Friday, 27 December 2013

New year - new future

Scotland is the home of Hogmanay – the celebration of putting behind us an old year and looking forward with hope to what a new year will bring. This Hogmanay, as the bells ring-in 2014, there will be an added national relevance to our hopes for the coming year.

On September 18, for the first time in 307 years, we will be given the chance to have our say on whether or not Scotland should be a normal, independent nation.

Of course, Scotland is actually one of the oldest nations in the world. Back in 1320 Scots nobles and religious leaders petitioned the Pope, seeking recognition of Scotland’s right to exist as an independent country. In the 14th Century, in addition to his religious duties as leader of the universal Roman Catholic Church, the Pope also effectively performed a role similar to today’s head of the United Nations.

After deliberation, the papal decree found Scotland to be an independent country, a status that was to be recognised by other nations, particularly England. The 1320 Declaration of Arbroath (the document petitioning the Pope) had been produced not only to state Scotland’s right to independence, but to seek an end to invasions by English armies pursuing their king’s claim to overlordship of Scotland and its people.

Almost 400 years later, in 1707, England finally achieved by economic clout what it had been unable to do through military power. Officially, England securing control of Scotland was termed an act of union, supposedly entered into willingly by both nations. However, the reality told a very different story.

Even today, many historians would have us believe Scotland was skint – a result of financial losses caused by the economic disaster of the Darien Project, which had been an attempt by Scots to emulate England by building its own empire, in this case by colonising land in the Isthmus of Panama. The Act of Union between Scotland and England was, those historians still tell us, an economic necessity – England agreed to cover Scotland’s financial losses, with the Scots accepting a unification of parliaments as the price. Far from a coming-together of equal partners, though, the terms of the union set out that the Scots parliament in Edinburgh should cease to exist, with a new British legislature sitting in the building that housed the English parliament in London.

What really happened 300 years ago has great similarities to the more recent economic catastrophe caused by the greed-motivated toxic dealings of international bankers and capitalists

Scotland, as a nation, was far from skint in 1707. The money lost in pursuit of building a Scottish empire through the exploitation of others belonged to individual members of the so-called Scots nobility. It was not Scotland’s national debt that England effectively wrote-off: in return for control of Scotland, England bailed-out individual Scottish Lords and Earls, the same people who formed the unelected Scots parliament and who dutifully kept their side of the bargain by voting for an Act of Union with England.

Ordinary Scots had no say in the matter. In fact, records and newspapers of the time show that the people of Scotland rioted in the streets in opposition to union with England. Our national bard, Robert Burns, summed-up the feeling of ordinary Scots when he described the Lords and Earls who sold Scotland to England as being “bought and sold for English gold, such a parcel o’ rogues in a nation”.

Of course, that is all ancient history. While it is important to know the facts of how the British Union came about, it should not be our past that determines how we vote in the Independence Referendum, it must be our future.

Only by taking full control of our country, through the powers that only come with independence, can we build a better, fairer, more prosperous and caring Scotland.

If we vote ‘No’ next September and remain within the British Union, we will continue to have imposed on us a Tory-led Government for which we did not vote. We will continue to have imposed on us austerity measures that are devastating communities and families. If we remain in the British Union we will continue to have no say on young Scots being sent to kill or be killed in illegal, immoral, imperialist wars. If we remain within the British Union we will continue to have imposed on us – in our waters and on our land – nuclear weapons of mass destruction that cost us billions-of-pounds. If we remain within the British Union we will be declining to take responsibility for the governance of our own country, we will be accepting that Tories should govern Scotland from London, even after we have rejected them at elections. If we vote ‘No’ next September and remain within the British Union, we will be saying to the world that we don’t consider Scotland to be a normal nation.

The ‘No to independence’ (No to Scotland) campaign will use every scare-story imaginable in their attempt to keep control of Scotland and our natural resources - but if independence was really so scary, why is it the normal state of affairs for nations around the world? If independence is really so bad, why have 59 countries taken their independence from the United Kingdom – from America in 1776 to Brunei in 1984 – with not one of them ever wanting to give up their right to govern themselves and return to control from London?

Independence isn’t scary or dangerous, it’s normal. Independence simply means the people who live in Scotland electing a government that has the full powers to implement policies to meet the needs and aspirations of the nation. Independence means being in full control of our country and our future.

Of course, it isn’t just our future we will be determining in the Independence Referendum. We may be the ones who get to put a cross on a ballot paper, but how we vote will decide the future of our children, our grandchildren and generations yet to be born. We owe it to them to retake our independence: we owe it to them to take full control of our country and build a better, fairer Scotland that delivers hope and opportunity for all.

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