Walking Together

Global-Climate-Change-Dri-001Yesterday we published Douglas Alexander, from Third Way magazine – today  JUSTIN KENRICK articulates a very different vision of an independent Scotland in a global, interconnected world.

When there is such a need to challenge the way financial interests are wrecking the global environment and pushing austerity on the poor (while taking our wealth into their tax heavens), surely Scottish independence should be the last thing on our minds? But the question is: How do we take control of those financial interests?

Not by voting for the three main UK parties who all embrace rather than challenge the financiers. And not by voting for the Scottish National Party.

However, a vote for Scottish independence is not a vote for the SNP. In fact, their main reason for existence would vanish on the day Scotland cut its ties with Westminster; and Labour in Scotland is likely to be the main beneficiary of independence, just as the SNP has been the main beneficiary of devolution.

Instead, this referendum is about whether people in Scotland think the current political system has served them well, and whether they think they can do better. It is about whether it is right to bring power back closer to the people. This is why we are witnessing – in Scotland at least – an unrelenting media campaign by corporate power to portray independence as a process of abandonment and insecurity.

So let’s look more rationally at each of the so-called terrible problems independence would supposedly generate:

1) “An independent Scotland might not be accepted into the European Union”

Scottish Society is the most pro-Europe in the UK . An independent Scotland by definition fulfils all the criteria for being a member of the EU and would be instantly accepted by other European peoples, as a Danish legal specialist recently confirmed. It is far more likely that a UK Government will take us out of Europe, and if not, that they will continue to reshape Europe for their corporate. friends, not for workers and refugees and environmental rights.

2) “Trident would be massively expensive to move to England, and so independence will cost us all hugely”

Eighty per cent of people in Scotland want to get rid of nuclear weapons , and the vast majority of MSPs in the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood reflect this settled will – yet can do nothing about defence issues, which are controlled by Westminster. An independent Scotland would be able set an example to the world.

If Westminster doesn’t want to pay the huge costs of building new facilities in England, there is a simple solution – spend those billions on rebuilding society instead of nuclear weapons.

3) “Scotland would be cutting itself off, turning friends and family south of the border into foreigners”

The main UK parties endlessly push a British nationalism based on fear – giving out the message that my sisters in London will be foreigners to me in Edinburgh if Scotland becomes independent. But in fact ‘foreigners’ is not the way to think of or relate to anyone, either in these islands or the wider world.

By contrast the SNP reflects the widespread civic nationalism in Scottish society – the idea that those who live in a particular place should decide about that place. This is not a nationalism that focuses on bloodlines, fear and ‘foreigners’, but one that is internationalist, one that welcomes asylum seeker and refugees.

In that sense, Scotland becoming independent would be about reconnecting with the world. My sisters and friends the world over are always my sisters and friends – while the neoliberalism that currently seeks to unite us only through what we choose to buy is a paltry shadow of who we are .

4) “Scotland becoming independent would mean abandoning England to permanent Tory rule”

Numerically, Scotland just isn’t that important in UK elections – indeed, research shows that Scottish MPs have NEVER turned what would have been a Conservative government into a Labour one, or vice versa. But if politics in Scotland can show that another way is possible then independence can certainly help progressive movements elsewhere in the world, including in England.

5) “Scotland cannot manage economically”

Those arguing for a No vote say that people in Scotland receive more funding per head than people in the rest of the UK. Those arguing for a Yes vote say Scotland contributes more to the UK economy, partly through the huge oil revenues that have flowed for decades. Perhaps both are right and perhaps both miss the point that oil is not the future.

It is certainly a huge shame that those oil revenues were not used to establish a fund for society as in Norway, but instead to plug the huge hole left in public finances by tax cuts for the very rich and the sell-off of public companies like BT. But ultimately we all need independence from oil. We all need the commitment to renewables that Scotland is demonstrating, albeit renewables owned by communities and wider society not by corporations.

What is needed is a transition from an energy intense economy driven for the profit of the few to a Nordic social democratic model such as that being put forward by the Commonweal Project in Glasgow . Will banks like RBS flourish in such a context? Hopefully not. If a Bank is too big too fail, it is too big. We don’t need a system in which the rich take all the profits when they succeed, but give us their debts when they fail .

6) “Why not just have more powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament?”

The Scottish Parliament was brought into existence to prevent the imposition of policies (like those of Margaret Thatcher) for which Scotland never voted. Currently it has power over areas like education and health, and supports social democratic values expressed through policies like rejecting tuition fees,.

But why just have the power to deal with some of the consequences of bad policies and not have the power to ensure good policies in the first place? Why not have the power to ensure inclusive and fair economic and social security policies, and the power to reject nuclear weapons and to refrain from participating in illegal wars?

7) “Is independence relevant in an interconnected world?

Absolutely. It makes sense that power is as close to people as possible so that when we see what is being done in our name we have the power to do something about it. In that sense, independence may be the democratic response to the way in which Tony Blair continued the privatisation of public goods, and completely ignored the huge majority who demonstrated against his Iraq war.

