As the bells ring-in a new year it’s common to reflect on the past 12 months – and 2014 will certainly be remembered as a momentous time for Scotland.
We had the opportunity to re-establish our country as a normal independent nation, but a majority decided to remain governed by and from a parliament in London. A referendum on a country’s independence is a truly historic event, and the result stemming from it - support for continued membership of the British Union – will rightly be accorded significant historical status. However, what has happened since the referendum on September 18th is now more likely to be the foundation on which historians will write the defining chapter in Scotland’s story.
We now know victory for the British Unionist side was secured through scaremongering and lies. What swung-it for the London-based Unionist coalition was a ‘vow’, made just days before the vote, which promised to deliver significant new powers for Scotland within the UK. Their argument was that, if we rejected independence, Westminster would give us so much power over our own affairs it would be as if we were independent but without any possible constitutional upheaval.
The ‘vow’, as it was called on the front-page of the Labour-supporting Daily Record, was signed by the leaders of the three main British Unionist political parties – David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg. To add supposed additional ‘credibility’ to the commitment, it was endorsed and promoted by former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown who promised he would “ensure” it was delivered by Westminster following a ‘No’ vote in the referendum.
Brown said the ‘vow’ would deliver “as close to federalism in the UK” as possible, arguing this would give Scotland control over virtually everything, with a continuing UK-wide shared responsibility for issues like defence and foreign affairs.
Within days of Unionists securing a 10% majority in the referendum vote, the ‘vow’ disintegrated and Gordon Brown was reduced to asking people to sign a petition supporting the commitment he previously said he would “ensure” was delivered by Westminster.
On top of a campaign that, from day-one, used scare-tactics to frighten Scots from taking the powers of independence – powers virtually every other nation on the planet takes for granted – we now had Unionist victory being secured with blatant lies.
What has emerged from Westminster, and by way of the Smith Commission, since the referendum is a proposal to devolve some additional powers to the Scottish Parliament, which, while a small step in the right direction, leaves the Scottish Government without control over vital areas, such as our national economy, most taxation, welfare, employment policy and pensions. The ‘vow’ to deliver significant powers was a lie: Gordon Brown’s “close to federalism” was a lie.
To London-based politicians, keeping control of Scotland and our vast natural resources was absolutely essential: without Scotland’s annual financial contribution to the Westminster exchequer, UK plc would be bankrupt. In that situation, scare-stories and lies were just ‘tools in the box’ to be used in ensuring victory for the British coalition of Tories, Labour, Lib Dems, UKIP and other far-right, racist, sectarian, bigoted organisations.
However, the British victory has come at a severe cost to those involved in what many Scots now see as a betrayal. People who trusted Gordon Brown and believed the ‘vow’ quickly saw they had been used.
The anti-independence Better Together campaign was funded by rich, mainly London-based Tories, but it was Labour Party activists who did the organisation’s dirty-work in Scotland. By standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the toxic Tories, by arguing for the right of the Tories to continue governing Scotland from London (even when Scots have rejected them at the ballot box), Labour is now seen as just another part of the British establishment, willing to lie to Scots in order to maintain Westminster’s control over our country and our lives.
Since the referendum, the Tory-led UK Government has announced further ‘austerity’ measures, cuts to social security and continued below-inflation wage rises (which are actually real-terms wage cuts). Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne argues these policies are necessary to continue his proclaimed ‘economic recovery’.
However, a close look at official UK Government figures released last week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals the true nature of Britain’s ‘economic recovery’. The UK Government is continuing to borrow billions-of-pounds, despite claiming it would reduce the national deficit: this is additional debt that has to be repaid.
Meanwhile, the ONS data shows median income in the UK has fallen by 1.4% to £23,300 – the lowest level since 2003 – while income inequality has continued to grow. The reality, therefore, is that any ‘economic recovery’ is being enjoyed by the already rich, while the poor continue to get poorer. Mike Danson, Professor of Enterprise Policy at Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt University, described the situation, saying, “Most of the population are worse off in real terms than they were a decade ago, and those on lower incomes are significantly poorer.”
Remember those Labour Party activists campaigning with the Tories and telling us we should reject controlling our own affairs because we are ‘Better Together’?
The true nature of the Labour Party has been exposed – it has become just another part of the London-centred British establishment. Even the party’s new leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy MP, reflects the Tory-clone nature of what Labour has become, having previously backed benefit cuts, the introduction of tuition fees for students and the illegal American-led war in Iraq.
Labour’s scaremongering and lies on behalf of the Tory-funded Better Together campaign has resulted in Scots rejecting the party. Poll after poll shows support for Labour is down to around 25%, while the SNP is recording unprecedented highs of up to 50% - and these relate to voting intentions for next May’s UK General Election. If those levels of support were translated into seats, the SNP would almost certainly hold the balance of power in the UK Parliament – and party bosses have already ruled-out any support for a Tory Government. Labour, meanwhile, could be reduced to just a handful of MPs in Scotland.
Without a shadow of doubt, Labour’s partnership with the Tories in the referendum campaign, and the fact they were prepared to lie to the people of Scotland in support of continued Tory austerity imposed from London, are major factors in the demise of the party. Labour betrayed Scotland, and Scots no longer trust them.
The referendum was the most historic event of 2014: and when history books are written they will show the British Unionist side won. However, the results announced in the early hours of September 19th were not the end of Scotland’s fight to restore our national independence and the full powers that come with it. In fact, the sunrise that autumn morning shone light on a new beginning for Scotland.
The referendum transformed our country. More and more people are now ready to re-take control of Scotland and of their own lives. More and more of us believe in our own abilities to build a better, fairer country.
There will be another referendum, and it could be as early as 2017: Scotland will be a normal independent country.
In the meantime, the May UK General Election gives us the first chance to strike back at the Scotland-based Unionists who betrayed Scottish interests. If everyone who voted ‘YES’ in the referendum backs their local SNP candidate at the election we can unseat Labour representatives who worked in coalition with the Tories. It’s vital we don’t split the pro-independence vote: we can vote SNP, Greens or Scottish Socialist Party at the 2016 Scottish Parliament Election, but at the UK Election we need to unite behind the party best-placed to beat the Unionists, and that is the SNP.
May 7 2015 – it’s payback time!