Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Five key reasons for Scottish independence

With over a year to the referendum on Scottish Independence, the issues around it still seem rather abstract, non-detailed and worrying to many, particularly those still undecided on how to vote.

With that key wavering sector in mind, here's five basic reasons to consider saying Yes to an independent Scotland.

Political control 
Independence offers much greater political influence over how we shape our society.

In a world now massively driven by globalised forces and imposing institutions, the need for true participatory democracy intensifies, requiring smaller and more accountable forms of parliamentary involvement and civil engagement.  

The prevailing Union and Westminster parliament is a deeply archaic, undemocratic and conservative structure, offering no serious prospect for meaningful participation, representation or political change.  

While independence is no panacea - all the same global issues still have to be engaged -  it does allow people in Scotland the opportunity to fashion a new political modernity unshackled from the same old party cartel and parliamentary interests. 

Though a devolved Scottish parliament has been able to legislate on important areas like education and healthcare, it still lacks real control over the big levers of power. 

With full political responsibility for the first time over tax-raising, public spending, foreign and defence policy, immigration, employment rights, social security and benefits, energy, state intelligence, intellectual property, data protection, media, and all constitutional matters, a Scottish electorate could be in a better tactical position to push for the kind of society suited to what people actually want.

This might include, at some future point, closer reflection on whether Scotland wishes to retain a non-elected and privileged monarchy.

Almost all main left and progressive-thinking parties in Scotland, including the Greens, are campaigning for a Yes vote. A gathering section of trade union members in Scotland also now endorse the potential gains of independence, many now deeply disenchanted with Labour's neoliberalism, austerity agenda and attacks on welfare.  

Independence is also a buffer to an increasingly right-drifting politics, and, as the main UK parties pander to UKIP-type policies, the prospects of being ruled by an even more authoritarian Westminster parliament.

Vitally, in appealing to Labour voters, a Yes vote is not a call to support the SNP or any other party. It's about the need for progressive independence irrespective of what party people might vote for, either before or after the referendum.

Following any successful Yes vote, the electorate will, in a first post-referendum election, be free to endorse any parties or individuals suited to their political inclinations or desires. Unlike Westminster, Holyrood's proportional-based parliament is more able to have those views represented.  

A fairer Scottish parliament with a working government and legislative system already exists. Why still be burdened with a more imposing one which impedes that potential development and retains control over what people can have and may really wish for?

Economic alternatives 
Independence offers the serious opportunity of choosing an economic system based on social well-being rather than market-serving neoliberal doctrine.

It's vital to recognise the emergency-type situation that rampant neoliberalism has created, the social destruction caused by free market demands. Just look at the calamitous banking crisis, which ordinary people are paying painfully for through an austerity programme likely to last for many more years, most likely beyond 2020.

Everything Miliband and Labour are saying about the 'need' for austerity and cuts is almost identical to that coming from Cameron and Clegg. Any incoming Labour government in 2015 will continue the same, or worse, harsh policies, helping to keep themselves in comfortable office.  

As Craig Murray neatly puts it, "why a nation should surrender its freedom just to make sure Ed Balls has a ministerial car and salary while he implements Tory policies, is not a question which to me has an obvious answer."

This is a very rare chance to move in a decisively different economic direction.   

Proposals are now emerging for a more progressive economic model based on the Nordic-styled Common Weal. As discussed:
"Scotland is buzzing with people thinking about a better, more equal future and there is lots of work being done in different places. Just as the concept of neoliberalism encompassed a wide range (from Thatcher’s ‘can’t buck the market’ to Blair’s ‘we can help with the worst impacts of the market’), so the concept of Common Weal is broad and can encompass different ideas and different approaches. However, it’s very basis is that it is not simply a different version of what we have now. The last five years in the UK were simply a story of repeating the same mistakes from before. Without a fundamental change in our behaviour, we are going to continue to repeat the same mistakes indefinitely. Scotland - independent or not - must make a decision. If we continue on the current path the inevitable destination is greater inequality and ever fewer public services on which to rely. If we want something different, we have to choose it."
Rather than the prevailing and deepening economic disaster, we now have a specific blueprint for fairer distribution, social care and a welfare system that can help protect public services, most notably the NHS, from the drastic slide to privatisation we're seeing in England.

