With the most monumental decision in our history rapidly approaching, many Scots will be seeking information regarding the consequences of the options presented to them. Many will look to the two major campaigns to answer their questions and concerns. Unfortunately, in most cases voters will be presented with a pitiful squabble over trivial issues, which will only muddy the waters. The real problem is that the debate has been misdirected and is focused on minor issues rather than on ideology; on the short term problems, rather than long term goals. In an attempt to combat this, I have provided a brief summary of the reason I will be voting Yes, as well as try to dispel some of the major myths that have sprung up during the debate.
A rift has been growing between Westminster and Holyrood, one which is likely to continue expanding, even after the aggravation of this debate has died down. While the UK government has pursued a campaign of destructive austerity, the Scottish government has defended its public services and remained dedicated to the wellbeing of its citizens. Scotland has refused to introduce tuition fees so as to continue investing in Scotland’s youth. This has ensured that Scotland will remain a competitive nation; one which can rise to meet the challenges of the future. Westminster, however, has done the opposite and doesn’t show any intention of reversing their decision, regardless of who is in power. This move, introduced with the intention of cutting costs, may actually have cost more than it has saved. This policy has refused many of the UK’s best and brightest the chance to achieve their full potential, simply because of their financial circumstances. This has also diminished the health and strength of the nation as a whole; all the while costing the taxpayer more money. Scotland abolished prescription charges in 2011, further demonstrating its commitment to providing care to those in need, regardless of their circumstances, as well as their understanding of the most vulnerable in our society. Meanwhile, prescription charges have risen in England and are set to do so again next year. Once again, this shows the UK’s failure to care for those in our society most desperately in need of help; these people should not have to worry about how they will pay for their medication. These are just two examples of the UK’s failure to address the growing divides and stark inequalities within our society. In fact, economic inequality has recently risen to levels not seen since the 1930s. According to the Equality Trust the bottom fifth of society accounts for only 8% of the UK’s total income, whereas the top fifth accounts for 44%, illustrating a startling imbalance within our country. Of course, this is not guaranteed to be remedied in an independent Scotland, but there is virtually no chance of improvement in our present circumstances. Our system has stagnated, with all major parties rejecting any possible alternatives to current economic policy, still thoroughly dominated by Thatcherite economics. The stark contrast between the desires held by the citizens of Scotland and the policies enacted by the UK government, which claims to represent and serve us, reveals a near irreconcilable conflict between the two. It is my belief that for Scotland to fully embrace the hopes and ambitions of its people, we must reclaim control of our future from those who place so little value upon it.
Much of this debate has focused upon the negative aspects of separation and unity, as political debates often will. Little time is truly spent illustrating the opportunities afforded by independence. For the first time in Scotland’s history the power to shape our nation will rest solely in our hands. There has never been a time in which Scotland has been ruled by an independent and democratically elected government. Imagine what we as a nation could achieve if we had that power. This would begin with the crafting of a written constitution, the first in the history of Scotland or the UK. Our constitution will act as the guiding light of the nation, both protecting and empowering the Scottish people. Ensuring that we are a nation dedicated to equality, human rights and the freedom of its citizens; one which treats these rights and freedoms as a gift, not as an inconvenience. This will serve as a strong foundation upon which we can construct our new country. A country which values and protects its public services, that provides care and assistance where needed, regardless of wealth or status. A country which will nurture and solidify its future through investment in its youth at all levels of education; allowing our best and brightest to thrive thereby enriching all levels of society. A country which treasures its natural heritage and works to preserve and defend our environment so that future generations may benefit from it, just as we have. These are just some of the possibilities presented to us by independence and, in most cases, only by independence.
