By Adrian Girling
“When I enter the polling booth I will vote not as a Scot but as a person, a citizen, a worker, a man, a son, a dad, an uncle and a friend. I will vote for change… “
So here goes. First, these are just my humble little opinions. I claim no title on fact nor insight. Second, it is not often that we the people have a chance to make significant non-violent changes to our political landscape. Third, it is undeniable that politics is only one of the multiple forces that shape the world we live in and it is not always the most dynamic, affecting or edifying. Fourth, I think that Yes HAS to happen for the good of Scotland. Ultimately it may also be for the good of the rest of the UK. Fifth, I wanted to back up my position. These are my own opinions, things as I see them, so don’t believe a word; think and decide for yourself.
I am not a member of any political party, never have been. I have in the past voted for different parties and for independents. I don’t care much for tribal politics, probably because I have never had to. No political party, ideology or idea has sole claim to the values, policies and actions that I think matter most. Like politics, none of us are without our faults and our opinions always betray our own prejudice and ignorance. My ideas like all ideas suffer that fate too!
Big political opportunities throw up all sorts of issues, large and small, everyday and existential. We live in a fragile state of existence where it is hard to live easy when death beats so hard. The suffering of people caused by isolation, poverty, war and oppression are seared into our imaginations and our every day experience. When we are battered by voices, stories and images of hopelessness and fear it is hard sometimes to validate humanity at all. What is worse is that most of this is avoidable and much of it is intentional and politics seems to often compound rather than alleviate or overcome suffering. Set in the context of our wider struggle for a meaningful humanity, a political referendum in little Scotland can seem like nothing much at all, even a distraction from the things that matter. Compounding the confusion, there are so many people claiming a divisive monopoly on truth and fact. They will stand face to face swearing blind that their entirely contradictory points of view are right and true and the other is overcome by ideology or madness. Even more frustrating is that people are so quick to base their understanding on lazy stereotypes. The writer Chimamanda Adichie said, “the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” Too many people are happy to assert truths based on incomplete ideas and to make their story the only story. This is especially manipulative when these stories are told about those of us who have the least present voice or the most readily ignored voice.
So this election has brought out the massive issues of life as well as the little day to day things and we should accept that some of this is probably beyond the ken and reach of our little Scottish Parliament, even with all it’s liberated powers. We have to be realistic about what this all means and what it could mean for a different Scotland. But for me the core ideas for our future politics are justice, security, solidarity and freedom. Ideas that should be made real through ‘the people’ achieving self-determination with the collective aim of creating a renewed democracy for 21st Century Scotland; and being fair and just as we do so. The Union has had it’s day and I think for Scotland to flourish as a body politic and as a confident and successful nation, we need Independence to make better decision that are better suited to our changing world. The time is now for this change and we need to breathe deep, dig in and go for it!
One interesting wee fact around solidarity. About 15 years ago I read Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen and it is a heavy duty but cracking book. He is an internationally respected economist and social development thinker. One part of the book has stuck with me all these years. In the UK during the 20th C there were two specific periods of intensive and necessary health, education and welfare programmes. These were during and just after the 1st and 2nd World Wars. Rationing, health services, improved housing and sanitation and subsidised nutrition were brought about by necessity, by a greater social recognition of the need for sharing the means of survival and by a change in the social psychology of common threats and risks. What is remarkable is that inter-decade comparisons show that by a very wide margin the most speedy expansion of life expectancy occurred during these war decades. Economic growth and mortality due to war and other factors were all taken into consideration. Social solidarity, stricter rules on fair consumption, a common purpose and a shared concern for the general health of the population made this health difference to the population as a whole. There was not and has not been such progress made across the whole population before and since. This for me tells an important story and what societies can do when we see people as brothers and sisters and not alien competitors. Necessity may be the mother of all invention but it might also be the mother of healthier babies and children.
When I enter the polling booth I will vote not as a Scot but as a person, a citizen, a worker, a man, a son, a dad, an uncle and a friend. I will vote for change. I will vote for a decentralised system of government that brings power and decisions closer to the people to make our political life more alive to participation and less dependent on representation. I will vote to see local government revitalised and empowered and to see bodies like community councils grow in confidence and responsibility. I will vote for the taxes we contribute to be spent in the right place by the right people, within a system that values subsidiary over centralised control and listens more broadly before making strategic and informed non-headline driven decisions.
