politics are driven by a commitment to social justice.
On the other hand, just two SNP MPs put aside their attempts to break up Britain long enough to vote for the bill, showing their priorities just as clearly. The nationalist rhetoric these days is one of social justice. It is one I do not buy.