The Power of Independence

A Clash of Powers: anti-Vietnam war activists & U.S. soldiers


Independence will make Scotland a more powerful nation in representation and influence. By joining the community of nations in Europe and the U.N., Scotland will have a distinctive vote and a voice. This representation matters. However, the power an Independent Scotland has to influence the world is even more impressive. Scots can embrace the power of nuclear disarmament, universal education and clean energy. After 2014 these unique strengths can help to construct a just global order.

This week Ban Ki Moon, United Nations Secretary General, signalled a new era in International Relations. He called for nuclear disarmament. He criticised war and military spending: describing the $4.6 billion a day spent on weapons as “useless against today’s threats”. Instead he prioritised the dangers of environmental instability, inequality and resource shortages. Action on development, he said, is needed for peace.

This is why Independence can be so powerful. The world faces threats from social causes that no military force can solve. Scotland’s influence flows from its capacity to promote important ideas, cooperation and technological change: to promote a new form of power within the international system that can help all nations to meet common challenges.

Education and industry, for instance, are powerful. They hold the capacity to transform culture and material opportunities beyond all borders. With application in these areas, small communities can make a global impact. The Scottish Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution demonstrate this in our past.

This is in stark contrast to the type of power Westminster operates in. War, Trident nuclear missiles and arms exports are forms of aggressive or coercive power. This mindset led to the British invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Military and material forces were intended to guarantee security on the ground, from which democratic government would flourish. It didn’t happen. Despite these failures of aggressive power, the UK state remains inflexible in its approach. Both the Tory government and the Labour opposition intend to spend billions of pounds on renewing the Trident nuclear missiles system, despite its growing irrelevance. Military competition formed the mentality of the Cold War, but today it is an anachronism.

The Independence campaign, as described by National Collective, is between these “two very different ideologies of power”. Having lived under Westminster government, Scots are aware of the waste and destruction of interventions like the war in Iraq. The ‘power’ to have big guns or big banks doesn’t infer the best lives for citizens. The contrasting case for a powerful Independent Scotland is based upon the talents of its people and the wealth of its resources. Here are three Scottish qualities that can influence the world in the 21st century:

1) Nuclear Disarmament

The Scottish Government has pledged to remove Trident from Scottish waters. This would be a powerful victory for the peace movement around the world. Research by John Ainslie concluded that removing Trident from Scotland would take a maximum of two years. Afterwards there would be nowhere for Trident to go within the UK.

The removal of one of Europe’s biggest nuclear stockpiles from Scotland would give a significant boost to attempts at regional disarmament. Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands are currently demanding the removal of U.S. missiles from Europe. UK disarmament strengthens their case and Ban Ki Moon’s case. While decades ago the world’s superpowers veered dangerously close to nuclear destruction, today these weapons can be placed in the dustbin of history. Scotland can lead the world in that task.

2) Education

The education and skills of the people are a nation’s greatest resource. Scotland has chosen to maintain the value of education as a public good. While Westminster has atonomised services in fee hikes and budget cuts, Hollyrood has based access upon the ability to learn and not the ability to pay. This is a central principle of a good society. Scotland follows Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark and Finland in demonstrating that Higher Education can be both of the highest quality and publically funded.

This is powerful. Scotland has more Universities in the world’s top 200 than any other nation of its size. The sector is among world leaders in research and development. This success can be shared, not only by widening the background of Scottish applicants, but by welcoming students from across Europe and the world. Current fees for English students in Scotland are a barrier. After Independence, all European and British students will study in Scotland without paying fees: nothing can demonstrate a relationship of equality more than that. Nothing says more for a nation’s influence and future than protecting the value of education.

3) Clean Energy

Climate change is the biggest challenge that humanity faces. It coincides with an unprecedented rise in the global population, which pressures precious food, energy and water resources. Costs are rising. Corporations are desperate to meet demands. They are digging deeper and deeper into the Earth’s surface via Arctic drilling and expanding toxic ‘tar sands’ in Canada. Within the energy crisis, new technology is the solution.

The biggest off-shore wind-farm in the world has entered the planning phase in Scotland. 40% of Scottish homes will be powered by this single 1.5-gigawatt project. This is only the beginning of renewable developments off Scotland’s coast. Scotland aims to be entirely self-sufficient on renewable energy by 2020 – harassing the vast assets of wave and wind power in the North-West of Europe. A new energy grid will link together these projects with the vast solar energy innovations in North Africa. These steps towards clean energy will ensure a safer future for the planet. Our participation in the renewable energy agenda is truly powerful.


The 2014 referendum presents a fork in the road for Scotland’s role in the world. Creating a new democracy is not only an opportunity for those who live here. It is an opportunity for all who can benefit from peace, development and technology. The opportunity to be a global citizen: that is the power of Independence.


About Michael Gray

Michael studies politics at the University of Glasgow. He admires creativity, optimism and education. He desires peace, social justice and good parties.