Any such alternative will, assuredly, have to be fought for, post-independence. Though supported by large parts of the SNP, some of that party leadership, with Labour, are still more pro-corporate in their priorities. Yet, while, with wide party and civil support, a Common Weal agenda seems realisable in an independent Scotland, no such initiative seems even remotely possible via Westminster.

If Thatcherism was the catalyst for devolution, rejection of the ConDem/Labour consensus represents the next logical step to independence.     

Independence will also allow a fully-sovereign parliament to abolish despised legislation like the Westminster-imposed bedroom tax.

Full tax-raising and spending powers could, instead, promote proper funding of environmentally sustainable energy resources like wind and wave power. And while the pumping of more North Sea oil will make Scotland, like Norway, one of the most revenue-rich countries in the world, it's a resource that could also be used to fund serious green initiatives that lead us away from destructive carbon dependency. 

While proposals on currency and central banking are to be detailed in a coming Scottish Government White Paper (November 2013), these are not, contrary to elevated fears, changes that will affect basic macro-economic arrangements.  

The Yes campaign have sought to allay fear-laden claims over a proposed currency union, monetary linkages and other transitional details.  

There is, alternatively, a valid case for a future single Scottish pound and clear detachment from the Bank of England. If independence is to mean anything it must, ultimately, involve real powers to determine a state's own financial policies and every political decision flowing from it.

That, of course, will also involve meaningful resistance to much higher forces of global financial orthodoxy.  

Debate over such options and challenges will go on, just as they do elsewhere. But, crucially, it's within the context of an independent parliament that people will have greater say and electoral influence on how those currency, monetary and other financial instruments evolve.    

In this regard, independence can also be a rejection of those anti-European forces whose core purpose is to protect elite interests in the City of London.

Cameron is pledging a referendum in 2015 that may lead to the UK's exit from Europe - a move which would not likely be supported by most voters in Scotland.

It's notable that while not a single newspaper in Scotland openly supports Scottish independence (the Sunday Herald seems more sympathetic, but the bias extends across the UK media and beyond - though the rise of social media may be countering that), many of those same externally-owned corporate outlets are eagerly talking-up Britain's exit from Europe. 

Contrary to Unionist and media fearmongering, Scotland would most likely remain part of the EU from the outset and could negotiate any post-independence place in Europe with relative ease.

Some in Scotland, many on the left, may, of course, oppose continued membership, just as differences of opinion prevail over any adopting of the euro. 

But, again, the key point is that, whatever those issues and feelings, independence would allow people in Scotland to make their own decisions on these matters.

Determining foreign and defence policy
Independence provides the chance to take full control of national defence and foreign policy.

This is crucial in two key regards. First and foremost, it serves an imperative moral duty not to pursue war policies devised to kill other people in foreign lands. 

Control of foreign policy means we don't have to follow illegal and aggressive wars waged against innocent civilians in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, nor see the need to raise mass armies and send soldiers to die for selfish corporate-political interests.

As a UN member, Scotland would also retain direct diplomatic powers to oppose states acting in imperialist and apartheid ways. 

Any ongoing and urgent opposition to a Scotland still tentatively tied into Nato would, likewise, be more effectively waged within a situation of independence.

The second key, related benefit of a non-aggressive foreign policy is that states usually positioned against warfare and high military expenditure are much more likely to prioritise social and health spending - putting the economy of life before the economy of death.

Why follow Westminster and continue paying astronomical sums for inhuman wars and useless militarism (over £37 billion in Afghanistan) when that money could be spent on hospitals, schools and social-serving jobs?

Removal of nuclear weapons
Independence offers the greatest ever opportunity to remove nuclear weapons of mass destruction from Faslane, while making it difficult to locate them anywhere else in the rest of the UK.

A consistent majority of Scots favour removing nuclear weapons. If the banning of such WMD was included in a new independent constitution, we would be doing ourselves and the wider world a huge service.