I will vote for civil liberties to be the cornerstone of our democracy. I will vote for respect and dignity in old age and for affirming the spirit, the creativity and the beautiful rebelliousness of youth. I will vote for a welfare system that is not brutally punitive but protects with respect and actually builds skills and confidence locally to help empower people to be part of a wider community and to seek and find work when we can. And when we do, I will vote to ensure that our tax system and general financial and social climate mean that every worker can secure a living wage and live within their means in a meaningful manner.
I will vote for more affordable and suitable housing and a better transport network, especially in rural areas currently badly served. I will vote for those of us living with disability to be valued and prioritised in policy making and to be visible and encouraged as full people with full rights and full ambitions. I will vote for unpaid caring responsibilities to be valued in the same way as paid work is valued and for young carers to get the support and empathy they need. I will vote for people taking individual responsibility and I will be voting for us having a sense of community where we are responsible for one and other. I will vote for all people to be more politically engaged and educated and by that I mean small ‘p’ politics of people and place. I will vote for young people in their communities to be encouraged and recognised for being agents of social change. I will vote Yes because not enough of this can happen within the status quo.
I will vote for a Scotland and a UK free from nuclear weapons and less willing to send our young men and women to war. I will vote to respect and invest in our armed forces; standing, reserve and ex-service and to better support them, their families and communities. I will vote against the avoidable curse of people living with deep and enduring poverty and the structures and attitudes that encourage it. I will vote against all forms of discrimination and against the ignorance and fear that perpetuates it. I will vote to affirm that we all have fears and prejudice and to confirm that I will fight this in my mind and through my voice. I will vote for drawing up a written constitution that provides ordinary people with rights and protection in law that sit above our criminal and civil laws and provides clear rules for the democratic process. I will vote for making more of Scotland’s sheer beauty and our vast onshore and offshore natural resources. I will vote for a more sensible and fair immigration policy. I will vote for the idea and the practice of asylum and sanctuary that is free from resentment and fear. I will vote for a more representative and proportional voting system at all levels of government and for more diversity in those who stand for election. Politics should be about people not about politicians.
I will vote to make Scotland a less unequal and country and I will vote for land reform and policies that will democratise land ownership and empower communities to strengthen and deepen their ambitions and possibilities. I will vote for Scotland’s wealth to benefit Scotland’s people and those we stand alongside. And I will vote for England to have chance to seriously consider its own politics and to upgrade its democracy maybe through an English Parliament and properly devolved regions. And as odd as it may seem, I will vote to affirm my connections with people and our culture across the rest of the UK and my deep affection for all the corners of these islands. All told I am voting for many things. But if I stare deep into my conscience, I think that we will only have a chance to do this within an Independent Scotland.
I am not a milk and honey sort of person, I am often very grumpy. I don’t expect it to be easier as Independent nation, I expect it to be harder, but the struggle holds the promise of progress that can’t happen without it. A yes vote will make me sad too, don’t get me wrong on that.
And where are we at the now? Westminster does not work for Scotland and it doesn’t really work for much of the UK. The Union may have made sense to many people back when the UK sought political and religious unity in a fractured Europe before asserting itself more aggressively upon the wider world. But the Empire is long gone, political plurality exists across our lands and religious harmony is no nation builder. So to stick with the Union seems to be as much about sentimentality and insecurity as it is about what is actually going on today. The House of Commons has become a remote and outdated outpost of privilege and arrogance and there is no doubt that it needs to seriously reconsider its role in the 21st C. The House of Lords likewise. Both are corrupted by insidious private influence and political and personal patronage. Neither will change significantly without a seismic political event. The House of Commons could not even counter modest proposals for a more proportional voting system. However, we need to acknowledge that we have had and still do have many dedicated, honest and capable individual politicians at Westminster, and at times our political parties, political movements, governments and the UK parliament have fulfilled the will of the people and made important and far-reaching decisions that have brought about vital and lasting social change. But this is about the future, not the past, and soon we will have a once in a lifetime chance to make a big change happen and this could be to the benefit of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It will fire up all sorts of passions for more democracy widespread in more than name.
