Friday, 29 August 2014

Different visions

There are now less than three-weeks until the people of Scotland take the most momentous decision in our nation’s history.

I’ve written before about how Scots have never before been asked our opinion on whether we want to remain within the British Union or restore our political independence.  Those of us registered to vote in the referendum on September 18th are the first people in 300 years to be allowed a say in shaping Scotland’s future.

If we reject the opportunity presented by independence, we will be telling London-based political parties to do what they want with our lives.  We will have turned down the chance to elect our own governments, run our own country and represent ourselves on the world stage.  We will have told the international community that we don’t consider ourselves to be a normal country, and that multi-millionaire Tories like David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnston will speak for us.

According to a poll carried out last week following a televised debate, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond comprehensively defeated Alistair Darling, Leader of the British Unionist ‘Better Together’ campaign. 

This close to polling day, the general public’s belief that Salmond and the pro-independence message triumphed over the British Unionists means the momentum is firmly behind a ‘YES’ vote.  Canvassing of real people, rather than opinion polls – have you ever been asked your opinion by a polling company – also shows ‘YES’ ahead, particularly in working class areas across the country.

In the past week I’ve spoken with groups of students and it was difficult to find anyone intending to vote ‘No’ in the referendum.  There were just two young people who stated they would back the British Union, with another handful who indicated they were still undecided on how they would vote.  The overwhelming majority are committed to ‘YES’ and to building a vibrant, independent Scotland.

For me as a supporter of independence, the most pleasing outcome of my discussion with the students was the number who had reached their decision to vote ‘YES’ after doing their own research, rather than simply reading leaflets produced by both sides.  Another significant issue to emerge was that young Scots do not trust the BBC or so-called mainstream newspapers.  The most common opinion voiced was that the media, in general, is biased towards the British Unionist side.  It was clear that young people are reaching their decisions on how they will vote based on the whole array of information available, and are rejecting the British Unionist propaganda spewed-out every day by mainly English-owned newspapers and the BBC.

Last week also saw the first of the official Referendum broadcasts from the ‘YES’ and ‘No’ campaigns.  The equivalents of Party Political Broadcasts ahead of an election, the messages were shown on BBC Scotland and STV.  General consensus appears to be that the British Unionist side blundered badly in a broadcast that has gone viral on social media under the heading of ‘Patronising woman’.

The ‘Better Together’ broadcast had an actress portraying a Scottish woman who has apparently been too busy to consider how she will vote in the referendum, unlike her husband whom, she tells us, never stops going on about it.  Then, in the space of two-minutes and over a cup of tea, she decides to vote ‘No’ - indicating that Scottish women don’t need to consider the issues affecting their lives and their country’s future: apparently that kind of thing is for men.  The British Unionist message was that women should just vote ‘No’ because they are busy and independence will mean things would change. 

Against the negative and patronising message of the ‘No’ campaign’s broadcast was the contribution from ‘YES Scotland’, which featured a range of people looking towards independence to actually deliver change...change for the better.

The first Referendum broadcasts perfectly summed-up the difference between the visions of the two campaigns.  The ‘No’ side wants to keep power in the hands of British Unionist political parties based in London, and they are prepared to patronise Scots while attempting to scare us into rejecting independence.  Meanwhile, the ‘YES’ campaign drives a positive message of how things can greatly improve for all the citizens of Scotland if we have the confidence to take control of our lives by reclaiming the full powers that only come with independence.

Ultimately, the greatest advantage of the ‘YES’ campaign is that we don’t need to speculate on Scotland’s future if we reject independence.  It will be a continuation of what we have now: governed by Tories we actually rejected at the ballot box; savage cuts to public spending; welfare policies such as the Bedroom Tax; thousands of families reliant on Foodbanks to stave-off hunger and 100,000 more Scottish children pushed into poverty; zero-hours contracts and wages so low people in work have to claim benefits to survive; nuclear weapons of mass destruction stored within 30 miles of Scotland’s largest city.  These are not scare-stories - they are the reality of Scotland, today, within the British Union.  If we reject independence we will be condemning ourselves and future generations of Scots to continued austerity imposed by London-based political parties.

There is nothing to be feared about independence: it is the normal status of nations around the world.  Of all the countries who have re-taken their independence from Britain, not one has subsequently wanted to change its mind and return to rule from London.

Independence is simply being a normal country: it gives us the power to shape our nation and our lives.  We should grasp that opportunity with both hands on September 18th.

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