Contrary to the standard 'protect defence jobs' line, the money saved could be redirected into non-militarist retraining/jobs and public services. A detailed study from Scottish CND and the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) on the 'risk' of cancelling Trident "showed that the number of jobs at risk was far less than often claimed and that more jobs would be created if the money was reallocated to other projects."

As Scottish CND also note:
"A legal opinion by Rabinder Singh QC and Professor Christine Chinkin, Matrix Chambers, on The Maintenance and Possible Replacement of the Trident Nuclear Missile System concluded that a replacement would constitute a breach of Article VI of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and would be a material breach of the treaty itself."
If there was no other point in voting Yes, this, in itself, would be a vital single reason for approving independence. 

Peace and security without the immoral burden and enormous, wasteful costs.

A model state
In seeking to build a more equal, just and nuclear-free country, Scotland can act as a working, progressive model of development for others to follow. 

We help ourselves while showing a different way for fellow global citizens - politically, economically and even culturally. 

One needn't be a 'nationalist' - I'm not - to support independence. Nor do we need to covet or proclaim our 'Scottishness' in the various fields of achievement - it doesn't ultimately matter where an artist, philosopher, sportsperson or other noted individual hails from - though it's good to see Artists for Independence give thoughtful voice to what that 'identity' means and what better things independence could help achieve. 

In that vein, wouldn't it be a source of quiet pride to say that the place you live in is trying to do something alternative, something more egalitarian, something that others might also aspire to?  

In advancing a tolerant, outward internationalism, rather than inward nationalism and other old sectarian fears, we have the opportunity to develop a more mature, inclusive and imaginative cultural landscape, one that doesn't depend on narrow jingoism, but, in the spirit of Robert Burns, a compassionate and generous celebration of humanity at home and abroad. 

That man to man, the world o'er,
Shall brithers be for a' that.

Feel a little confidence. 
Use a little sense.
Show a little vision. 
Have a little courage.


Michael Stephenson said...

I doubt Holyrood will seriously oppose the US Empire if it's independent.

It will become a US lackey just like every other country in Europe.

Not that that's a reason to vote for the Union, I just doubt your hopes about foreign policy will come to fruition in an independent Scotland.
Although I hope they do.

I have a feeling Scotland would give up Snowden in a heartbeat if he seeked asylum in Scotland, for example.

John Hilley said...

Thanks Michael.

Yes, these are valid concerns. We just can't underestimate the overarching power of the US or the higher corporate forces that govern ALL countries.

And the immediate prospects of Scotland becoming another Venezuela or Ecuador ready to protect good moral people like Snowden or Assange isn't apparent to me either.

And yet, one still has reasonable hopes of positive incremental movement towards something that, motivated by a broad public antagonism to US/UK-driven warfare, is relatively resistant to the demands of Empire.

It's worth noting, for example, how a Scottish government resisted such US/UK pressure over releasing Megrahi - and didn't suffer any serious popular deficit for doing so.

The SNP leadership's dismal decision to retain Nato links post-independence - just narrowly endorsed after being opposed by about half the party - helps illustrate your misgivings - even if it seems a cautious effort by Salmond not to scare away Yes voters.

Yet, with a specific commitment to ditch nuclear weapons, an electorate in any independent state would still be in a much better position to oppose such ties and demands.

As I say, no panacea. No immediate socialist republic.

Nor are governments and leaders ever to be fully trusted. Incorporation of politicians and bending to authority is always expected.

But that doesn't mean we relinquish the tactical opportunity of independence to advance such causes.

With control over foreign policy, anti-war and other street activism in an independent state wouldn't feel like the futile exercise it does to many within the prevailing system.


Michael Stephenson said...

Another thing to bear in mind is the Scottish public, I think that like the left in the US so easily abandoned the causes of the antiwar activists once they got their guy in office.

So too you may find these higher causes will become unimportant once the policies are Scottish, rather than English to many Scots.

John Hilley said...


I think the anti-war/nuclear movement in Scotland would, most likely, intensify were Scotland to go independent, with many more seeing this as the more-achievable context for opposing and removing.