Fear is a liar

14 09 2014

I am not what my parents imagine to be the typical yes voter.
That is to say I do not have a saltire painted on my face and I don’t wander round shouting freedom and I don’t hate the English (or Welsh or Northern Irish for that matter as, for those who haven’t noticed there are currently 4 nations in the UK).
Until very recently, I might even have failed the Tebbitt test in not shouting for the Scottish football team when they played England.

In the 80’s I didn’t even like Scotland and if my work took me to Glasgow or Edinburgh I’d do all I could to make sure that it could be completed in a day so that I could be up and down the M6 and safely tucked up in my Cheshire home by bedtime. Scotland was emotionally immature; content to live off scraps from the UK table. Devolution changed all that. Scotland as a nation existed before the Act of Union and had an established iconography of tartan, ships and shortbread. Devolution engendered a sense of self and possibility of what it might be to have full expression of a national identity.

I’m not a natural SNP voter but YES is not a party – it is a movement to ensure that Scotland’s future will no longer be decided somewhere else. This is what allows me, being born and raised in England and having lived in Scotland for pretty much all my working life, to vote and campaign for a yes vote. A nation is not defined by ethnicity or geography. Being a nation is something that the people who live here all do together.

The no campaign seeks to return Scotland to the pre-devolution mindset. To use a good Scottish phrase, “to put us back in our box”. We have seen this most clearly in the last week as the political establishment has scrabbled about recycling old statements from business leaders, rushing over the border for a day and offering bribes in the form of talks about the possibility of further powers moving to Holyrood. Rather than leaving the Scottish people to decide when there is a chance that we might vote “the wrong way” and choose independence, there is suddenly another offer on the table. Devo-max, if you will, as specifically refused by David Cameron when he insisted that the Scottish people should face a simple yes/no at the ballot box. If Scotland becomes independent, it will be despite the efforts of almost the entire UK establishment.

Consider this weeks’ statements from RBS. Westminster, apparently, refuses to even consider sharing the pound, so to remain backed by the Bank of England, RBS would need to move registration to London. This is a purely technical, legal move, as the CEO confirmed there would be no operational change, but no campaigners were happy to make people fearful for their jobs and for the Scottish economy.

Retailers raising the possibility of price changes post-independence were portrayed as saying that prices would rise. This is what Morrisons actually said “We are neutral on the issue of Scottish independence. We have consistently said that if the cost of doing business was to change in an independent Scotland due to government policies then Morrisons would have to consider raising or indeed lowering prices in that independent Scotland to reflect those differing costs.”

The argument that Scotland can be economically independent was won long ago. David Cameron himself has said on many occasions that Scotland could be economically viable. Standard & Poor’s has said that wealth levels in an independent Scotland would be comparable with countries that enjoy a Triple-A credit rating – even without North Sea Oil revenue. Yet still the no campaign work to instill fear that we cannot manage without rUK support.

Scotland pays 9.4% of UK tax income while having 8.4% of the population so we are not, contrary to Westminster, my mother, the no campaign and the Daily Mail, subsidised by rUK.

Scotland’s share of defense spending is £3.5 billion, less than £2 million of which is spent in Scotland. An independent Scotland, therefore, would have an extra £1.5 billion per year if it kept defense spending at current levels – which personally I hope it wont.

And do you know what? There is more to life than GDP.
I would be prepared to pay a little more in taxes, a little more in the shops to ensure decent public services for the disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society. There is no doubt that public services are being dismantled in the rUK. Chief Medical Officer Harry Burns says that the UK faces increasing NHS privatisation and there is little Scotland can do about it if we remain in union. Independence won’t in and of itself guarantee services in Scotland. The elections in 2016 might, heaven forbid, return a Tory majority or the Labour government which presided over NHS privatisation. Independence is, however, the only way to guarantee that votes cast in Scotland will count. It is the only way we can influence the provision of public services. We decide the kind of country we want to be. Over the past 100 years votes cast in Scotland have influenced the outcome of UK general election only twice. With a yes vote Scotland will get the government – and the services – it voted for.

There is a constant feed of fear and scaremongering coming from the no camp. Fear is a liar and fear is the worst possible ground upon which to decide Scotland’s future.

So are there any good reasons to vote no?
As someone born in Liverpool and sharing it’s desire for a more equitable society, the only seductive argument is that Scotland should remain in the Union to save England from itself; that we shouldn’t abandon our fellow citizens to the Tories and their corporate pals. Well, the Union isn’t just England and Scotland. Scotland has a chance to become independent and the 5 million or so people north of the border should not be asked to forego this opportunity. There is no chance of political change within UK if Scotland votes no. There is a chance that, should we vote yes, Scotland can show what can be done and restore some hope to the embattled northern cities in particular. There is a massive amount of political apathy in rUK. The spirit of inclusion and engagement engendered in Scotland by the referendum debate has demonstrated that if there is something worth fighting for people can be tempted from their sofas. Those who have traditionally been bystanders have become organisers and politics has become inclusive and creative. Yes voters, those who want change in society have found a voice, a common language, and that’s very powerful. It didn’t start with politicians and their speeches. It began on the streets, on social media, in kitchens and pubs. In an independent Scotland we can, and will, stand alongside friends and colleagues seeking change but we cannot, and indeed should not, do this for you. People in England, and Wales and Northern Ireland have to take note of what has been achieved here already and fight their own battles.

There is no good reason to stay in the union.
Scotland can not only survive, but can thrive, as an independent small nation.

A thought for those thinking of voting no.
Suppose for one moment that Westminster is being entirely truthful in their threats about an independent Scotland. That they wouldn’t sanction currency union and wouldn’t help to fast-track EU membership. That they wouldn’t support the democratic will of 5.5 million people. Is this a system that you want to be part of? A system where what you think and how you vote has no impact upon the Westminster politicians and ruling elite? If we vote No on the 18th September we can never again blame Westminster for our plight. We are no longer ignorant of the way they are prepared to behave in regard to Scotland. A no vote will cement a new dependency.

Fast forward 20 years.
What will you tell your children? How will you tell them you voted?
I can think of nothing worse than telling our children that this was the best they could hope for and that fear caused us to fail to seize this opportunity to let them make their own decisions for their own country.

This is an election where our vote, every single one, will count.
We can vote yes. We can make a difference. We can do this and for the sake of our children and generations to come, we really must.

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