It is hard to predict what will happen with the EU vote and it is likely that these current rumblings are part of wider changes that are inevitably on their way. Does anyone know where England is at the now with its politics? It seems more fractured and confused than Scotland could ever be. Change is coming. The UK as it could well vote to leave the EU. England seems to be moving harder to extreme views and becoming less tolerant and open to change. Scotland could well vote for Independence. Bigger historical journeys are happening. One day Ireland might be unified. History, changing demographics and pragmatic necessity may well see to this. It may not be imminent but I think it will happen. Wales may not push for the same political freedom and autonomy that many in Scotland and NI have been pushing for and it should have the same chance to determine its national borders and sovereign rights.
There is plenty people are sick of. The nature and scale of the corrupt practices recently seen in politics, the media, big business and high finance is mind-blowing and we probably haven’t seen the worst of it yet. Of course, people are people and Scotland has as much vulnerability to the corruption of power, but smaller and closer we can be so that we can do more to ensure that politics is cleaner and more transparent. Most people I know think that the status quo is not working for the people who it should work for and I agree with them. Saying that, they don’t all think that Independence is part of the answer. But I don’t agree with them on that.
In a scarily fast changing world we need to get to the heart of things more fairly and openly and make decisions in a different way. What is strongest as a way of getting to the heart of things involves two approaches. First, personal and sincere testament provided directly and heard openly. Second, well researched and evidenced analysis from broad sources that is open to scrutiny and challenge. How do we build these approaches? Conceptually, information leads to knowledge leads to understanding leads to wisdom. The glue that bonds this procession of reality together is experience, as individuals and as a shared experience from a definable body of people. There is too much information and too little wisdom kicking about for my liking and too little curiosity and compassion to guide our experiences. Politics, the political process and policy making should be seen as a means of seeking some sort of truth through this journey of diverse experiences, trying to connect information and wisdom with diverse experience. So politics is as much the day to day business of policy making as it is about the big issues and the big ideas. But politics is more than process and systems, it is about emotion and gut feelings, hope and fear. It is about standing alongside those you feel need your solidarity and support and for defending shared interests. What has been great about this election is the sense of possibilities that have been engendered, a real and inspiring sense that people can make the changes that will change the makers and bring power closer to the people.
‘Never again a story will be told like it’s the only one’. I think John Berger wrote this and I have always liked it as a reminder that no matter how right and true we think we are, there is always many ways to see how life unfolds in front of us all. The political process should be concerned with hearing all of the voices, all of the experiences and angles, with people empowering themselves to speak out and be heard. But politics is also tribal in its positioning and decision-making and there are times when we have to clearly stand for something and sometimes we have to pick our fight, our friends and our corner. I don’t want to chase Tories out of Scotland, I know and like loads of people who hold Conservative values and vote for them and about 300,000 plus Scots regularly do – I might rather they didn’t but their vote is not mine or yours. We need their voices as part of the political process and they are just as capable of generating good and interesting ideas. But saying that, I don’t want to be governed by a Tory led Westminster government composed of out of touch public school educated upper class men who don’t have a clue about life as it is lived by the majority of people in our society. No way!
So to all the political hues and colours. What I am sure about is that one corner we all need to stand in is the one which promotes and protects the global and local natural ecology of our planet, and for our own sake, the fragile place in it we hold as human beings. All politics should be informed by Green politics and in Scotland by the Green Party. But there are contradictions here. We want the oil. I would set time limits and prioritise oil extraction for maybe 30 years and make sure that an oil tax fund channels significant investment into renewable energy so that in 30 years time we are fully renewable domestically and exporting renewable energy across Europe. I also want the story and the importance of real Socialism and the working class labour movement to be heard; the putting first of people, families, workers and communities united by some shared purpose and defiant solidarity. Socialism has a courageous, challenging and vital place in our history and in our future. People fought hard and sacrificed much for our vote, for voice, for rights, for representation and we need their legacy to be understood and built upon. But we need to accept contradictions and tensions between people, the environment and the economy and make policies based on long-term priorities. It wont all be one way; it cant be.
Too many of the Yes campaigns assertions of what an independent Scotland would offer are all focused on public spending, on what we will receive as citizens. All good and well but this has to created somewhere before it can be gathered and spent by government, We need a free, creative and thriving private sector, with businesses of all shapes, sizes and types that we can nurture and support. We need more social enterprises where possible and we need more businesses able and willing to take on apprenticeships and provide training and meaningful progression to their workforce. But to think that politics is purely about what can be provided to the people by their government misses the most important contribution of what people can do for themselves, their families, communities and their wider society. Free enterprise needs free people and imagination, just like free communities do. In fact they are inseparable.
