Grasping the thistle

The first in the Scottish Government’s series of papers laying the groundwork for a fresh case for independence has been published. With its publication the second independence referendum campaign has now officially got underway. Today’s paper, entitled : ‘Independence in the Modern World. Wealthier, Happier, Fairer: Why Not Scotland?’ looks at an uncomfortable truth that opponents of independence are keen to gloss over, why is it that every comparable northern European country which is similar to Scotland in size does so much better than Scotland does as a part of the UK.

This is true across diverse metrics, equality, wealth, productivity and the happiness of their citizens. Yet these countries often do not possess the many advantages that Scotland does, such as Scotland’s wealth of natural resources, the skills and talents of a high educated English speaking population It seems clear from the evidence presented by this paper that the status quo is not allowing Scotland to fulfill its potential, and that the UK economic model, and Westminster decision-making, are holding the country back. The paper demonstrates, objectively and with an abundance of supporting information and examples that we are decidedly not “better together”. As the SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown pointed out : “A decade of Tory austerity coupled with a Brexit that Scotland didn’t vote for has made us poorer.”

And as the First Minister said in an interview on the BBC this morning, if the people of Scotland had known in 2014 the path that British governments were going to take in the years since the referendum she has no doubt that Scotland would have given a very different answer to the referendum question in the ballot in September that year. Indeed the failure of the Better Together parties to deliver on the promises and commitments that they made to Scotland in the 2014 campaign is by itself reason enough to revisit the question of independence. After all if the electorate cannot hold politicians to account at the ballot box for the promises they made, then democracy is dead. The people of Scotland gave their verdict on whether they wanted another independence referendum at last year’s Holyrood election, no matter how much the Better Together parties might wish to argue otherwise, the question of whether Scotland wants to revisit the independence issue has been asked and has been settled. Democracy demands another independence referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon has also addressed the question of how the referendum will be held saying that it will take place with or without a Section 30 order. Speaking to the BBC the First Minister suggested the Scottish Government would explore other avenues to hold an independence referendum outside of the route used in 2014. One way or another, Scotland will have its say. The future of this nation is for the people of Scotland to decide, not Boris Johnson.

The building a new Scotland series of documents will together form the prospectus for an independent Scotland, addressing the huge potential an independent Scotland will have and challenges that will be faced after a Yes vote. The First Minister said that future papers, which are already in development, would address issues such as international trade and currency. I do not propose in this blog piece to rehash all the arguments presented in the paper. The best thing you can do is to read the 72 page document for yourself. You can download it here in pdf format by clicking the following link : Independence in the Modern World. Wealthier, Happier, Fairer: Why Not Scotland pdf. CLICK HERE.

Of course finances and the economy are vitally important and I have not the slightest doubt that independence is key to unleashing Scotland’s immense economic potential and using it for the benefit of the people of Scotland instead of syphoning it off to give a further boost to the already wealthy city of London and South East of England. With independence Scotland can be more prosperous, fairer, and more just. However these are topics which are best addressed by people with greater financial and economic expertise than I possess and in the weeks and months ahead I will use this blog to give a platform to some of their arguments and ideas. However today as the starting pistol is fired on a reinvigorated and renewed independence campaign, what I’d like to talk about instead is a more profound and fundamental reason why independence is vital.

I touched on this at the end of yesterday’s blog piece in which I pointed out that in the eyes of the rest of the world as a part of the UK Scotland is tarred with the ugly British nationalist exceptionalist brush which is so enthusiastically wielded by the Westminster Conservatives and the Johnson regime. Independence gives Scotland the opportunity to define itself as a nation, to say to the world what it stands for and what it represents.

Today the Johnson regime is determined to press ahead with its callous cruel and immoral policy of sending asylum seekers on a one way ticket to Rwanda despite the policy being denounced by the UN as an egregious breach of international law. The British Government is also going ahead with its decision to rip up an international treaty which it itself negotiated and in the process risk a trade war with the EU just as people are struggling to cope with the worst cost of living crisis for decades. This is what the UK is now, a law breaking state governed by a liar and a law breaker where corruption, entitlement and privilege enrich a few at the expense of the many, where the rich and connected are free to ignore those rules that they find inconvenient and which feeds the masses flags, the glorification of the military and the monarchy instead of a dignified standard of living. If we remain with Westminster the future is one of continuing decline, of a hollowing out of democracy, of a further descent into a right wing British nationalist nostalgia where flags, parades and royal events substitute for the participation of citizens in power and decision making.

Scotland doesn’t have to be like this. We can be better than what Johnson and the sclerotic and corrupt Westminster system can offer. Scotland can be a beacon of respect for democracy, the rule of law and human rights. Scotland can be a nation which prioritises fairness and equality, and which is an honest and trustworthy partner to its international friends and allies. We can be a nation which is seamlessly integrated into the network of advanced European economies. Scotland can be a nation which looks to the future, a future which respects the environment and strives to build a sustainable economy so that generations to come can continue to share equally in the bounty which this rich land of ours has to offer. All we have to do is to grasp the thistle.

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