Thursday, 31 July 2014

A letter to my Uncle in Canada regarding the Scottish Independence Referendum

I have always believed that Scotland would be better off independent. As a child I can not remember feeling any different to now, although this feeling has grown with good reason thanks the UK's handling of Scotland over the years.

My road to voting YES in this referendum really started in 1978/79 when it is often historically stated that Scotland voted NO to devolution. In Scotland a majority actually voted YES to the establishment of a Scottish Assembly to handle Scottish affairs, but, because of the terms of the Act passed by Westminster no devolution was given. These terms that 40% of the total population had to vote YES. This meant that dead people actually counted as NO votes; those that could not be bothered to vote counted as NO votes; those people who felt that it didn't concern them who also had a vote but did not use it also counted as NO votes. For any other referendum or election these terms are completely ridiculous and outrageous but for Scotland it was okay according to Westminster. The fact that we went into the Common Market on a simple majority which was a far bigger constitutional change for the UK as whole didn't matter.

The results of the Scottish Assembly Referendum in 1979
Scotland in 1979 by any reasonable democratic measure therefore did vote YES in 1979! Never let it be said that they didn't.

After we voted NO according to Westminster (but actually voted YES in the real world) we were then saddled with Mrs Thatcher who was thoroughly detested by the vast majority the length and breadth of Scotland. Her policies destroyed the vast majority of Scotland's industries and she completely squandered the oil resources when they were at their peak. The strong pound caused by the oil made manufacturing which otherwise would have remained profitable unsustainable thus throwing thousands of Scots needlessly onto the dole queue.

You mention strong labour unions in your letter. Scotland and the UK in general haven't had strong unions since the 1980s. Indeed it is virtually impossible for unions to fight on their members behalf given the state of employment laws in the UK now.

I should know, given that I have been in a situation where the union I was a member of fought doggedly on my behalf. I came out thoroughly battered by the situation, still ill which was legally denied by the company for which I was working, but financially more secure. What should have happened was that the company should be taken to the cleaners.

Labour unions are constantly referred to as destroying UK industry in the 1970s and 1980s. I shall take the car industry as an example. The UK's car industry is now actually larger than it was then but is instead owned by external companies. The employees are of the same stock, the unions are the same but what has mainly changed is the management. Therefore to me the management of the British car industry in the 1970s and 1980s must take a larger share of the blame than the unions. Who was running the show? The buck stops at the top. The management were the ones who reaped any significant financial reward, so they are the ones mainly responsible.

Westminster wouldn't know the meaning of the word democracy unless of course people vote in a way that suits them (but if you are Scotland then that doesn't matter much given that we have only affected the outcome of a General Election twice in 100 years. Do you want to wish us luck for 2015 if we vote NO?). How can this be the great EQUAL union of nations that the UK is according to Better Together when you are dominated by England 59 to 533 (which incidentally works out as 9% representation). 

 I want Scotland to be normal and be able to make its own decisions without being dictated to by Westminster in which Scotland has such a small stake.

I want Scotland to be free of nuclear weapons, which are currently situated here because they are too dangerous to be situated in the Thames just beside the Houses of Parliament in London.

I want to get rid of the absurd notion that being run by a Parliament we did elect in Edinburgh with no real power and one which we most definitely did not vote for in Westminster is actually 'the best of both worlds'.

Scotland is Better Together? For whom? Scotland is Better Than This!

I want to live in a country that actually utilises its resources wisely rather than completely squandering them like the UK has done with the oil from Scotland's waters in the North Sea.

This is completely unlike one of Scotland's nearest neighbours Norway (who with a similar population, similar oil reserves but a less diverse economy, has invested their proceeds wisely, and the money from those oil revenues will benefit the Norwegian people forever). They are also now one of the richest countries in the world.

You mention Europe and whether it is a good idea for Scotland or indeed the UK to be member. Let us take the Scandinavian countries as an example.

Norway is not a member of the EU. It has its own currency. It is also extremely successful. However it has to be pay the EU for access to the European single market and follow European regulations but as a result of not being a member has no say in the making of those regulations.

Sweden to which Norway was previously joined is a member of the EU, but still has its own currency. It is also more successful economically than Scotland is.

Finland is a member of the EU and is also a member of the much maligned Euro currency which many EU countries adopted in the early 2000s. It however is also more successful economically than Scotland.

So the problem here is not Europe or the EU, or even the Euro. The problem for Scotland has and will remain the UK unless we vote YES.