Conservative values of free enterprise, personal responsibility and freedom are not absurd. Enterprise and freedom are what generate the financial capital that provides much of our social and physical energy and infrastructure. Responsibility and commitment are needed to run an enterprise – as is the capacity to learn from the inevitable mistakes. We can’t just form our social policies around what we want to spend without considering very carefully how we will create an environment that is capable of generating the revenue that this will require. As workers, we need to feel that work really pays, that if we go out to work and do our best, we will be afforded a decent standard of living. Many people I know struggle to enjoy this, yet they work hard, they do their best, often in jobs that are low paid and under valued. There is a deepening disconnect with pricing, the supply chain, business revenues, wages, the cost of living (especially housing costs) and with this, people are building huge resentment when they should be enjoying the wage based fruits of their labour, their skills and experience. But most of all we need to find ways to make individuals, families and communities stronger so that we depend less on government spending and more on how we create open and sustainable communities of place, interest and kind and not a political relationship of dependency to government. But to help this we need a free market and not a rigged corporate takeover. Business that profit private individuals need public agency and investment to grow and survive so in turn they need to have well defined and tight limits on how they profit from public services, especially from welfare, health and education.
On the 18th September, we will not take part in a normal election where we mark an X for the party or candidate that we chose to vote for. This referendum is not about any specific political party nor is it about Nationalism or loyalty to a flag or to land. The vote we will cast is our franchise in a constitutional referendum that will determine the nature and the boundaries of the ‘democracy’ that we live within. I have been encouraged by much of the intelligent and insightful discussions and opinions that I have read and heard, more than I have been disappointed and disgusted by some of the maddening nonsense and bigoted idiocy I have also come across. That is great and I reckon well done Scotland for generally being decent and open and not totally losing the plot.
This vote is about identity and culture and it is about big political ideas. Great. But for me, this vote is as much about the not so exciting day-to-day activity of government and public administration. I think that we we already do this better in Scotland. When huge forces shape so much of our lives, the making of public policy at a local and national level is one of the main ways that people can have agency and influence over our lives. I think that how we create the space for people to enjoy their freedom, and how we arrange institutions to provide public facilities and services that best enable our security, justice and opportunities, is what marks us out as a people, as communities and as a society.
Public policy is broad, diverse, should know no boundaries of economic, social and cultural life and it should be informed by experts but powered by the democratic will of the people. It should respect and be informed by subsidiary, getting the right decisions made at the right level of government and public administration. If is important that decisions are made at the right level of government and it is even more important that they are made using socially driven principals and values to analyse and understand research, testament and evidence. We need to create knowledge based more on personal and social experience and to use this in some sort of wise, egalitarian and open way to enhance basic human capabilities and experience.
So the broad sweep. A wise and clever friend of mine once said that, ‘democracy is just a side-show of capitalism’. Just like that he said it. It has stayed with me all these years because I think that whatever the exact truth in this, it does demand that we recognise politics for what it really is. The establishment offering franchise when necessary to maintain their dominance. That analysis doesn’t make me an anarchist, just a hard headed realist. The economic, financial and cultural forces at play in this world are strong, maybe stronger and more concentrated than they ever were, and over the last few decades a neo-liberal capitalist agenda has dominated public discourse to present this way as representing the only road to freedom and liberty. They are right about the importance of democracy but they only want a democracy that is compliant and in thrall to their priorities. But those are not necessarily the priority of citizens and workers.
Buttressed by debt, relentless advertising, unprecedented resource extraction, political manipulation and nightmarish consumerism, we live in a corporate era of multinational domination and a blatant attempt nationally and globally to ‘buy politics’ for financial ends. This might all sound dramatic but I know in my heart that there is a sad and pervasive truth to this. Capitalism as it exists today, especially in ‘the West’ is in many ways not free enterprise nor is it free trade. 500 of the worlds biggest multinational companies account for around 70% of the world’s trade, they trade within and between themselves as they stride the earth like modern-day gods. In the early 80’s the poorest countries on earth accounted for a much larger share of global trade than is the case today and rigged markets, tariffs and subsidies punish weaker nations and regions. This era started long ago with global imperialism and the likes of the East India Trading Company. Governments are still very powerful yet who ‘owns’ politics? Over the last century or more the power of capital and those who have it has overwhelmed the forces of labour and this has become embedded in politics, so in this day and age, to think that democracy is really of the people, by the people and for the people is to indulge in fantasy. In the UK we live at one of the epicentres of these dominant forces and that is part of the reason why Westminster politics seem so remote, disconnected and corrupt. These are global forces.
