#Indyref: Scotland’s Once in a Lifetime Opportunity
Part two: The Pro-Independence Statement
On the 18th September Scotland has the opportunity to regain its independence and its voice in the world, writes John Deans from Yes Penicuik.
We have the opportunity to reject the politics of old and the opportunity to build a prosperous country where the people of Scotland are sovereign and the rights of everyone in Scotland to education, healthcare, housing amongst others are enshrined in a constitution. I believe that the best people to make decisions about the future of Scotland are the people who care most about it and that is the people who live, work and help shape the culture and economy of Scotland.
Let me be frank right from the start, an independent Scotland will not be a land of milk and honey and we will make mistakes, however those mistakes will be ours to make and not those forced upon us by politicians over 500 miles away with different agendas. Scotland is a small country but we have huge potential and are blessed in terms of talent, resources and creativity. With the limited powers of devolution Scotland has shown that we can do things differently from the rest of the UK and do them well. In Scotland we have chosen to provide free care for the elderly, to provide free prescriptions for the sick and to give our young people opportunity by providing free higher education. Imagine how much more we could achieve with the full powers of independence.
A vote for independence is a vote for Alex Salmond? By this rational a No vote is a vote for David Cameron, silly isn’t it? The Yes campaign includes people of all persuasions, under the Yes umbrella as well as the SNP there are the Scottish Green Party, the Scottish Socialist Party, Labour for Independence, and a rainbow of other interests. The chairman of the Yes campaign is the former Labour MP, Dennis Canavan, and its chief executive, Blair Jenkins, used to work for the BBC. The vote in September is not a vote on policy, it’s a vote for the right to set that policy for ourselves. Decisions on immigration, taxation, etc… will be made in 2016 in the first general election in an independent Scotland when you have the opportunity to vote for the party that best meets your aspirations whether that be a true Scottish Labour party, Lib Dems or any of the other parties that will have manifestos focused on the needs of Scotland and its people.
The agenda in the main stream media rarely focuses on the potential to change Scotland for the better through radical overhaul of the taxation system, increased public spending or transformative child care but instead continually focuses essentially around a few main themes including currency, EU, defence, the cost of setting up an independent Scotland and of course the elephant in the room – oil.
In terms of currency the answer is easy, we will continue to use the pound. The white paper produced by the Scottish Government as a discussion paper setting out a vision for an independent Scotland provides a number of different currency options offered by independent internationally recognised economists. These economists argue that a currency union (just as is in place right now) are in the interests of both Scotland and the rest of the UK due to close trade and financial links and that a formal union would help maintain financial stability of the pound post independence. Any denial of this is simply an attempt to frighten and confuse people, already there are cracks with leading pro-union figures admitting that a currency union would be negotiable.
Currently Scotland’s taxpayers contribute £3.3bn (£3,300,000,000) to pay for defence in the UK but the MoD spends only £2bn in Scotland. In an independent Scotland we will have the ability to spend the money we already contribute on a Scottish Defence force that is tailored to the needs of Scotland such as marine patrol vessels and aircraft of which we have none at the moment. Such vessels could be built in Scotland with Scotland’s shipyards; that have been decimated under Westminster control again allowed to flourish as they are without doubt the best place in terms of infrastructure and skills to produce them. Also, shipyards don’t just build military vessels, Scotland and the rest of the world need ferries and ocean going vessels, Scotland with the powers of independence could choose to invest in this vital industry a decision that we don’t currently have the power to make.
In addition, Scotland contributes over £250m every single year to the upkeep of nuclear weapons, with the equivalent of many hundred times the power of the Hiroshima bomb, stationed just 40 miles from our most populated city. Nuclear weapons are an outdated weapon of a bygone age with a Yes vote securing its removal from Scottish soil. What a wonderful message to the world that one of Scotland’s first acts as an independent country is a proclamation of peace.
A recent study by a leading expert puts the cost of setting up the infrastructure of an independent Scotland of around £250m. Can Scotland afford to be an independent country? Westminster’s own GERS figures show Scotland received 9.3% of UK spending to run our services but contributed 9.9% of UK taxes. According to these figures, in 2011/12, Scotland’s finances were stronger than the UK’s as a whole by £4.4 billion, or £824 for every man, woman and child in Scotland. In addition we have a £10bn food & drink industry, a £4.2bn whisky industry, £5bn tourist industry and most important of all 5.5m talented and hard-working people. It should also be mentioned that the money spent to set up an independent Scotland will be offset by the tax receipts for the thousands of new jobs created in Scotland by setting up Scotland’s own Revenues and customs agencies amongst other public service bodies.
