Friday, 26 September 2014

The Referendum



That was the referendum, then, and a majority of Scots voted to remain subjects of the United Kingdom rather than citizens of an independent Scotland.

I’ve campaigned for independence all of my adult life, so the result was not what I wanted.  Friends have said I must have been “disappointed” with the outcome, but disappointment wasn’t what I felt last Friday morning when British Unionists secured victory.  I was, and remain, angry.

I’m a democrat, so I accept the will of the people as expressed through the ballot box.  My anger doesn’t stem from people not voting ‘YES’, but from the demographics of the vote and the reasons many Scots decided to vote ‘No’.

A post-referendum poll, carried out by the company owned by British Union supporter Lord Oakshot, revealed that 73% of pensioners voted for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom.  In contrast, 71% of first-time voters aged 16 and 17 voted ‘YES’.

Areas with high levels of unemployment, poverty and deprivation tended to vote for independence, while more affluent communities where residents, in the main, enjoy a high standard of living, supported continued membership of the British Union.

The young and the poor had the courage to vote for a new country with all the powers necessary to radically transform Scottish society.  The young and the poor had a vision of a better, fairer country where hope and opportunity are available to everyone.  The young and poor wanted change and were prepared to see a different approach to government, one where meeting the needs and aspirations of ordinary men, women and children are the primary consideration.  Broadly speaking, the old and the wealthy said ‘No’, you can’t have it.  That is why I was, and remain, angry.

The ‘No’ campaign’s ‘Project Fear’ served its purpose: it scared thousands into thinking that Scotland becoming a normal independent country was fraught with danger, despite the contrary evidence of every other normal independent country in the world.  Because of their role in the deception, the BBC will never again be trusted by thousands of Scots. 

Many pensioners voted ‘No’ because they believed the British Unionist lie that their pension would not be guaranteed in an independent Scotland, even though the UK Government had already confirmed there was no danger to pensions if Scotland voted ‘YES’.  In fact, the statement from the Westminster Department for Work & Pensions could not have been clearer, saying: “If Scotland does become independent this will have no effect on your State Pension, you will continue to receive it just as you do at present.”

British Unionists continued to lie about State Pensions, including as pensioners were entering Polling Places to cast their vote.  To their shame, Labour Party activists were heard telling senior citizens they would lose their pension if they voted for independence.

It’s a very hollow victory that had to rely on frightening old people, particularly when there was nothing to fear.  The reality is that an independent Scotland, with a social democratic government almost guaranteed, is more likely to offer higher pensions and better welfare provision for our senior citizens.  Meanwhile, the State Pension within the UK is currently one of the lowest in Europe.

Another core lie from ‘Project Fear’ was aimed at people who are currently doing relatively well in terms of employment and income.  According to the British Unionist campaign, hard-working couples and families would see their taxes and mortgages rise if we voted ‘YES’.  This was based on the totally false premise that an independent Scotland would have to raise tax levels to pay for outgoings, and would have to pay more to borrow money on the international markets.  In fact, massive savings on national spending could be made in an independent Scotland – not least the billions-of-pounds currently committed to upgrading and maintaining the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system. 

It is also the case that an independent Scotland would have a diverse and successful industry-base, including food and drink with a turnover of more than £13bn every year; life sciences - £960m in 2011; creative industries - £5bn; manufacturing with annual exports of £15.4bn; tourism, employing 200,000 people and contributing £3.1bn every year to the economy.  Then, of course, there is Scotland’s oil reserves – the largest in the European Union – which are projected to generate £34.3bn over the next five years (and that is without the new massive field identified west of Shetland).  Given such a vibrant situation, the likelihood is that an independent Scotland could trade on the international markets from a much stronger position than the UK.  However, sufficient numbers of hard-working couples and families were conned into believing their standard of living would be damaged if they voted ‘YES’.

There is, of course, another section of the British Unionist campaign that would have voted ‘No’ irrespective of any evidence showing independence would actually have led to an improved standard of living for them and their families.  The Orange Order and its offshoots believed they were voting to defend a culture and a Union with England that they perceive gives the Protestant faith supremacy over others, particularly Roman Catholics.

It is a very hollow victory that had to rely on the scum who brought violence and sectarian bigotry to George Square and surrounding Glasgow streets last Friday.

The bottom line is that the British Unionist victory in the Independence Referendum was secured on lies, fear and sectarianism.  As polls showed the ‘YES’ campaign ahead just days before the referendum, the three main British Unionist political parties panicked and promised increased powers for the devolved Scottish Parliament, if we rejected independence.

The offers from the Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats were different – they couldn’t even agree on what to bribe Scots with ahead of the vote.  However, once the referendum result was announced, the London-based parties quickly united to renege on their ‘more powers’ vow.  We now know there will be no significant additional powers for the devolved Scottish Parliament.  In addition, some English MPs have publicly spoken in terms of ‘punishing’ the Scots for having the temerity to even contemplate re-taking our political independence.  One English Labour MP went as far as suggesting any further referendum on Scottish independence should be made illegal.

Many Scots believed the leaders of the London-based political parties when they made their vow promising increased devolution for Scotland within the United Kingdom.  Those Scots were conned.

Since the referendum result was announced just over a week ago, membership of the SNP has soared to over 60,000 and is still rising, that’s an increase of 40,000 in a matter of days.  Other pro-independence parties – the Greens and Scottish Socialists – have also seen large increases to membership. 

I am not alone in my anger over how the British Unionists secured victory in the referendum.  There are thousands of Scots determined to maintain the pro-independence momentum that saw almost half the country vote ‘YES’.  Huge sections of Scottish society have become politically aware and engaged because of the independence campaign and are determined to continue the fight to restore to Scotland the status of a normal independent nation.

British Unionists will find their victory of last week was built on very shaky foundations.  The ‘YES’ campaign, the biggest, most-motivated grass-roots movement Scotland has ever seen is not going away.  People are already organising local groups across the country to keep the momentum going. 

Scotland will be an independent country.

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