However the balance of power internationally is shifting and the nations that dominated the rise of modern financial capitalism will grow increasingly desperate as they lose control and have to fight for their previously taken for granted positions of control. It is global and messy and the power locally to shape our lives is the one that we need to hold on to and develop. If the global powers of the 20th Century did more to reform and make more democratic the multinational institutions such as the UN, IMF, World Bank and WTO the process of finding a more peaceful and balanced way in the 21st Century might have been more likely. They did not and it will not be peaceful or balanced. It will be a dirty fight because we left a dirty legacy.
Maybe, just maybe, we can do better as Scotland, within Scotland, for the people of and in Scotland and not as we are currently have it as part of the UK under Westminster rule. What is clear is that a devolved Scottish Parliament does not a nation make. And a nation is not land or borders, it is ideas and identity, our imaginations and our aspirations. It is what we aim to do a a people, with as much unity as can be gathered and with as much determination as can be created. Real political change and the means to make this change. But we should be in no doubt that the forces of finance, economic might and technology wield a massive interconnected influence over society and democracy and a Yes vote will only provide so much opportunity in a world shaped by forces that are truly global in nature, especially where the previously ‘comfortable’ nations and regions will become more ‘uncomfortable’ as the balance of power shifts and we need to find ways to adapt and change.
Politics is not just about political parties, their agendas and the formal political process. Politics with a small ‘p’, the most vital kind and is about how we live our lives, how we treat other people, how we see the world and how we read events and social dynamics. It is concerned with how we understand where we stand and where we fit in the confusing and spiralling play of society, culture, the economy and politics. Politics is about how we understand our identity, chosen, imposed or that we were born with, and how that has affected our opportunities and outcomes. Politics is how we understand and accept our bias and prejudices and how we challenge them. Politics is the land, the soil, our ecology and our natural world and how we work within its limits and resources. Politics is about understanding who has power, exploring how and why they have this power, daring to question authority, analysing how power is used and how it is made visible and held accountable. Of course politics has to be about dialogue, pragmatism and compromise because it is about how we can best peacefully coexist together in some sort of balanced way. It has to be realistic but it also has to be idealistic. This is what we imagine and argue for. What we as individuals and groups see as an ideal way to live and an ideal way to encourage others to live. It is also about plurality, many voices contributing to the social discourse and about ensuring that this political discourse and the decision-making that follows is not tainted by an undue influence relinquished by weak and egotistic politicians. Democracy is an idea, an abstract notion of social development and change. To make it even a little bit real and concrete it depends on transparency, trust, representation, honesty and most of all, participation.
This is the first election in the UK’s history where 16-18 year olds are able to vote. This should be the case for every election. I know proportionately as many politically informed and opinionated 17 year olds as I do people of any age. It should be our duty as parents and communities to ensure that our children grow up with a sense themselves and of the world around them and why things happen or don’t happen. I know many young people who will vote yes and many who will vote no. I sort of understand why many young people don’t support political independence for Scotland. Partly it is a response to the torrent of negativity that has been waged by the No campaign but mainly I think it is because in a world where borders seem to be falling due to technology and culture, it seems contradictory to create new hard borders. Young people are growing up in an insecure world where the horrors and threats that weaken humanity are thrown at them every day on social media and traditional media and they maybe feel that to seek independence from a larger and more powerful neighbour is to put our fragile existence even more on the line. I get where they are coming from. But for me this is not about culture and technology, these forces will continue to make the world smaller and bring people together and offer us all many opportunities as well as many threats. This election is about political decision-making and where we set the boundaries of influence and authority.
Many people have made this election about money and the economy, the pound in our pocket. Money is generated by enterprise and by government investment in people, infrastructure, research, and learning. What is our business profile in Scotland? In March 2013, there were about 343,000 private sector enterprises operating in Scotland. Almost all of these enterprises (just over 98%) were small businesses with 0 to 49 employees. Within these small businesses, around 70% were sole traders or partnerships not employing anyone else. Just over 1% were medium-sized businesses with 50 to 249 employees and between 0.5 and 1% were large businesses with 250 or more employees. These numbers and shares have remained pretty stable since 2000. So our economy is massively dependent on small and medium-sized businesses in terms of their numbers but when the turnovers and people employed are looked at it takes on a slightly different twist.
