There are few certainties in life, only three worth mentioning, death, taxes, and Scottish independence. But whereas the first two will happen in all circumstances, Scottish independence is still something we need to work on. That’s the message of this weekend’s SNP party conference, Scottish independence is not going to be handed to us on a plate, we need to wrest that plate out of the cold dead grasping hands of the zombie politicians of Westminster. We need to make the case for independence to the 55% of Scots who were not convinced the last time.
We’re never going to convince everyone. People who sit on social media copying and pasting graphs which allegedly prove that Scotland is more indebted than Greece are never going to be convinced. They’ve already made up their minds and have an emotional commitment to the Union that is not going to be overturned by facts or logic. Interestingly, these are generally the same people who insist the most vehemently that they’re making a logical and fact-based argument. But show me a person who makes major life decisions based purely on logic and I’ll show you a fictional character from a television sci-fi show. There is a decided lack of pointy ears amongst the zoomiest supporters of the Union, although the jury is out on the number of fingers and toes they might have. Facts and logic are vital of course, but they’re not enough by themselves. We also need to make an emotional case for independence.
There will be another independence referendum, maybe sooner rather than later, and we have the advantage of the experience of the last time to build upon. As someone who was born cynical and has only got even more cynical with age, the happy clappy fluffy bunniness of the official Yes campaign last time seemed to try and counter the inevitable negativity of the No campaign with an unremitting positivity. Next time we need to go on the offensive, and be less afraid to be offensive about the negativities of remaining a part of the UK, Project A’ll Gie Ye Project Fear. I want to see fewer wish trees planted but more wish trees uprooted and used as battering rams to break down the doors of Westminster.
We need to be more explicit and forceful about the downsides of remaining a part of the UK, about the continuing and widening gulf between rich and poor, the certainty of more foreign wars, the waste of public money and the risk to our safety of nuclear weapons. It’s not enough to talk up the positives of an independent Scotland, we must also speak more loudly of the negatives of a UK that is run for the benefit of the financial industry of the City of London. That’s a UK where the BBC weather map shows a literal depiction of Scotland’s place and importance.
One of the biggest errors made the last time was the currency issue. Former governor of the Bank of England Mervyn King recently admitted that of course there would have been a deal on currency allowing Scotland to continue to use the pound, and that video clip should be played on a continuous loop next time round. However the problem during the last campaign was that by punting the currency union issue the Scottish government was depending on cooperation from the British government. While the British government would certainly have cooperated after the event, the very last thing they were going to do during a tightly fought independence campaign was to admit to it.
The lesson to take from this episode is that we must fight the next campaign on a basis of zero cooperation, and that means we start from a position of establishing a new Scottish currency and telling Westminster that we’ll take on that part of the UK national debt that suits us, not the part that suits them. We start off from the position of a Scottish pound, and stick yer UK national debt up yer arse. Then the campaign is fought on the basis of a Westminster that is reliant on the cooperation of the Scottish government and not the other way about.
There also needs to be greater certainty about the constitutional shape of an independent Scotland. The Scottish government needs to start now on developing a consultation process to draw the broad outlines of a new Scottish constitution. A constitution that is based on the sovereignty of the Scottish people, a constitution that states explictly that Scotland is free of nuclear weapons, a constitution that has at its heart the issue of land reform, social equality, and justice. There is no place in a modern independent Scotland for the Highland Lairds and their vast estates bigger than some Scottish counties.
A referendum on the monarchy needs to be a part of the package, and we should not remain with the default case of retaining the Queen. The Queen might be terribly concerned right now about her constitutional neutrality during the EU referendum, but she didn’t have the same consideration for Scotland during the last Scottish independence campaign. She allowed herself to be used by Cameron and the Unionists, and in so doing she lost any claim to the title of Queen of Scots. The next independence referendum should make it plain that the future of the monarchy depends on the support of the Scottish people, or she’s going to be Queen Elizabeth the Last. Shut up or you’ll be put out, Liz.
The dream of an independent Scotland is a beautiful dream, a dream that will not die. Scotland should be a country where access to health, education and childcare should be guaranteed on a basis of need, not on a basis of ability to pay. The massive resources of this land and the limitless talents of its people must be put to the service of the people of Scotland, not to the service of the City of London. We must make this a land which attracts people to come here to make their homes and to contribute to our society, and escape from the British model in which Scotland is a reservoir of labour for the economy of the south.
The dream is alive, we need to make it alive and kicking. We have work to do and with our skill and our talent and our passion we will make the beautiful dream walk and dance down every street in this land. Scotland’s day is coming.
BARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE Barking Up the Right Tree has now been published and is an anthology of my articles for The National newspaper. You can submit an advance order for the book on the Vagabond Voices website at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993
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