A stroll to the polls

A guest post by Christopher Carnie

It’s a sunny, breezy September afternoon and we are walking arm-in-arm to the polling station. Someone says “a penny for your thoughts.” Here are mine:

I think of the poor. The poor in Ferguslie Park or Possil Park, where you are three times as likely to be unemployed and if you are unemployed, almost five times as likely to be sick and unemployed as folk living in the least deprived areas of Scotland. Your baby is likely to be born underweight and is much less likely to be breastfed – meaning that her daughters will also be underweight. You are locked into poverty. Why? Because the UK government is structurally and philosophically unable to deal with Scotland’s poverty. Structurally because its main focus is on London and the South East. Philosophically, because since Margaret Thatcher and Sir Keith Joseph all our main political parties believe that by reducing direct taxation and allowing a few to get very, very, wealthy, that wealth will “trickle down.”

It doesn’t.

It floats up. The wealth gap widens*. And we create a broken society. The poor live in one world – what Abbé Pierre in France called the “4th World”. We, the better off, live in another. We, the better off, think that poor people are just shirkers or lazy or dependent; we don’t talk to them, find out who they really are. Neither the poor, nor the rich, feel part of the same society…and as a consequence of that the poor occasionally break up the street furniture as happened in 2011 in London, and the better off and powerful feel free to impose extra taxes (the “Bedroom Tax”) on people they don’t know and don’t care about.

Westminster believes in this neo-liberal philosophy down to its very soul. Holyrood doesn’t. Scottish politics has barely been touched by these ideas and as a consequence is willing to work for the poor. But its hands are tied by Westminster. So long as Westminster can carry on imposing its taxes on our poor, and its tax breaks on our wealthy, the poor of Scotland are condemned to poverty. We can break out of our poverty trap on 18th September.

We talk about your working lives, and business. Imagine, I say, a country on the edge of the world’s largest trading bloc. It’s an English-speaking country with a tradition of enterprise, trade and export. It has massive oil reserves and loads of wind and wave energy. It has a highly educated population and a strong research and technology base, with more universities per head than any other country in the world. It’s relatively easy to meet the people in charge – they are just down the road. Fancy building your new factory or headquarters there? Yes, of course you do! As an independent country it will do what everyone else does and nudge business rates here or taxes there to encourage inward investment. But it won’t have to. Scotland will be a dream to invest in.

You mention the Commonwealth Games – so good for Glasgow. Those nations – almost all of them once ruled from London. Even the tiny Sovereign Republic of Kiribati has its own government. Scotland can be a member of the Commonwealth too – as a sovereign nation, with the Queen still on her throne and the sun still rising each morning.

And then there is Trident. Set aside the madness of parking nuclear bombs 25 miles upwind of Glasgow, and of a heavily indebted country spending £4bn a year for 20 years on a new Trident. Trident is a metaphor. It’s from the time when “Brutain’s hardy sons” dominated an Empire. The missiles still get us a place in the UN Security Council, give us a role in US military adventures, and signal that we are an imperial power. It’s time to stop, and think. It is time for Britain to grow up and out of Empire, to become a modern, constitutional state. Remove the bomb and we can do that. On 18th September we can take that step away from bombs, America and Empire and towards a modern, fairer union of equals with our neighbours.

And now we stop for a moment to take a look over someone’s lovely garden. We take a breather. Because I am about to make a more controversial point.

I think we’ve been hypnotised.

All our lives we’ve been told that Scotland is poor. Too poor to look after itself. So poor that it is only kept alive with a drip-feed of Barnett-formula handouts from Westminster. And now I’ve woken from this hypnosis, and looked away from the propaganda. And I see a country that is an oil-producing nation, with productive, profitable industries (whisky, tourism, alternative energy). We’re an oil producer! We are not poor! We’ve been sucked dry of resources and of talent, and then told we’re handout junkies. This (take a deep breath, because this really is strong stuff) is how colonial powers work. Time for Scotland to crawl out from under the Empire and pay for itself. We can do it.

We talk about leaders. You comment that Holyrood is full (you acknowledge, gracefully, that there are a few exceptions) of small-minded politicians. So I tell you the story of a brilliant young advocate. With a good education at Loretto and the University of Aberdeen, he was an outlier in his cohort of young law students. He was a socialist. He dabbled in politics at university, and then as a councillor in Edinburgh. But he knew where the real power lay – in Westminster. He went to London to seek his fortune, eventually becoming Chancellor of the Exchequer.

That’s what you do if you want to change the world in the UK. You join the Westminster brain drain. But now imagine March 2016. Our brilliant young advocate can play a role in running a whole country from just down the road in Holyrood. He doesn’t have to head to London to do politicking. He and others equally clever will fight to get themselves elected in Scotland’s Parliament. We will get the leaders we need. We can do it.

We are getting close to the polling station now, and it’s time for you to go in and vote. There is a crowd of silent, thoughtful people outside, because this is a big choice. I don’t say anything – you must decide which way you will vote. But in my head I’m hoping. I’m hoping that you will vote for the poor of Possil Park, not for the whirlpool of Westminster.

You decide, and step in.

*I have data and sources for all of this if you want. But this is a conversation, remember.



28 comments on “A stroll to the polls

  1. faolie says:

    Chris, what a brilliant post. You touched on almost everything that I believe needs an independent Scotland to free it, abolish it, help it, and grow it. You’re right – doesn’t need facts ‘n’ figures.

    Man we need more of this kind of stuff in the weeks left. Currency? Bollocks. Anybody think that the folks in Possil Park care about a Plan B? Nope, and nor do I.