Scotland is also unlike almost ANY OTHER OIL producing country in the World (except Iran) in that it has not invested the oil proceeds for the future. This was another decision again taken by Westminster on the Scots behalf as they knew best! Scotland has very little to show for discovering oil and indeed it can credibly be argued that Scotland has suffered because of it due to the strong pound and its resulting adverse affect on manufacturing industry. To quote Margo MacDonald an independent Scottish politician who believed in independence 'The economic management of Scotland's resources by London has been awful, surely we couldn't do it worse ourselves?'

A quote from the late Margo MacDonald, a great respected Scottish politician who is much missed.

As has been proved by the Scottish Parliament YES WE CAN make better decisions ourselves if we have control over our own affairs. We have decided to prioritise our spending (as that is all we in actuality have any real control over at present) in different ways i.e. abolishing tolls on Scottish bridges, making prescriptions free so you are not taxed for being ill, making student fees free so again the person wishing to improve themselves is not taxed more than once for the audacity of actually wanting to improve their own, their family’s, and their descendants lives, and ultimately improving their country's and the World’s future. We have prioritized infrastructure spending to boost our wide ranging and diverse economy both now and in the future. Before this wouldn’t have happened – As Boris Johnston the Conservative London mayor says ‘My argument to the Chancellor and the Treasury is that a £ spent in Croydon is of far more value to the country (UK?) in strict utilitarian calculus than a £ spent in Strathclyde. Indeed…’

We have tried with limited resources to mitigate the effects of policies that are an anathema to Scotland like the welfare cuts but in our current position we can do only so much. Why does it make economic and social sense to have a few so very rich, when the poorest and most vulnerable must rely for food-banks for their very survival whilst living in freezing homes because they can’t afford to heat them, if indeed they have a home at all? (Why is it you need to be sent to prison in the UK to be assured of having a roof over your head, and enough food to eat? Why is it you can have a full time job, due to the low UK minimum wage, but still not earn enough to have enough money to actually live on without additional assistance? Indeed in such a rich country (referring on this occasion to the UK as whole) are these things and many other similar examples not obscene?)

Indeed why should we have to try to reverse the effects of a decision that we in general strongly object to (by spending part of a finite amount of money, so graciously given back to us by Westminster, thus damaging some other person as a result), when we and our own Parliament could have made a better decisions for the people of Scotland in the first place?
It has been said many times that a decent society should make decent provision for the poorest and most vulnerable, and this is a mark of true civilization. Where does this fit in to the current UK philosophy, particularly since all the London based UK parties generally agree on the current fiscal package and the current political trajectory. Scotland seems to have developed, over a long period, a different political and social philosophy summed up by the saying ‘We’re all Jock Tamson’s bairns’. It seems finally to be realising this no longer applies if it decides to stay in the UK.

In my own situation I am extremely resentful of the UK's attempts to reduce the amount of money spent on welfare. In my own situation I am ill through no fault of my own. I am given approximately £100 per week to live on when I get it. I paid into a system which I believed would be there when I needed it as a safety net. Instead every year (apart amazingly for this one) I am assessed as being 100% fit, have my income removed, and then have to go to a small court each time to have the £100 per week reinstated which I am entitled to receive as I was ill all along. This constant fight for a pittance of an income constantly undermines the likelihood of recovery.

The choice between YES and NO is almost nothing to do with Bannockburn, tartan, bagpipes, haggis (and dare I say it Tunnocks Tea Cakes, or Barrs Irn Bru and the like after the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 2014 opening ceremony last week) and Scotland’s romantic past as portrayed by Sir Walter Scott and continuously perpetuated by perplexed media persons of all nations who seem unable to understand. 

It is nothing to do with traditional anti external forces of nationalism which the UKIP is espousing which is striking a chord mainly in voters who feel disenfranchised in England, and much more radically the National Socialists did in Germany prior to the Second World War. It is not about ethnicity, nationality, sex, or sexuality either, as is illustrated by the diversity and inclusivity of the YES campaign (see English Scots for YES, Africans for YES, Cabbies for Yes, Academics for YES, YES LGBT, NHS for YES, etc.). Who would have thought that we would have Labour activists campaigning for the same goal as the SNP, the Scottish Greens, the Scottish Socialists, and even right wingers too?

