Altogether Better (without oil)

hand1Do we need to move on from the independence debate to the post-independence debate?

“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.

Comments (9)

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  1. Yeah, let’s renounce the Demon Oil. We can fund a lavish public sector and world-class healthcare system with… shells and leaves! That’s it! Who needs money?

    1. Triskelion says:

      The recent bbc report clearly demostrated that scotland without it’s oil can fare excelently without oil ( & It does not need it, our industry is enough, however it’s just not going to happen, and also I do think we should use it, but with care, I want scotland to be the grestest country in the world after independence, I want social security, education, arts, a state that supports national culture, we’ll need oil for that, but we must be careful with it.

  2. picpac67 says:

    At last, someone with the intelligence, insight and courage to take the argument away from the national, the parochial and the selfish (‘our’ oil), and to confront the global realities: illegal wars and occupations for scarce resources and geo-strategic control, the myth of Islamic ‘jihadist’ terrorism that spawned the bogus “war on terror”, the corporate-financial-political-military-media complex which serves the interests of the very few. It’s not a secret; ‘they’ tell us what their aims are. Bush senior: (‘Bushonomics’ is “the continuous consolidation of wealth and power in ever fewer, ever tighter, and ever righter hands”).
    Zbigniew Brzezinski (1970): “The technotronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities.”
    “In the technotronic society the trend would seem to be towards the aggregation of the individual support of millions of uncoordinated citizens, easily within the reach of magnetic and attractive personalities effectively exploiting the latest communications techniques to manipulate emotions and control reason.”
    The real struggle is against those who are intent on implementing Orwell’s nightmare vision of a society which would accept the lie, the corruption of meaning (“war is peace”; “freedom is slavery”; 2+2=5), and would come, as Aldous Huxley predicted, to love its servitude and those who imposed it. We’re already a long way down that road.

  3. Barontorc says:

    Such idealism is no more and no less than a marker for continuous development.
    Flourishing growth would have to be a approached in several ways, by necessity; legal and political and socially; by the economic reality that life goes on for a growing and consequently dependent, ageing Scottish society.
    Many countries which espouse good values of care and democratic rightness would give their right arm to be in possession of a revenue stream, such as oil, that would help fund the attainment of these conditions within their country, the tricky bit is keeping control of it’s extraction and exploitation.
    The biggest threat to an independent, small but very richly resourced country is exploitation and for that we need good solid government, unfettered from global debt and malign external interference, to fulfil its ambitions and plans for a just and well protected society.
    This is achievable for Scotland. It is not achievable for rUK. And, that is why it is critical for a YES vote.

    1. Barontorc, I completely agree that:
      “Many countries which espouse good values of care and democratic rightness would give their right arm to be in possession of a revenue stream, such as oil, that would help fund the attainment of these conditions within their country, the tricky bit is keeping control of it’s extraction and exploitation.”

      But – as this week’s Greenpeace report makes clear – these values of care will quickly be burnt to a cinder if we continue to seek to use oil to achieve them:
      Even “The World Bank, the IEA, and consultancy giant PwC all warned late last year that business-as-usual projections put the planet on track for temperature increases in excess of 4ºC by the second half of the century, while the Carbon Tracker NGO has repeatedly warned that a significant chunk of declared fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned if governments are to avoid runaway climate change.”

  4. Pipick says:

    Are there reputable figures on deaths per megawatt over 50 years from nuclear power (civil and military)? And then comparable figures on deaths in the same period from fossil fuels? The awkward conclusion might be that fossil fuels are a bigger killer – not even taking into account global warming. Then how would we view the SNP’s focus on removing Trident from the Clyde?

  5. felibrilu says:

    “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.”

    I’m sorry but this is just woolly, wishful thinking; exactly the sort of whimsy that will turn away anyone who is hoping for a rigorous fact-driven debate to inform their referendum decision.

    I appreciate that the author is passionate about his subject. But passion is not an adequate substitute for a evidence-based argument based on data.

  6. George Gunn says:

    Dear Justin, the fact is we have oil in the North Sea and west of Shetland and Scotland is going to have to manage that resource responsibly and we can only do that as an independent democracy which has constitution which protects its citizens from the likes of Exxon, Shell and the rest. I appreciate your concerns and share many of them but let’s not beat ourselves over the head here: let us get our country back and make sure we protect the environment and use the resources we are blessed with wisely. It will all take a lot of hard work. Oil, unfortunately, remains the one single reason Westminster is set against an independent Scotland. Believe me, if we had nothing, we would have gone years ago.

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