    • Steve Asaneilean says:

      Aye, true – but sometimes facts and figures help drive the message home. So 5 families in the UK have more wealth between them than the bottom 12 million people put together.

      Or there are 64 Trident missiles in Faslane, each with 4 warheads and each of those warheads is at least 5x more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb which killed 100,000 people…

  2. macart763 says:

    I’m looking forward to that stroll myself and for the very same reasons. 🙂

    • Pam McMahon says:

      Please don’t stop posting stuff like this. I know you are having a grindingly hard time the now, but when you live in far-flung places like Sutherland, Caithness and the islands, you never get to participate in the debate, except online.
      Youy have said everything i believe in. Thank you again.

  3. Hugh Wallace says:

    Reblogged this on Are We Really Better Together? and commented:
    “I think we’ve been hypnotised.

    All our lives we’ve been told that Scotland is poor. Too poor to look after itself. So poor that it is only kept alive with a drip-feed of Barnett-formula handouts from Westminster. And now I’ve woken from this hypnosis, and looked away from the propaganda.”

  4. JimnArlene says:

    If our brilliant young advocate, blinks alot, flips his houses, has wayward eyebrows and lies through his teeth; I don’t think he’s interested. Then again, we are not interested in him, either.

  5. Bravo Chris- an excellent piece of intelligent writing;

  6. Peter says:

    I suspect the un-named advocate to have just been going home. Born in London, works in London, Lives in London, Supporter of London rule and pathological hater of Scotland and all things Scottish.

    Interestingly enough there are moves to make psychological abuse carry the same penalties as physical abuse in Domestic Violence cases. How many centuries in prison would you get for abusing an entire country?

    • And very often, the abused either don’t realise they are being abused, believing the situation to be normal or they bury the horror of it deep in their subconscious as a survival strategy. It’s an entirely appropriate analogy from my personal observations..

  7. What a lovelt stroll although I think I may add the odd skip!!! At the library today I was told my books were due back on Sept 19 th.I said what the day after the 18th ?? The young librarian loudly said YES !!!

  8. Blizzard says:

    Great post! For those of you who would like even more evidence, the Wings Report The McCrone Legacy by Dale Ross, is the clearest exposition I have seen of just how much we have subsidised Westminster. Read it here and see why they are desperate not to “lose” Scotland.


  9. johnmcgurk says:

    Hi young man ,Think of a man going to bed on the 18th of September full of hope .And waking up on the 19th his birthday to find that his most cherished dream has come true . My birthday is that day I will think I have died and went to heaven if it comes true.

  10. Brilliant. My grandparents lived in Possil Park. My parents had started their lives in Maryhill and then were able to move out to Milngavie, where I was lucky enough to grow up. I see exactly what you’re saying about the trap that people in places like Possil are now in. It’s probably impossible for them to manage to move to Milngavie (if they wanted to). It’s the trapping of people in (near) poverty that we need to change. The social mobility of one or two generations ago was far better than where we are today. And the only hope of change is through Yes.

  11. Anne says:

    Nice post,but I do not think we were hypnotised,We were brainwashed!

  12. Olliethecollie says:

    Well said that man! See you on the 19th – if only in national happiness and pride – to celebrate!

  13. nancyburge says:

    Superb post and an inspiration to us all.

  14. dawn in NL says:

    Well said, everything we need to know to walk confidently into the building and set our cross agnd say Yes with no regrets.

  15. yerkitbreeks says:

    But Alistair says why vote YES when you can be part of ” something bigger ” – but consistently fails to state what that is. Neil Walker eloquently spells out why, in trying to differentiate between three aspects of it, Britain, the United Kingdom and the Union.

    Alistair would be ridiculed if he tried to assert we would no longer be Britons after Independence, as if Scotland somehow would float off in to the North Atlantic. Like ” Scandinavians ” we would continue to have affiliation to Irish, Welsh and English ( don’t read anything into the order ) and so be British.

    Alistair would also like us to avoid investigation of the Union bit, since it is so tainted by its supporters such as BNP and Orangemen, clearly associated with failing Empire.

    Which leaves us with the United Kingdom. Now this has valuable institutional bits such as the NHS, regulatory agencies and so forth. However, shock horror, it is now tied into other bits such as the European Court of Human Rights, EU Court of Justice and EU political institutions – some of which Theresa May wants to ditch or remove us from completely.

    So you see Alistair will continue to stop at ” something bigger “.

  16. David McCann says:

    Great article. I dont know if its a typo or deliberate, but I love the spelling of “Brutain’s hardy sons”!

    • JGedd says:

      It is deliberate. I seem to remember that it was a phrase often on the lips of Para Handy in Neil Munro’s short stories and was probably written that way intending to mimic the character’s pronunciation since he was a native Gaelic speaker. Trivial fact over.

  17. Blizzard says:

    @yerkitbreeks – just how is NHS Scotland a “valuable institutional bit” of the United Kingdom? NHS Scotland has been separate since 1948 and the only links to the UK are the potential threats from reduced budgets (from Westminster outsourcing NHS England) and the Westminster open door for US multinationals to bid across the NHS. If we are not independent, then we have no chance of protecting NHS Scotland. See any of Philppa Whitfords excellent videos for more detail.

    • yerkitbreeks says:

      I didn’t specify NHS Scotland – at least give the ( then post war ) UK the benefit of the doubt for setting up these valuable institutions, either across or within the Nations.

      Of course where the separate parts are going pro tem is a hot potato.

  18. […] A guest post by Christopher CarnieIt's a sunny, breezy September afternoon and we are walking arm-in-arm to the polling station. Someone says "a penny for your thoughts." Here are mine:I think of t…  […]

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