As I left Palestine to study in Scotland, I felt that I have left one of the most politically interesting regions in the world to arrive at yet another. In less than 18 months, people in Scotland will be heading to polling stations to decide on the future of their country – whether to stay in the union or become an independent entity that determines the future of its own people. As I arrived here I had a shallow idea of what the question of Scottish independence meant for the people of Scotland, but today I find myself in a position fully supporting the notion of Scotland becoming an independent nation. I have been lucky enough to visit many places and meet many great people who have helped me learn and understand; today I decided to share with you my perspective as a Palestinian and an internationalist who wasn’t born in Scotland, but supports a ‘Yes’ vote during the Independence referendum in September 2014.
Scotland has been a place that I’ve been quite fond of for a while before I even arrived: it is one of the most beautiful and scenic countries in the whole Northern Hemisphere, its historic and cultural richness attracts tourists from all over the world, it still holds on to impressive traditions that have been preserved for centuries. A personal favourite is when Israeli Ambassador to the UK and other Israeli diplomats described Scotland as “Enemy territory” – that is due to great efforts by Palestine solidarity groups like the Scottish PSC, Scottish Jews for Just Peace, We Are All Hannah Shalabi student network, and many others who refuse to be silent and brand injustice as normal. Being too fond of Scotland is not the reason that makes me support independence, it is a reason that makes me care more for Scotland and strive for what people here see brings a better future for their country. It is important to highlight as well that support for independence here doesn’t stem at all from an ethno-centric form of isolationist nationalism. It has nothing to do with a Braveheart themed nationalism, it is a form of social contemporary nationalism which spurs from a desire to create a fairer country that embraces everyone, and looks towards the world as a partner in this already globalized world.
When I first shared my views on Scottish Independence with my dad, he asked “Why are you not pro-unity? Isn’t there strength in unity?” This sentiment is what I’ve heard from many who see weakness in an independent Scottish State. But this is not what independence is about; an independent Scotland is an idea that offers a real hope for a better future for Scotland; a smaller country that cares for its people, as well as being a better citizen of the world. Today, the Scottish voice is often marginalized by a centralized government based in London. Scotland has laws and welfare reforms being imposed upon them from Westminster: an example is the Bedroom Tax being imposed upon Scotland even though 91% of Scottish MPs opposed it. For 35 years of the past 50 years, the Scots have had a Conservative government even though they haven’t voted for it. An independent Scotland would have a fairer representation of people, and it would give the Scottish a voice to determine their own policies on the domestic and international arena. It is about empowering the people to make the decisions which determine their fate.
Many argue that Scotland wouldn’t be economically viable on its own, which is a big myth that is often used as a scaremongering tactic to push the Scots away from the idea of independence. Sarah Glynn, my fellow campaigner for Radical Independence (RIC) in Dundee and a member of Scottish Jews for Just Peace said in a speech she made during RIC campaign launch: “You have probably heard that we receive more than our share of government spending – 9.3% when we have 8.4% of the population – but what you hear less often is that we contribute 9.9% of UK taxation.” Sarah continued on highlighting how the UK today is dragging Scotland back economically and hindering its potential for growth, saying: “Scotland also has a much smaller budget deficit than the rest of the UK. We also have huge natural resources in oil reserves and potential for green energy. If Scotland was able to invest in developing things like council housing, sustainable energy and public transport, then our economy would be a lot healthier.” Sarah’s vision is shared by many who hope to see a better future through independence.
On a global scale, I tend to see Scottish independence to be a positive force affecting the whole world. Big change always starts with considerably smaller steps. Other important aspects of Scottish independence are better foreign policy, Weapons of Mass Destruction disarmament, and hindering efforts to wage illegal wars like the invasion of Iraq in 2003. We can’t strictly say that Scottish independence is a continuation of the 20th century fight against Western imperialism, as Scotland historically has been a major benefiting partner in the British Empire; but we can say Scottish independence provides a window to counter forms of neo-imperialism and gives Scotland a chance to become a positive citizen of the world. Independence provides Scots with a chance to make their government’s foreign policy live up to what they want and see as acceptable, rather than being dragged around by a Westminster foreign policy which has largely been influenced by the US and is deemed unacceptable by most Scots.
I was lucky enough to have Dr John MacDonald, a political commentator and academic who is currently lecturing at the University of Glasgow, to be my politics lecturer during the first semester at the University of Dundee. Dr John provided me with insight on how he sees a potential independent Scottish state to influence positive energy beyond its borders. I have had the chance to have a few conversation s with John on Scottish independence and how it can be viewed as an international cause. He tells me about how Downing Street’s approach to international politics rubs abrasively against what many Scots want, or think is acceptable. We discussed the British nuclear submarine fleet, Trident, housed at naval bases near Scotland’s largest population centre, Glasgow. Trident, an unnecessary stockpile of WMD, is set to receive massive amounts of funds, estimated to be about £130 billion, to be renewed, while health, education, pensions, and disability benefits are being slashed by Westminster. Recent opinion polls suggest that up to 80% of Scots are opposed to their country’s hosting of nuclear weapons. John believes a Yes vote in next year’s referendum will not only be beneficial to scots who will eradicate those illegal WMD from their soil. But it also serves a far wider good. John said that there are grave questions over the UK government’s capability to store Trident missiles as there are no other suitable sites to host the weapons and the cost to build one could be prohibitively high, therefore pushing the UK, however reluctantly, to give up the missiles. Dr John Macdonald concluded the conversation saying: “A Yes vote will cement Scotland’s status as a Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zone and perhaps be the catalyst to dismantling the Anglo-American nuclear status quo. Scotland’s willingness to say ‘Yes’ will have positive implications well beyond Scotland’s borders.”
An independent Scotland isn’t about dividing a nation; it is about empowering the people and seeking a better future for people on both sides of the borders. Political parties like the Labour Party have endorsed the “Better Together” pro-union campaign, against independence mostly out of concern that by losing Scotland, the Labour party will be doomed to deal with a dominant Conservative party in the rest of Britain, seeing as the Scottish haven’t voted for a Conservative government in decades. However, as statistics have shown, Scottish voters have had no impact on British General Elections for 62 of the last 67 years since World War II. So far, the Better Together pro-union campaign relies more on economic scaremongering propaganda rather than factual explanations of what a future Scotland would mean to those living in Scotland and elsewhere. Better Together glorifies the UK armed forces as “The Best in the World” while many pro-independence campaigners call for pacifism, anti-military intervention, nuclear-free-zones, and against waging illegal wars in foreign territories. Perhaps Scottish Independence could influence the rest of Britain to pursue a more moral foreign policy, and perhaps stop dealing weapons to despotic Arab Gulf states or Asian states (I.e. Sri Lanka) accused of extensive human rights violations. For such thing to take place, the current status-quo must be broken, and a ‘Yes’ vote on the Independence Referendum is the most clear path to this.
Even though the current Scottish Government has been able to slightly lighten the damage Westminster governments have had on Scotland, an independent Scotland would mean a better future for everyone living in Scotland is possible, it even provides spark of hope for those living beyond its borders. Independence means better representation, it means giving the people a voice and the ability to act on the international field as they deem acceptable. People in Scotland don’t deserve to suffer the damages of a government they didn’t choose, and they don’t deserve to have their international political policies completely dominated by Westminster. An Independent Scotland is also better for the rest of the UK; it means more cooperation and trade on every important aspect, the two countries as partners are better than one centralized government having an unfair dominance over the other. A smaller country, an empowered people, and larger connections with countries all over the world is certainly a future that could be possible with a ‘Yes’ vote on the 2014 referendum.