Friday, 19 October 2012

We are the Scots who can make history

Last Monday (October 15) was an historic day for Scotland, and not just because the sun shone in October.

An agreement signed by Alex Salmond and David Cameron means that, for the first time, Scots will be asked their opinion on Scotland’s future. What actually happened as a result of the UK Prime Minister and Scotland’s First Minister appending their names to the ‘Edinburgh accord’ was that powers under Section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 were transferred from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament. Those powers remove legal barriers that prevented the Scottish Parliament organising and holding a referendum on the constitutional future of Scotland. All of which means there will be an Independence Referendum in 2014.

I’ve campaigned all of my adult life for Scotland to retake the status, powers and responsibilities of a normal, independent nation – and now, at last, I will get the chance to vote on that proposition.

The fact we have reached this historic stage on our nation’s journey marks a remarkable achievement for the independence movement and, in particular, the Scottish National Party. It is not so very long ago that the SNP was considered a fringe party in Scottish politics, but now it forms our country’s government and one with an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament. To have made such a transformation speaks volumes for the party, particularly when we consider that not one of the ‘national’ newspapers sold in Scotland supports independence.

At the last Scottish Parliament Election, in 2011, some newspapers reluctantly gave support to the SNP, mainly on the basis that Alex Salmond was considered the best candidate for First Minister, and the principle party of opposition, Labour, offered no positive vision for Scotland. However, while backing the SNP/Salmond ticket to form the devolved administration at Holyrood, the same newspapers stopped short of supporting independence.

Media support – even in some cases just a lack of hostility – certainly helped propel the SNP to its great victory in May 2011, but now most newspapers will take-up a strongly anti-independence position, which will make all the more difficult the fight to restore to Scotland the status of a normal, independent nation.

Our so-called ‘national’ newspapers are mainly owned by companies based in England and take their editorial positions from head-office. Like the pro-British Union political parties – Tory, Labour, Liberal Democrat – these pro-British Union newspapers support independence and the right to self-determination for every nation on the planet...except Scotland. This opposition to Scottish independence is couched in paternalistic language - the benevolent English nation is saving us Jocks from ourselves.

The British Unionist line is that Scotland without English financial support would be an economic basket case, and such indoctrination has been very successful, which is why you will hear Scots of all ages repeat the mantra that we couldn’t stand on our own two-feet, we are too poor. Of course, if we really were such a weak and poor country, that would actually be an argument for independence, given our economy has been run by British Unionist governments for the past 300 years.

The reality, though, is that if Scotland was an economic drain on England they would have parted with us long ago. Scotland, with our abundant natural resources, is the cash-cow that keeps the entire British economy from bankruptcy. Anyone who doubts this proposition should Google the ‘McCrone Report’, the 1970s document that looked at the potential economic future of an independent Scotland. Needless to say, the report was classified ‘Top Secret’ by the British government and locked away in Whitehall’s files until it recently came to light as part of a Freedom of Information request.

More contemporary figures show an independent Scotland, with control of our North Sea oil reserves, would be the 6th wealthiest nation in the world. The standard of living enjoyed by Scots would be far superior to that currently experienced as part of the British Union, where 1-in-4 children live in poverty and over 2,000 pensioners die every winter because they are poor and can’t afford to pay gas and electricity prices charged by private companies.

The figures showing an independent Scotland would be the 6th wealthiest country in the world – the UK is currently 16th – come from the Annual International GDP per capita data produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Estimates of annual Scottish GDP levels produced as part of the Scottish National Accounts Project (SNAP), Annual Scottish population estimates produced by the General Register Office for Scotland (GROS), and Annual GDP and population figures for the UK produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Norway, with a population smaller than Scotland, also discovered oil in its sector of the North Sea in the 1970s but, as an independent country in full control of its own affairs, it has built-up a ‘Futures Fund’ that now stands at over £300bn and which is used to the benefit of the Norwegian people. Norway is currently the second most-wealthy nation in the world, while Scotland – a devolved region within the British Union and without control over our own affairs – has some of the highest unemployment and worst deprivation in Western Europe.

Ah but, the oil is running out, the British Unionists tell us. In fact, they’ve been telling us that for forty years, while the true position shows that, today, around 40% of the total oil reserves in the Scottish sector of the North Sea remain to be exploited, which represents a wholesale financial value in the region of £1trillion – and that is the main reason UK governments of all persuasions want to keep Scotland in the British Union.

Currently, Scotland contributes 9.6% of total UK taxation but receives back in public expenditure just 9.3%, which means we are paying £1,000 extra for every Scottish man, woman and child – yet the British Unionists have the cheek to tell us we are ‘subsidy junkies’ and that we are too poor to stand on our own two-feet as an independent nation.

Back in 1707, Scotland was sold into a political union with England. More accurately, England took control of Scotland and has governed us ever since. The ordinary people of Scotland rioted in the streets in opposition to the formation of the British Union, but their opinion was ignored and, in the intervening 305 years, not once have Scots been asked whether or not they wished to remain within that British Union. The Independence Referendum in 2014 is our first opportunity to have our say.

Over the next two years, British Unionists – political parties and the media – will bombard us with every imaginable lie, distortion and dirty trick in their efforts to keep control of Scotland and our wealth. For our part, we must overcome the Scottish cringe, the inferiority complex that has seen so many Scots meekly accept that, alone amongst the peoples of the world, it is only us who are ‘too wee, too poor, and too stupid’ to govern our own country.

We have nothing to fear from once-again becoming a normal, independent nation. We owe it to our children, our grandchildren and future generations of Scots to get off our knees and build a better, fairer Scotland.

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