I’ve always found it difficult to connect with people. I’ve never felt a true belonging within groups; be it a country, city, job or my parents. It’s not something I’ve ever regretted, I accepted it a long time ago. I’ve never really felt that I could change the situation. To be honest, I’ve never really wanted to.
The past six months have been a transformative experience for me. I suspect it has been for a huge amount of Scots. We have developed an appetite for political discourse at a level of detail far beyond any other country I can think of. The intricacies of international currency trading, the finer points of European Union & NATO membership and negotiation, the benefits and drawbacks of fossil fuel exploitation, the morality and economic responsibility of maintaining Trident plus a whole slew of previously unexplored political topics are being discussed in every pub, cafe and home in the country. It is incredible. I have gained more knowledge of how countries are run in the last six months than the rest of the forty years that I’ve been on this planet combined. It has changed me. I want this to continue. I want to help shape this country into something better. Something fairer.
I’m not alone. I feel connected to each and every person in this country right now. Yes or No, we are arming ourselves with the intellectual tools to better understand the political process, to better shape the political process. For the first time in my life, there is a real understanding that the people should instruct the government, not the other way round. This peaceful, informed revolution taking place right now in Scotland has gone well beyond traditional political lines, well beyond traditional class barriers; we are becoming citizens, not subjects. We are waking up to the possibility of taking control of our own destiny.
I have no doubt that supporters of both Yes and No want the same thing; an economically stable, representative government that reflects the values and wishes of it’s electorate.
The only question left to answer is how best do we accomplish this?
Let’s look at the situation from a non partisan viewpoint. The decision we are about to make is permanent and we don’t know which political parties will be elected in either the Scottish Parliament or Westminster over the next 10, 20, 50 years so it makes no sense to base our decision on our like or dislike of the current political parties and their leadership.
In the event of a No vote, we would stay within the United Kingdom. This would see us continuing as we are now with Holyrood having policy control over health, education, agriculture and justice. The Scotland Act 2012 will see Holyrood gain minor tax raising powers (up to 10p in the pound on income tax, control of stamp duty and landfill tax) and the ability to borrow up to 2.2 billion pounds per year. These are the additional powers that are currently being touted by the No campaign. There is no timetable currently set for when these powers will be delivered. The cross party discussions that have been taking place in Westminster are purely to decide on the timetable.
Westminster will retain control over foreign policy, defence and national security, electricity, oil, gas, social security and basically everything else that falls under governmental control. Westminster will continue to set Scotland’s budget each year to enable Holyrood to enact the aforementioned policies. Westminster will also retain the right to expand or reduce Holyrood’s powers. Scotland will continue to vote in 100% of the Scottish MSPs and approximately 9% of Westminster MPs.
In the event of a Yes vote, we would leave the United Kingdom. All governmental control would be transferred to Holyrood. The Scottish Parliament would collect all of the taxes and be responsible for setting and enacting all policies, both domestic and foreign. Scotland will vote in 100% of its MSPs.
So let’s look again at this desired outcome of an economically stable, representative government that reflects the values and wishes of its electorate.
It’s clear that an independent Scotland would be far more representative as we would vote in 100% of our representatives as opposed to 9%. Especially so, given this newly found enthusiasm for political involvement in the people. Westminster would actually be negligent in their duty to the rest of the United Kingdom if they were to give Scotland any favour past our 9% representation.
Would we be economically stable though?
Long term, there is little doubt from either side that Scotland could have a successful, stable economy. We are incredibly resource rich, have an excellent free education and health system and most importantly, the desire to succeed. Most other countries in the world cannot claim all of these assets.
The worry for most people lies in the short term. Westminster has campaigned against independence by declaring that it will make the immediate process of moving to an independent nation as painful as possible. The Yes campaign has countered that Westminster is bluffing and that come independence, they will agree to the proposals laid out in the White Paper.
I believe that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. It’s in neither the United Kingdom nor Scotland’s interests to punish the other. We depend on each other too much economically and socially for that to happen. Fear over upsetting the financial markets will lead to a quick, mutually beneficial settlement wherein both states can thrive. Neither side will get everything they want. Both, however, will get what they need.
Suppose I’m wrong though. Suppose that Westminster is being entirely truthful in their threats to essentially destroy the Scottish economy upon independence. More so, suppose that they actually could. Is this a system that you want to be part of? A system wherein, by design, your vote has no effect. A system that you can neither change nor influence. A system that would willingly harm five million people for daring to leave. Are you willing to support that system and give up long term self determination in exchange for what little short term stability currently exists?
If the country votes No on the 18th September, we can no longer claim ignorance nor blamelessness for the actions of Westminster. The last six months of debate and education ensures that. The knowledge we now hold will make the actions that we do not agree with that are made in our name by Westminster even more unbearable.
I want to continue to feel pride in the people of this country. I want to maintain that connection. Together, in an independent Scotland, creating a better life for all of us.