The case for Scottish Independence has not been an easy product to shift for the advocates of a self-rule in Scotland, especially when they have to contend with those in the United Kingdom -- namely the “better together” group -- who would rather the UK and Scotland stick together.
The best argument out there for independence has been made by Blair Jenkins, the chief executive of the independence campaign, Yes Scotland. He is not a politician, he’s a broadcaster, and it is this that perhaps made him a good choice to lead the campaign. At a recent Scottish National Party, or SNP, conference he was able to lay out real issues that matter to the people of Scotland without resorting to the normal political vernacular that many are used to. He simply opened with: “If Scotland was independent now, who would vote to join the United Kingdom?”
“Let’s just think about it,” Jenkins mused. “Your main parliament will move hundreds of miles away and your MPs (members of parliament) will be in a tiny minority. You’ll get a government you didn’t vote for.”
At present, Scotland has one conservative member in the UK parliament, and has never come even close to electing them as a government. If the right to self-determination means anything to anybody, this fact would surely mean Scotland will vote for independence come Sept. 18, 2014, the day Scotland decides.
If Jenkins’ perspective of looking at things were correct, and we were deciding on voting to be in the union, we’d have to hand over the revenue to our precious oil and gas reserves, allow the construction of Western Europe’s largest nuclear weapons facility to be built only 30 miles from our largest city.
We’d have to accept an austerity budget imposed from London, cutting jobs and threatening vital public services. We’d get to watch our economy destroyed by weak financial regulation.
And perhaps most important of all, the ideals of socialism that Scotland holds so dear would be completely disintegrated as the neediest in our society are stripped of the welfare that they need and deserve.
The biggest counter argument so far has been that Scotland wouldn’t be able to afford to be independent. Alistair Darling MP, the leader of the “better together” campaign, has already admitted that Scotland would probably be fine if it went it alone. His chief argument is that Scotland and the UK have been together for 300 years, so why not spend another 300 years together. Not something that will excite young people about their futures.
The truth is, the financial issue, whether it exists or not, is the biggest fear people in Scotland have, and as everything always comes down to money, I’m convinced the vote will be decided on it.
While the UK is prosperous compared to other European nations, it is no longer a superpower on the world stage; it has a dwindling military that has admitted it could not commit fully to another war; debt is spiraling out of control; and the welfare system seems to know no bounds, creating a society of reliance. In England, they have increased tuition fees to levels never seen before in Europe and they are slowly privatizing our beloved National Health Service.
The UK is now the worst type of welfare state that has been 40 years in the making thanks to brutal austerity measures, starting with the privatization of important industries the UK was built on. Once businesses, these organization cared only for profits and shareholders. Cheap labor in other countries was favored at the expense of British jobs. Whole industries disappeared, leaving behind generations of families and entire cities with nothing to fall back on but future welfare.
Basically, the UK has been in decline for decades.
In England, the world has seen the rise of far-right extremism and violent riots in London. Those riots didn’t reach other parts of the UK simply because the parliaments in those countries have done enough to give young people hope. In Scotland, they have the SNP, which was able to break the unhealthy relationship the former leaders in Scotland had with British parliament. The SNP has no other agenda -- they are the only party in Scotland that’s only concern is Scotland. By continuing to offer free tuition and healthcare -- the two pillars everyone is, and should, be entitled to -- they offer young people the chance to build a future for themselves.
Scotland, however, is not voting to join the union. It has already taken on the list Jenkins described. Scotland must now decide to vote to get rid of these things and become, in many people’s opinion, the great socialist nation it is so primed to be.
The SNP promised early on this would not be a battle fought using Braveheart tactics, pulling on the heartstrings of the population based on English brutality toward the Scots hundreds of years ago. History that old doesn’t matter to anyone on either side of the border anymore. But there is history that does matter and it says a great deal about how the UK has functioned until the present. Many young people may not be aware of our shared colonialist and imperial past as in the UK, but it was only in 1984 Brunei was granted independence, the last country to be made independent by the UK.
We’re still surrounded by the negativities created by colonialism; if you were to go to England today, you would still see the problems it has created.
As a brand, the UK is poisoned. The brutalities of colonialism are within living memory. Britain was inclined to part with its territories after the WWII because we were a representation, in part, of exactly the type of oppression we were fighting against. To its credit, England opened its doors to immigrants of former colonies and 60 years of mass immigration began, but as British Prime Minister David Cameron said when he and the conservative party came to power in 2010, “multiculturalism has failed.”
This matters to Scotland because if multiculturalism has failed, then so has the UK. As author Irvine Welsh wrote in January, England, especially, has failed in its mission to build an inclusive, post-imperial, multi-racial society because of the political distractions stemming from its three other partners. England can thrive without the Scots and vice-versa.
If Scotland is to realize its own potential, it must separate itself from a broken and divided UK that’s past bears heavily on all four countries, because we all deserve better, it just might not be together.