Of course, opponents of an independent Scotland claim we cannot achieve the promise of independence, that we would wither and die without Westminster rule. This is simply not true. The idea that Scotland, a developed, wealthy, and educated nation could not sustain itself is as erroneous as it is manipulative. Besides our vast oil resources, Scotland boasts a strong tourism industry, five of the world’s top two-hundred universities, strong exports such as whisky, and many other strong, diverse economic assets. Naysayers argue that we would have to raise taxes in order to pay for our necessities as well as our aspirations, but is this a bad thing? The public doesn’t seem to think so. A recent poll by ComRes found that 49% of UK voters were in favour of raising taxes to pay for services such as the NHS, with only 33% saying the opposite. That being said, I concede we will not transform into a booming economic powerhouse the instant we become independent. There will, of course, be some turbulence following the shift of powers, as is only to be expected from such a transition. But it must be stressed that this would be temporary and we must focus on our long term goals and our shared ideology. However, even in this state of evolution, Scotland’s credit rating is predicted to drop only slightly below that of the UK and is predicted to rise again in the coming years. Claiming Scotland is incapable of sustaining itself without the UK is an insult to the people of Scotland. This allegation clearly demonstrates the disdain with which the UK government and Better Together views Scotland. Not only that, it demonstrates the ignorant and dismissive stance taken towards smaller nations and any alternatives to British politics. This close-minded attitude is the reason why politics in the UK has stalled and is why the people of Scotland are hungry for change. Scotland unquestionably has the resources, the talent and the will to enact that change and create a competitive and fair society.
There are a number of myths created in opposition of Scottish independence, particularly the relationship Scotland would have with the remainder of the UK. The most publicised of these is, of course, the issue of currency. The No campaign has asserted that Scotland would not be able to use the pound if we were to become independent. The UK government and all major UK parties have echoed this claim, but is there any truth to it or is this just another scare tactic? Frankly, not allowing Scotland to use the pound would be just as detrimental to the UK’s economy as to Scotland’s. Following independence the UK and Scotland would have strong trade ties as well as thousands of our respective citizens crossing the border on a regular basis. If the UK were to prevent us from using the pound we would be forced to create our own currency. This would mean that, as well as engaging in cross border trades, businesses would have to conduct cross currency trades. This will create a number of significant barriers to trade and damage what should be a strong and profitable relationship. The additional obstacles this would cause for businesses on both sides of the border, as well as our respective economies, is too great a hazard to the UK. They would not jeopardise trade with their closest and potentially strongest trade partner and the UK government knows this. Not to mention the problems it would cause for the thousands Scottish and English citizens that would be crossing the border on a regular basis, all of whom would direct their irritation at the government. For this same reason we will not be seeing border controls between our two countries, despite the claims of Theresa May. Indeed, many of the threats made by the No campaign and Westminster are utterly transparent due to the serious damage it would cause the UK if they enacted them. The UK is not going to harm itself in order to harm Scotland. No political party is foolish enough to sour relations with a new nation as well as the electorate simply out of spite. So, whenever claims are made that Scotland will face all manner of reprisals and restrictions from the UK government, remember this: the UK, like any other country, is governed by self-interest and would never weaken its own position for no benefit.
On the 18th of September the people of Scotland will be presented with the most important opportunity of this generation, perhaps of any generation. A chance to build a new nation; one based upon the values and principles of the Scottish people. However, with this chance comes a great responsibility, one which does not end at the polling station, nor will it at any point in our lifetimes. Voting Yes is simply the beginning of the journey on which we will embark. It is our collective declaration that we are ready to forge our own destiny, a declaration that we are ready and willing to rise to meet this undertaking. It is the duty of the Scottish people to ensure that their government and nation embodies the dreams and hopes which we all hold dear. This solemn democratic duty, is one which I truly believe we can realize. The spirit and passion that has been ignited by this debate must be carried forward into the future, must be kept alive within all of us, so that it may be passed on to future generations and to inspire the peoples of the world. This passion and dedication will be the lifeblood our new country and will bind us together as a nation and as a people. Remember, what we do with this chance will change not only Scotland and the UK, but the whole world. Let’s show the world we’re ready for this opportunity and vote Yes.
Image from Simon Baker