There are lots of reasons to Vote Yes in next months referendum, but some of the most compelling arguments are for the impact it will have on our democracy, not just in Scotland but across the UK. If we can show Westminster that there is truly another way to do things, then the argument for reform in that parliament grows even stronger.
1. We will have a written constitution, led by the people
Image from Kim Davies
The Scottish Government have already begun this process and with a Yes vote there will be a constitutional convention to further develop that process of creating a constitution that captures the rights and qualities which belong to all the people in Scotland. This will be an open public process where everyone has a chance to have a say.
2. The House of Lords will have no power in Scotland
With a Yes vote, we remove any constitutional power held by the House of Lords. They will immediately become an irrelevance to Scotland except for where they hold great tracts of the country in their private accounts. Scotland will be able to create a system that is modern, fit-for-purpose and accountable to the people. This could take the shape of a fully elected second-chamber, a committee of legal experts to scrutinise legislation or even a jury system. With a written constitution to guide them, we can ensure this level of Government acts in the interests of the people and not their pockets.
Scotland is currently represented by 6 MEP’s, the same as Malta. With independence we would expect this to rise to 12 or 13 in line with countries such as Denmark. A definite democratic bonus of Independence.
4. Decentralisation for the economy across UK
The UK economy is focussed on the City of London and maintaining this institution. Everything else is secondary, bar perhaps Defence and the Arms Trade. The only way to break this is for economic redistribution and the only contender for this is Scotland due to it’s geographic, economic and social position within the UK, Europe and the rest of the World.
An independent Scotland with closer links to Arctic nations and Northern Europe would be a in a strong position to draw investment away from London, linking up with cities in Northern England such as Newcastle. This would help to reduce economic inequality and hopefully bring a rebalancing of economic activity in Britain.
A democracy with all the economic, democratic and social power held within one geographic area is no real democracy.
5. Possibility of forming closer political links with northern Europe and arctic nations
Scotland would not be isolated through independence, it would instead be joining the world stage as an equal among other nations and so would have an opportunity for greater links with other nations. The most obvious of these is of course the nations in Northern Europe and across the Arctic Circle. Iceland has already indicated it would welcome Scotland’s involvement in the Nordic Council, as have prominent Danish politicians. This would mean greater co-operation between governments and increasing influence for Scotland in Northern Europe.
6. Scotland would get the government it votes for, every time.
This one is simple. Scotland doesn’t vote for Conservatives (currently 1 MP in Scotland – David Mundell) but has consistently seen a Conservative government sitting in Westminster with power over Scotland. With independence this ceases to be an issue, Scotland will get the government it votes for all the time.
In 14 of the last 18 General Elections the votes in Scotland made no difference to the outcome. And with FPTP we have a voting system which means policies are given the go ahead depending on how popular they are in key marginal seats. Politics in the UK is focussed on winning these seats in the England, not the meagre 59 in Scotland.
7. Increased local democracy
With a Yes vote we can take steps to devolve meaningful power to communities across Scotland, not just in planning but also in welfare and other areas where communities are best placed to identify and solve the problems facing them. The Scottish Government’s “Lerwick Declaration” committed the SNP to reviewing the powers held by local authorities with a view to devolving additional powers to communities. Parties like the Scottish Greens are already committed to increasing participatory democracy in communities and there is a growing demand from campaigners such as Lesley Riddoch to break the centralisation that the UK has gone through over the last 30-40 years.
Scotland currently has 1 elected local politician to every 4270 people, whereas countries like France have 1 for every 120. There is likely a middle ground here that can deliver far greater participation in democracy while also maintaining an efficiency of public service. We can reform local democracy now of course, but only with full powers being given to the Scottish people can we properly review the powers used at a local level and how they link with a Scottish Parliament. Could we give councils more control over welfare and taxation?
8. A chance to create a modern democratic system almost from scratch
Scotland already has a parliament, but a fully functioning democracy is more than just its main legislature. Independence means we have the opportunity to rethink our whole democratic structure from local communities up to the Scottish Parliament. We can truly develop a system that is fit for the modern world and which takes cues and lessons learned in other parliaments, not traditions and ceremonies. Placing sovereignty with the people, not the parliament, means our democratic system will be adaptable and able to be changed if the people of Scotland demand it. Few countries get this amazing opportunity for reform.
9. Scotland will no longer have policies imposed on it which its people and politicians oppose
In recent times, Scotland’s MP’s have voted as a majority against austerity, trident renewal, higher rate of VAT, the Bedroom Tax, welfare cuts and the privatisation of the Royal Mail. All of these have gone ahead in Scotland despite being opposed by Scottish MP’s in Westminster.
10. Policies that take into account Scotland’s geographic and social issues
The people of Scotland are just like everyone else in the world, on the whole we believe in a fair society and want to look after the poor or vulnerable within that society – just as many in England, Wales, Norway, France, USA, Egypt, Kenya and every other country in the world do. What makes Scotland unique is it’s combination of social and geographic issues. You can’t just implement policy that is designed for one country and hope it works in Scotland too.
Independence means we can elect representatives with a mandate to tackle issues relating to the higher cost of delivering public services in Scotland due to it’s vast empty spaces, the problems recruiting Health and Education professionals to rural locations in Scotland, the crippling poverty and health issues affecting our inner cities and so on. To properly tackle these issues Scotland needs to control areas such as immigration, welfare and even defence – for a small country like Scotland need not spend such eye-watering sums of money on weapons of mass destruction, when it has a male life expectancy in parts of it’s biggest city lower than that of Iraq. In the absence of federalism, Independence is the only solution to this problem. Scotland needs to control these levers so that it can properly bring industry back to rural Scotland; take action to stop young people leaving our communities; ensure rural Scotland grows and gives families the opportunity to grow up in the communities they hold dear.
Immigration means we can grow our economy as our population grows older by bringing in more tax paying workers. Controlling welfare means we can reshape the way our poorest and vulnerable are supported in society, and give communities the power to tackle the social issues which lead to our crippling health problems across Urban Scotland. Defence means we can cease spending on Trident and illegal wars, creating a defence force that is actually suitable for Scotland – small naval vessels and an air force designed for coastal patrol and support. This isn’t rocket science, it’s just making a democracy that recognises the different challenges countries face.
11. We will no longer be tied to the tradition, pomp and ceremony of the British State
Honestly, do we need Black Rod? Is it ok to spend tax receipts on the upkeep of palaces for the Royal Family? Does the speaker of the House of Commons really need a number of assistants in weird antique coats? It’s about time we entered the modern world and had a legislature that truly represented people in Scotland, not the landowners of a bygone era. We might one day even hold a vote on an elected head of state…
All images from Wikimedia Commons