The ancient Greeks were the first to invent democracy. But too often we forget the extraordinarily early declaration of the people’s sovereignty that occurred right here in Scotland almost 700 years ago. Too often we forget that more recent international declarations of independence and democracy have been based on and influenced by our own Declaration of Arbroath.
The Declaration is revolutionary for its time because it affirms that the people of Scotland are sovereign. Not the king, not the parliament, but the people. Today, Scotland’s sovereignty is reserved to the Westminster parliament, which is sovereign by appointment of Her Majesty the Queen, who is appointed monarch by God. That is the establishment of the British state, and it speaks volumes that to acquire a more modern system we would do better to revert to a declaration written 700 years ago.
The most famous line from the Declaration of Arbroath reads: “It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”
It is therefore important that we remember to lead the modern independence debate not with squabbles over riches but with self-determination and equality for Scotland in mind. All sides of the debate have now publicly acknowledged that Scotland could well sustain itself as a nation in its own right. But many undecided voters in Scotland still have questions in need of answers on the economics of independence. And so naturally our politicians are led by the temptation to overflow the debate with finances. But if we are to win back our sovereignty we must convince people that it is their right to govern their country regardless of the economics.
It is well documented that it is not the wealthiest nations that are happiest but the nations with the smallest class divides. In Britain we have one of the worst divides in the developed world. The way we think about money and status has to change. With independence perhaps we can move away from the celebrity obsession of Western culture that falsely equates fortune with happiness and success. Casting our referendum votes based on issues other than riches would be a good place to begin.
So far, unionist politicians have been using money as a façade, to intentionally describe independence in terms that are too complicated and too complex – too difficult for us ordinary people to comprehend. But independence is not complex; we do not need it explained to us by economists or professors or the political establishment. Independence is the simple foundation of self-determination and democracy; of a nation being governed by its people.
It was not democracy, self-determination or equal nationhood that was the deciding factor for Scotland entering the Union in 1707, but riches and riches alone. This time let’s take the opportunity to make our decision for the right reasons.