Scottish Independence – The Case for a ‘Yes!’
Inverness, August 24, 2014 (Alochonaa): Scotland is less than a month from the biggest decision it has ever made. It is three hundred years since a corrupt group of noblemen shackled Scotland to a hostile, larger neighbour, and yet full control of our own affairs is but an ‘x’ in a ballot away.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) has campaigned tirelessly for 80 years to secure ‘home-rule’. The SNP is now the majority in government, an amazing feat given Scotland’s proportional electoral system, and it will let the people decide on their constitutional future. However, in our Parliament it’s not just the SNP who support independence. Myself and my fellow Independent Highlands & Islands MSP, Jean Urquhart, and our two Green Party colleagues are also actively campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote. It’s a credit to everyone that this important debate has taken place without any resort to violence from either side with all the passion put into words.
Scotland has some powers over our National Health Service, education, transport, policing, legal system, and local taxation. However, our system of government relies on Scotland sending all its tax revenues to London and being given a proportion back.
Politics is about choices. With the limited powers the Scottish Parliament has, and our deep-rooted social democratic outlook, free personal care has been given to our older people, removing any worries for them or their families as they grow old. Prescriptions for medicines are free in Scotland. Our Parliament acted jointly to end charges seen as a ‘tax on the sick’. Scotland pioneered free education for its citizens and I’m proud that they still have access to our fine universities on their ability to learn rather on their ability to pay. With full economic and fiscal levers Scotland could do so much more.
Scotland is opposed to the United Kingdom’s Trident nuclear weapons system which they store at Faslane, 30 miles from Glasgow, our largest city. The purpose of independence is to make Scotland more successful and to improve the lives of people who live in Scotland. The key difference is that on independence, all decisions for Scotland would be taken in Scotland, by a Scottish parliament and a Scottish government, and in Scotland’s interests.
The Government has earned the right to have its vision of an independent Scotland form the basis of the independence debate, however, other versions are available. Opponents of independence use to say that Scotland was too small to be an independent country. However, all the successful countries, in terms of things that matter like quality of life and social equality, are small countries. Scotland is rich in renewable resources of wind, wave, tidal and hydro power and has the largest proportion of Europe’s offshore oil reserves.
The United Kingdom is one of the most unequal countries in the developed world, run by elites such as bankers, generals, arms dealers, corporations and public school boys. The leaders of the four UK unionist parties are all millionaire public school boys who know little of the lives of the people I am charged with representing and, by way of their economic policy of austerity, care even less. The last two UK Chancellors have mismanaged the economy, running up debts of £1.45trillion pounds and squandering oil wealth from Scottish waters, so I will take no lecture on economics from them.
The ‘Yes’ campaign supports independence whilst the ‘Better Together’ campaign supports Scotland remaining in the UK, and they could not be more different. The hundreds of ‘Yes’ campaigns across the nation have thousands of local activists campaigning in their area from the SNP, the Greens, the Socialists and many, like myself, who are not members of any party. In contrast, our opponents who are funded by big businesses and other vested interests have the money, a London-driven campaign and so few activists they have to pay people.
People rightly ask, “If we really are ‘Better Together’ why aren’t we better just now?” Why do 70% of pensioners in my constituency in our energy rich country live in fuel poverty? Why is life expectancy in some parts of Scotland worse than North Korea? The answer is that it’s not about resources it’s about how they are divided up.
Independence will not sort all our problems, however, it will ensure than political decisions made here in Edinburgh are made in the interests of the people living in Scotland not foreign corporations or those UK elites. That’s an important phrase; “the people living in Scotland”. The ‘Yes’ campaign is not about race, religion or ethnicity. It is about an inclusive, just and welcoming society. Scotland has had waves of immigration from Ireland, Italy, the Indian sub-continent and more recently tens of thousands from Eastern Europe who are all made welcome.
The late Bashir Amhed was the first Asian member of the Scottish Parliament. He had travelled to Glasgow from Pakistan where he received a warm welcome. He made his home and many friends in Scotland and he famously said ’Of course, it’s not where we come from that matters, it’s where we are going together’. I think the independence referendum is a glorious opportunity to go somewhere fairer together all the people living in Scotland.
Jim Sillars is a former member of the UK Parliament who, like many of us, has been campaigning vigorously for independence for many years. Jim has recently written a book about his vision for what an independent Scotland, removed from the shackles of the post-colonial UK, could achieve. He talks about the day of the independence referendum, 18th September, and says that between the hours of 7 am and 10pm, the opening hours of the polling stations, absolute sovereignty rests with the Scottish people, for the first time, and it up to them to decide whether they want to hang onto it or hand it back to the UK elites.
I hope the people of Scotland remain bold, remain confident, seize this once in a lifetime opportunity and hold on to that power. This campaign is not about wealth or privilege; it is about the common good. I want to see Scotland crusade for social and environmental justice, be a good neighbour and a responsible global citizen. That will only happen if we take charge of our own affairs. We must stay strong. We must vote ‘Yes’.
*John Finnie is an interdependent Member of the Scottish Parliament representing the Highlands and Islands region.
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