By Justin Kenrick
“Around two-thirds of respondents said they wanted Holyrood to have control over all financial powers – so-called ‘devo max’ – but most said they wanted Westminster to make decisions about defence and foreign affairs.” (ScotCen Social Research survey conducted summer 2012, released late January 2013)
Even in this most conservative survey two-thirds of people in Scotland want all political decisions about life here made here.
Yet there is a majority against independence in this poll, as in almost all the others, supposedly because we want to leave defence and foreign policy – ultimately decisions about going to war – in the hands of Westminster governments whose wars the vast majority here have strongly opposed.
How does it make sense that in this of all areas, the majority of people seem to want decisions left with Westminster?
Pushed further, people can also fear the financial consequences of independence, can fear that Scotland’s oil is not enough to protect us from an imaginary economic meltdown that would happen as soon as the City of London turned its back on us for turning our backs on it.
Perhaps these are the two key areas that need tackling head on, and need turning on their heads: on the one hand foreign affairs and war, and on the other hand the economy and oil.
In the polls the majority give ‘defence’ as a reason to stay in the UK, and oil as a reason why Scotland may have the resources to become independent.
But the vast majority of people in Scotland strongly opposed the UK’s foreign wars, and those are wars fought by the corporate world order in order to keep control of oil.
‘Defence’ is not a reason to stay in the UK, it is one of the most compelling reasons to leave it.
‘Oil’ is not the means by which Scotland can become independent, it’s the way in which it would be kept dependent on an international financial system that corrupts democracies, flouts international human rights and is detonating a global carbon bomb.
It is independence from an aggressive foreign policy that is needed.
It is independence from oil that is needed. Independence from the miracle fuel.
Oil is too good to be true because its price in current human suffering and future immeasurable suffering is too great to bear.
How could such independence be achieved?
In terms of the 2014 independence referendum, and despite what the polls are currently saying, by far the most likely outcome is that the Yes campaign will win the argument and Scotland will become independent.
There is little argument against a Yes vote, except fear mongering and fear itself. As long as the Yes campaign stays focused on the need and right for people to become responsible for their own governance then Yes will happen.
But this will not achieve the independence that is needed unless we step away now from the arguments over how to achieve the political independence of a nation state, and instead devote our energies to mapping out and enabling this to be a path to independence from the financial fossil fuelled foreign wars system that is impoverishing people and planet.
This system still enriches many of us – perhaps a large minority of the worlds population – through a Faustian bargain of consumer goods today in exchange for the exploitation of the majority and the ticking time bomb of ecological destruction.
The larger this minority becomes – in thrall to a politics of insecurity, medias of distraction and economies of isolation – the more we destroy those outwith that magic circle.
The cost has to be born by someone:
- If not me then you
- If not you then them
- If not them then the whole natural world – the brilliant skies, the deep oceans, the rich soils, the intricate forests teeming with life – all become resources ripped from their places, become sinks for our pollution, become lifeless deserts.
So what do we need of political independence?
Sure it may begin with Scotland and the referendum, and sure it has already begun at other times and in other places, and sure if it happens in England first or Wales or Ireland or beyond these shores, then we will heave a sigh of relief and be glad to join in.
But it is not happening anywhere nearby except in the many hidden places, in unreported stories and everyday acts of kindness and courage. And it needs to be happening, and happening fast, at a state level, at that level of human organisation that alone currently has the legitimacy and possibility of asserting people’s right to stop the plunder.
And if it can flow from one to another and wear away the delusion that there is no alternative – if it can wear away this delusion, the only delusion needed to keep the inequitable destructive machine in place. If it can flow around and through and beneath and over, and make clear that we can do altogether better than this, then we stand a chance of finding a way to the future.
So what is needed in these crucial pre-independence months?
Not a push for massive corporate owned wind farms in place of gas and coal and oil, but state owned tidal power to tackle fuel poverty and community owned small scale wind solar hydro to help generate electricity and community and autonomy.
Not 100% renewable energy targets locked into a strategy of producing more and more carbon and renewable energy to export in a world beating fashion, but setting limits in a way that enables an equitable transition to sustainability.
Not an independent Scotland so that taxes on air travel can be lowered and cut throat finance be attracted here instead of going elsewhere, but a place where the true costs are accounted for rather than passed on to the next generation, a place that attracts people who care and dare to find innovative ways of making stuff imaginatively and from less.
Not an independent Scotland that seeks to attract the same old financiers – those wealth takers whose greatest deception is to call themselves the wealth creators – and who insist on holding the delusion gun to our heads and saying: “if you don’t do as we say and vote as we tell you then your economies will crash because we’ll go elsewhere”.
But an independence of heart and mind and spirit that replies “well then if that is the only economy you can imagine then go elsewhere and we’ll be making ones that are equitable and enduring and give our children a chance of enjoying the earth”.
And then maybe the question of others wanting this oil, of others unveiling their economic and other threats, maybe this will be turned on us. And with it an insisting that if we’re leaving it in the ground they might as well take it for all of our economic goods, even if that means overriding our autonomy and independence the better to help us help ourselves.
In a moment like that the outcome will depend on the degree to which we made clear all along that independence isn’t about nation states but about finding a path out from under the thumb of the way nation states have been used by those with power to control any dissent from their inequitable system.
At different moments different peoples in different places stand a better or worse chance of trying to find a way out.
If this is our chance then lets not try for anything less, and lets not doubt this isn’t only about those within these boundaries – this is about something altogether better: overcoming the artificial boundaries imposed to keep us divided from each other and obedient to their call.
The uniformity imposed by artificial boundaries is run through with a thousand lines of connection and distinction.
Each place matters and is special, defined by the way it is uniquely connected to its near and distant neighbours.
Outside the delusion we rediscover that it is an altogether better world.