In terms of the EU, the people of Scotland have been EU citizens for over 40 years, it is inconceivable that the EU whose values are founded upon “respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights” would not want Scotland to remain within the EU after a decision based on the democratic will of the people of Scotland. This situation is unique and there are no precedents which could be looked at for guidance but common sense should dictate that Scotland, whose laws and infrastructure already meet EU minimums, would be welcomed with open arms. Having a Scottish voice at the table will mean that we can negotiate better deals for our farmers and fishermen who often lose out being used as negotiating tools in discussions with the UK to get a better deal for the city of London. In fact the only danger currently with EU membership is the guarantee of an in/out EU referendum, which increasingly looks like when not if, the Tories return to power in 2015. Scotland could chose to remain inside the EU but, as with national elections where Scotland does not influence the final outcome, decisions in the rest of the UK may mean we ultimately find ourselves outside of the EU.
The keen eyed amongst you may have noticed that I have not mentioned oil until now, the reason is simple Scotland’s future prosperity is not based on oil. Oil is a bonus that could be used to benefit our children and our children’s children. It’s true that oil is running out but it’s also true that people have been saying this for 20 years. It’s generally accepted that there’s at least 40 years of oil left in the North Sea. But remember, it was only discovered in the 1970s and investment in the North Sea is at an all-time high. With independence we have a chance to make a proper job of managing the second half of the lifespan of this important resource. Norway set up what’s commonly known as an “oil fund”, which is by and large a big pension pot for the country, basically a rainy day fund, generated from the income from oil taxation. In January of this year, Norway’s oil fund reached over 5 TRILLION Kroner – the equivalent of $820bn USD / £450bn GBP. Norway is a country with a similar population to Scotland, circa 5 million. That means theoretically every Norwegian is a Kroner millionaire. People say it’s too late to start an oil fund in Scotland. Well, Norway’s only began in 1990. The UK could have done this. But it didn’t, and even Alistair Darling admitted it should have done. There are also potentially vast oil reserves in the Firth of Clyde that have never been explored. Why, because of its proximity to the location of the UK’s nuclear submarine fleet at Faslane, an issue that would be removed under independence.
We can use our vast oil resources wisely in a mix with renewable technologies. Last year, Scotland generated almost half its energy from wind and hydro power, and in total 15% of the UK’s overall energy needs. We are on course to generate 100% of power from renewables by 2020 which is a gulf apart from UK government policy.
But Independence is all about Braveheart though isn’t it? Whatever happens after the referendum vote in September the independence debate has awoken a spirit and a determination especially for the many thousands of people that have been disenfranchised and marginalised by the current brand of Westminster politics. The genie is most certainly out of the bottle and the people of Scotland are now more informed and aware of the opportunities that exist with self-determination. Scotland is currently ablaze with Scots reading voraciously, self-educating about the pros and cons of independence and people from all walks of life are coming together to campaign for a positive future for their children. We’re happy to sell Braveheart to the tourists, but we’re not daft enough to base our politics on a 20-year old film, or a 700-year old battle, it’s so much more than that.
In deciding how to vote in September we have to ask ourselves several things: Why are the current UK government so desperate to keep Scotland in the Union? In spite of all the ‘love-bombing’ about togetherness and shared history, remember – they’re politicians. They know the way their bread is buttered, and behind all the statements are concerns about economics and power. 90% of the UK’s oil reserves are in Scottish waters, and contributes around £30bn towards the UK’s balance sheet. Taking that out of the UK’s “accounts” would have a significant impact on the UK’s credit rating for a start. If Scotland was an independent country now and the question was the other way around, would you vote for Scotland to join a Union where you choose to give complete control of your natural resources, control over your budget and control over welfare to a political system that has increased the differential between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ to pre-war levels with food-banks now a regular sight in neighbourhoods all over our country.
Let’s not be the First Nation to reject the opportunity to take control of our own destiny. Scotland too weak, too poor, too stupid!? That’s not what I see, I see a proud, strong, brave, rich and compassionate country that has the ability and opportunity to regain its voice and prosper in the global community. You have the opportunity to take control of your destiny, the opportunity to create a bright future for your children, the opportunity to build a strong and socially just country for everyone calling Scotland their home. When the eyes of billions of people around the world are on us next year let’s show them that Scotland wants to reject the politics of old and to put the people of Scotland first. Vote YES on September 18th 2014.
Our #IndyRef series concludes next week with an article from both campaign groups about the impacts/opportunities of independence on Penicuik.