It is not about putting up borders where none existed as they do all ready in Scotland’s every-day life. Indeed it is about removing some barriers and lowering some borders to people from around the World, including the 800000 people who reside in the remaining UK who currently have no jobs here to match their talents and aspirations. It is about ending the almost obligatory requirement for Scots to go to other parts of the World, and the UK, in particular London, to fulfill their cherished ambitions. Why can these ambitions not be equally achieved currently in Scotland? Does this not mean the current set up doesn’t work well? To me it is obvious things are not fine the way they are, and that little seems likely to change in the foreseeable future if we stay in the UK.
A YES vote will show that Scotland has finally shown it needs to join the world on its own terms, free from the often toxic filter of Westminster which still seems to hark back to British power, imperialism and Empire. 

A YES vote is about social justice, normalism, self determination, internationalism, the future, and the settled belief that we have a very good chance of being able to do things better (as we certainly have all the resources to do so – as the YES and the NO campaigns agree, or at least say they do).
We would have an equal place in the World as a nation, just like any other. As you mention I have heard the arguments that Scotland’s voice at the UN, in Europe and in other international bodies would be much diminished if we are an actual member state and I don’t believe it. The UK constantly represents itself in the world in a way exactly the opposite to what Scotland would. Therefore a smaller voice saying the right thing is much better than being part of a bigger voice saying and doing the wrong thing.
Scotland’s Future is in Scotland’s hands on the 18th September 2014. For the first time all the residents of Scotland will hold their own country’s sovereignty in their own hands in a single moment. Whose hands will that sovereignty will be in the day after?  I know whose hands I want it to be in. I don’t want to be as reckless as the UK has been, with Scotland’s resources and people, up until now. It is far better to have more control in an uncertain World.  I am risk averse so I am voting YES (as a country with £1.3 trillion of debt whilst having had the benefit of North Sea oil is far from stable and completely incompetent).

I attach as a last reference for you are several video links which are being created across Scotland at the moment in the fight for a YES vote. The vast majority of these are being created by people through choice, who feel strongly and without payment. The YES campaign have less than half the funding of the Better Together campaign as the latter is funded largely by powerful vested interests many in the Westminster House of Lords (a non democratic institution) and those who have won whilst the Scottish voters have lost. It is a David and Goliath situation with the Yes campaign being David. The YES campaign has thousands of unpaid volunteers and activists whilst the Better Together campaign mainly involves the rich and powerful.

Despite my illness, my difficult financial circumstances caused by my illness and exacerbated by the UK Government's welfare system, and the partially looking after Mum and Dad, I am one of these activists who are giving their time and limited reserves of energy to this very just cause. Reasons to vote YES to Scottish independence Scottish independence: Lets vote YES Yes Scotland weather forecaster looses it live on air Top 10 Unionist Myths debunked Business for Scotland: independence the facts Scottish oil, Westminster Rule: A case for independence - A long one at 16 minutes.

This one can be seen here YES Scotland. Despite the spelling mistakes this is a very good video 'I'm voting YES' from the official Yes Scotland campaign

I hope all the above links will work as some may be barred because you will be looking at them from Canada.

And lastly you needn't worry about your beloved Union Flag. Even if Scotland does vote YES and becomes independent it looks like the Union Flag will remain as it is. After all it did not change when Ireland left the UK in the 1920s. It has also been discovered by Westminster (which to me adds to why we should get out of the UK as fast as possible) that the UK has no official flag according to statute. So it must first adopt the Union Flag as its official flag to change it!

So hopefully this helps you in your understanding of the Scottish Independence debate. I don't know how it will all turn out. However day by day it is looking more like a YES vote, but the NO vote still is higher in the polls. I shall be shattered but not surprised if Scotland votes NO given the amount of scaremongering going on at the moment, but we shall just need to wait and see.

I would be grateful for your opinion on the above although you don't need to be so long winded.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Better Together? Scotland is Better Than This!

It really baffles me how anyone in this country actually believes that we are Better Together. I can't get my head around it. The best of both worlds they say. I don't think we have the best of any worlds. 

We are one of the most unequal countries in the western world; we have 1 in 3 children born in Glasgow living in poverty; we have one of the lowest life expectancies; we have increasing numbers of people relying on food banks just to feed themselves from week to week, we have western Europe’s biggest nuclear weapons arsenal situated about 30 miles for our largest city, and for 27 of the first 65 years of the post WW2 years we have been ruled by Westminster Governments Scotland didn’t vote for. But we have best of both worlds they say. 

Waken up! Is there anybody actually voting No in September? Why would that be?

All I’d say is if you’re planning to vote No and you’re NOT a billionaire businessman, a UK government minister or a Scottish Labour MP (who doesn't really give a **** about his constituents), it might be worth wondering why that is.