Small and Medium sized businesses in Scotland employ about 1.1 million people which is just under 55% of private sector employment and they account for just under 37% of private sector turnover. So that is just over 98% of businesses making 37% of private sector revenue. Small businesses alone (0 to 49 employees) accounted for just over 42% of private sector employment but just over 23% of private sector revenue. So that leaves the larger business employing over 250 people. Whilst large businesses in Scotland are small in number, they account for just over 45% of private sector employment and also just over 63% of private sector turnover. So we need large businesses because they generate a huge percentage of private sector revenues. I would rather in time that we develop more specialised and high revenue medium-sized businesses and in an Independent Scotland we could prioritise this, but it won’t happen quickly and there are probable limits to their growth potential.
So large businesses are vitally important to Scotland’s economy. Personally I can see reasons why bigger businesses might be both more mobile and more settled, and it is probably the ones with the least geographically fixed assets of place and people that might shift out of Scotland if they didn’t think Independence would work for them. But all in all for the majority of large business, they are in Scotland for a reason and Independence wouldn’t change that. That being said, especially for the largest of the businesses currently based in Scotland, Independence would be a risk, especially for the more mobile (and profit driven) financial sector which is as it stands a significant part of Scotland’s economy (just over 8%). But I have read strong opinion on this either way and it seems just as likely that an Independent Scotland could have a strong if not slightly smaller financial sector that could be in some ways be both outward looking as an international finance hub and more focused on supporting the growth and expansion of small and medium sized Scottish companies in international markets.
To the financial sector. Across the UK the financial sector has gained an increasingly bigger share of GDP over the last couple of decades, so too in Scotland where it currently accounts from about 8.5% of GDP (across the UK it is higher still at just under 10%). That is huge chunk of our economy provided by a sector that is volatile and as has been seen lately, untrustworthy. Companies like the Royal Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank and Lloyds TSB Bank have issued commentary that in an Independent Scotland they might move some or most of their operations elsewhere. At least they may register much of their businesses elsewhere. Fair enough. That shifts the risk out of Scotland and as we have seen recently the risk to the real economy of the casino economy is grave and ever present. The combined assets of these companies is around 12 times the size of Scottish GDP and this would be a worry for an independent Scotland if they were to continue to be companies head-quartered in Scotland.
Although the most recent bank bailout saw about 70% of the money coming from the US Federal Reserve and not all from the UK as we are led to believe. It was also a way of underplaying the staggering losses that these banks racked up. It may be that a balance can be found between the financial exposure of these companies in Scotland and the rest of the UK being proportional to the size of the economy of the different countries they are registered in. Easier said than done, as the banks are like webs of complicated companies within companies, within companies, plus they all have loads of subsidiaries in tax havens anyway and as we know financial giants are adept are socialising the risks and privatising the profits of their operations. It is an issue for an Independent Scotland and there are no easy answers but they are no easy answers to this question within the UK either. These banks have got so vast and interconnected that the largest are seen as to big to fail which encourages the moral hazard that led them to chase profit and risk everything on other people’s money.
Other large Scottish based companies like BAE, Agrekko, the Weir Group and some large energy companies have also directly or indirectly expressed reservations about Independence and it will take much discussion and reassurance to ensure that they remain solidly in Scotland and a vital and valued part of our economy. They provide significant employment, including many professional jobs and also some of the best apprenticeship training schemes about. That being said, many businesses of all sizes and types in Scotland and many business leaders have come out in favour of Independence and for me, we could make this work as part of creating a diverse and vibrant economy that is more sustainable and more focused on helping to build a more secure, sustainable, prosperous and just Scotland.
We need a much clearer and fairer tax system that really supports enterprise and a living wage that really supports people. We also need to stop people from hoarding their wealth and sneaking money offshore or into clever and legal tax schemes to avoid their responsibilities to us all. What is the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. The difference is money in the pockets of the already wealthy and in the pockets of accountants and lawyers. Tax due is tax due, their should be no room for doubt and to have this wriggle room only benefits the rich at the expense of everyone else. The really wealthy individuals and companies could probably have a lower tax rate and still pay more overall if they held to clearer rules and did less to cheat tax. Tax rules need to change on multi-nationals because they are truly taking the piss and it is is a total disgrace that this continues to happen. Even some of the biggest and most badly performing companies that are making billions of our money through publicly privatised contracts are managing to avoid paying much of the corporation tax they are due. Some are paying virtually nothing. We need to get corporations and business elites out of politics by the back door and into open and proportional representation like everyone else. All easier said than done and global in scale but we can speak out against this and be part of a global coalition for change.
