At this time of year we inevitably look back over the past twelve-months and forward to what lies ahead.
Scots around the world will think of home: some will shed a tear as the bells ring-out. Wherever their travels have taken them, whatever life they have made for themselves in a new country, for many the pride of being a Scot still burns strong, as it should.
For a nation of just five-million, the contribution Scots have made to the world is remarkable, and is something of which we – all of us who claim Scottish nationality - can be justly proud. In the fields of engineering, law, academia, business, entertainment and sport, Scots have excelled for generations and continue at the fore.
Of course, we don’t have a God-given right to excel, nor are we pre-disposed to success by virtue of being born within the borders of Scotland: the fact so many of our citizens continue to struggle in poverty disproves such a proposition. However, what history and contemporary achievement show is that, given the opportunity, Scots can prosper.
Those of our fellow Scots who have built a life for themselves elsewhere will raise a glass at the bells, and many will tell anyone who is prepared to listen of the great country in which they were raised. They are proud of their country, proud of Scotland. Those exiles will talk of their family, the people who loved them, raised them, educated them, trained them, made them what they are today. They are proud of those people, proud of the Scots.
It is, therefore, ironic and very sad that, back home in Scotland, some of their fellow Scots are prepared to rubbish the country and belittle the skills and abilities of its citizens.
As we enter 2013, Scots who favour our continued membership of the British Union are already resorting to scandalous scare stories in their attempts to frighten us from re-taking our political independence. In attempting to justify their position, those Scots-born Unionists tell us we are too wee, too poor and too stupid to govern our country. According to them, uniquely amongst all the peoples of the world, only the Scots are incapable of running their own affairs.
I have absolutely no doubt Scots are capable of successfully governing Scotland. Already, the SNP Scottish Government has proved itself very capable in the areas of power devolved from Westminster. Yet, if we think back to the devolution referendum of 1997, Scots-born Tories told us it would be a disaster for Scotland if we took even the limited powers on offer at the time. They told us we were ‘better together’ within the British Union. They were proved wrong.
Now, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have joined with the Tories in another ‘better together’ British Unionist campaign and they are telling us, again, that it would be a disaster for Scotland if we took all the powers of independence. They are wrong, again.
The sky didn’t fall in when we voted to take the powers of devolution, and it will remain firmly in place when, in 2014, we vote to take back the powers of independence, powers that the people of every other nation on the planet take for granted, powers that simply make us a normal country.
As they talk-down the ability of Scots to run their own affairs, the absurd position adopted by the so-called ‘Scottish’ Labour Party is that they would rather see multi-millionaire, posh-boy Tories govern Scotland from London, than have a Labour First Minister and a Labour Government in an independent Scotland.
In the last couple of weeks the Scots-born British Unionists have latched onto what they describe as ‘uncertainty’ over the position of an independent Scotland in relation to membership of the European Union. Apparently, any such uncertainty should mean that we vote against running our own affairs and just let the Tories take decisions on our behalf. In reality, there is no uncertainty: there is no legal mechanism for expelling people who are already citizens of the EU, and Scots have had that right since 1973.
Personally, I would rather Scotland was not a member of the European Union: the organisation has travelled far from its original ideal of raising the living standards of peoples across the continent, and is now little more than an adjunct of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the multi-national capitalist financiers who create poverty and misery (and profits for themselves) wherever they go.
Of course, until we retake our political independence, Scots will not have the power to decide on such issues.
We have also recently seen an intervention by a Scot living in England, no less a figure than the Labour-supporting manager of Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson. The former Govan boy told us it is unfair that he will not have a vote in the independence referendum.
Sir Alex will not have a vote because he is on the Electoral Register for the Cheshire constituency in which he lives, the same reason he has not had a vote in the Scottish Parliament elections of 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011.
Everyone registered to vote in a Scottish constituency will have their say in the independence referendum, irrespective of whether or not they were born in Scotland, and that is fair. Of course, if Sir Alex genuinely felt so strongly about the matter, and was not simply trying to muddy the waters on behalf of the British Unionist political party he supports, then he could actually forego his vote in his local constituency and, instead, apply to have his name entered on the Electoral Register at an address in Scotland. Don’t hold your breath.
In around 20 months’ time, the future of Scotland will be in the hands of the people of Scotland – all of the people of Scotland, not just those who happened to be born in the country. All residents of Scotland, 16 years of age and older, will have the right to vote in the independence referendum.
Happy New Year!