I have no doubt that Scotland can make it as an independent nation creating its own form of democracy and its own way of doing politics. On an economic basis Scotland generates as much as it spends, probably more including oil and the not yet properly explored renewable energy potential. There would be massive challenges along the way and I don’t think we would settle into a political balance quickly, it may take several elections. After a yes vote, the first election for the new Scottish Government might throw up the possibility of a Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative coalition, doing anything to keep the SNP out and putting a wrench in the deeper aspirations of the Scottish people. Personally, I don’t want an SNP majority government after the first general election. I think we need a strong constitution and coalition politics that depends on dialogue, the bigger picture, long-term decision-making and the necessary compromise that this entails. To support we would need an even more proportional voting system that brings into play the diverse political opinion of Scotland and we would need Scottish parties that are not offshoots of Westminster dancing to their desperate tune.
As it stands, Scotland’s voice counts for little in UK policy making, notwithstanding that many of the UK’s significant politicians over the last century have been Scottish (and Welsh). But representing the Scottish voice they have not. The UK’s government’s position on the use of the pound post Independence and the bullying tactics in other areas of public policy are desperate and despicable and people, including No supporters, are beginning to see this. Issues like fracking and the UK government rolling back devolved responsibilities to support the carbon energy industry’s drive to buy up the rights to our land have angered people of all sorts of political opinion. The UK’s nuclear weapons at Faslane have outlived their purpose but the UK government seems intent on spending billions renewing them. Not a chance. For many people this is the one unifying issues that crosses the political spectrum in Scotland and most people I know are determined that we get them out of Scotland and gone forever. That is not to say that the UK and Scotland would not need and should not have strong and diverse armed forces but I don’t think Scotland has to do this as a member of NATO.
Scotland has a historic opportunity to rise as an independent nation and show humility and leadership in a rapidly changing world of opportunity and threat. We live in an ever more connected world and clearly we would continue to be interdependent and dependent to many forces and we would be exposed to greater vulnerability as a smaller independent nation on that basis, especially from the world on finance. But better vulnerable than subservient say I.
For a lot of people, this is being seen as an opportunity to kick an upper class, male dominated, uncaring and remote Westminster squarely in the bollocks. I for one don’t want this to be a ‘the patriarch is dead, long live the patriarch’, sort of journey. This is a chance to create something different, however fragile and tenuous, to rebalance our society within it’s limits and to find a kinder, more open equilibrium that we can exist within. Idealism in itself does not make a rigid ideology, people’s behaviour does this. We need idealism to give us hope for better days tomorrow and to live today as best we can. But without realism we can’t butter our bread. Yet when cynicism and nihilism take over we are fucked. We need change and we need it now and this is the only significant opportunity that I think we will get to dare to create that change in our communities and across our society.
The idea of a Nation State is a fairly new one and it may in time become an outdated concept as people challenge boundaries and borders and push for global laws and standards and more active and self-managing communities, but for now it stands as a means of defining the political space that we make decisions within. So we must work within this for now and we must make it relevant and appropriate. We must be aware that the Nation State and the forming of government’s through representative political parties can often mitigate against democracy as much as it may stimulate and encourage it. So for now we work within the concept of a Nation State and we seek to give it a meaningful size, shape and form. To do that for Scotland in my humble opinion is to vote YES on the 18th September.
If the vote is NO then we will have to dig deep and move on but the impetus towards independence will not disappear. If the vote is YES then I would want the next election to be run on an even more proportional basis and I would want every party to be very clear in their manifesto on what sort of political and constitutional public process they would support to move Scotland towards a solid independent footing. People in Scotland might vote for independence but it is the people in Scotland that should decide what sort of independence that should be. I repeat this is not a vote for the SNP and for the White Paper. This is the beginning of the journey and not the end. Ultimately, it is a social humanity we seek, for that idea to take human form, to drive us, to make us better, to create a nation of ideas, people and communities that we can express and be proud of.
Mon’ the people!
Categories: Journey to Yes