Our powers have been continually alienated from us to bodies like the World Trade Organisation, which makes the rules that favour huge corporations. Current governments lack the will to tackle this. What is needed is not for power to be devolved from above, but for it to be enabled by communities from below . We could then grant power to greater conglomerations for as long as they use it wisely, but withdraw it when larger bodies fail to act in our name.

8) “Negotiations over independence would mean huge disruption economically”

If those who currently rule at Westminster are reasonable, then there will be no difficulty in negotiating a post-independence settlement. If they are not reasonable then there is no way any of us should be ruled by them, and we need to end their rule starting with Scotland but not ending until we have replaced all governments that serve the financial elites rather than the people who elected them.

Scotland becoming independent guarantees nothing, but – going on the Scottish Parliament’s track record and given political will – it offers the real possibility of leading by example and helping all of us get out of this accelerating train before it hits the wall.

MEDIA BARRAGE

When there is something seriously at stake, when those who control finance (and through that control the media and so much of our politics) see that their interests might be seriously threatened, then a media barrage of fear becomes the incessant background noise of our daily lives. This happened at every election under Thatcher, until the Labour leadership embraced rather than sought to restrain the financiers and so elections instead became the empty rituals they have been since. Such a media barrage is what is happening currently in Scotland – day in and day out, with the referendum still a year away.

A third of people in Scotland will probably vote Yes to independence, and a third vote No, just because they believe that is right no matter what. It is the third of us in the middle who will swing it one way or the other.

What will persuade us is either the fear which is being pushed so relentlessly upon us, telling us we can’t manage our affairs – or the hope that through voting for a Parliament that is closer to the people we can help create a better world.

In a global context, voting for independence is a threat to the powers that be, and creates a space for hope. Voting for independence is not about nationalism and abandoning shared values; it’s about democracy and restoring those values.

 

[1] http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-opinion/6761-scotland-and-the-eu-the-polling-evidence

[2] Ref recent interview with Danish legal specialist from National Collective: http://nationalcollective.com/2013/07/10/exclusive-scottish-eu-membership-straightforward-and-in-denmarks-interest/

[3] http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/even-pro-uk-voters-reject-trident-move.20481478

[4] http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/06/13/overview-effect-astronauts-looking-earth_n_3435379.html

[5] http://wingsoverscotland.com/why-labour-doesnt-need-scotland/

[6] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scotland/9647948/Scots-receive-1600-more-per-head-in-state-spending-than-English.html

[7] http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/new-report-scots-paying-more-tax-than-rest-of-uk.20777183

[8] Commonweal: http://reidfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/The-Common-Weal.pdf

[9] https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2013/07/15/mismanaging-money/

[10] https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/2013/07/11/land-not-out-of-our-hands/

[11] http://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/heritage/lesley-riddoch-pulling-together-for-better-future-1-3001166

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  1. Kat Frac says:

    “And not by voting for the Scottish National Party. (why not?) In fact, their main reason for existence would vanish on the day Scotland cut its ties with Westminster; and Labour in Scotland is likely to be the main beneficiary of independence,”

    Well, as someone who happens to believe that the SNP government is more socialist than the labour party have been in a VERY long time, & that they have done a damned good job of protecting the most vulnerable in this country, when LABOUR, would have been evicting right left & centre due to bedroom tax in ALL of their councils.
    With not a bloody care in the world at doing so. I have to say that IF Independence were to mean getting that lot back in power, I would stick with the TORIES in Westminster thank you.

    Labour are a disgrace as far as the way they have treated the people of this country, & talked this country down, & for that VICIOUS tongue of a so called leader of the so called Scottish Labour Party, how anyone could contemplate ever seeing her as First Minister let alone Prime Minister of an Independent Scotland just leaves me cold.

  2. Rev. William Steele says:

    What a contrast to Doug Alexander’s article! Just about every benefit Doug claimed for the Union is not the case. Justitin’s article is visionary, full of hope and demonstrates the desire of most Scots to have a more just economy that meets the needs of all the people, and not the greed of a few.

  3. Brian Powell says:

    If the Labour Party was the main beneficiary (how you didn’t explain, or why, after being completely opposed to Independence, that would happen) then it would have all been a waste of time.
    You clearly haven’t looked at what the Scottish Government is doing or it’s plans.
    Labour hasn’t put forward any plan for an Independent Scotland.

  4. Brian Powell says:

    Every problem you have put forward are the ones being repeated over and over again by Labour in Westminster and in Holyrood. Haven’t you noticed?

  5. Donald MacDonald says:

    Difficult to see any of the current Scottish Labour personnel becoming useful politicians in the new Scotland. There may be lions in there being led by donkeys, but by being so led they have acquired nasal tones and large ears themselves.
    No, a new breed are required. That may come from defections from the SNP post-indy, or from a completely new structure emerging. But this lot? I hope not.

  6. Just to be clear about it: this piece wasn’t written for Bella, it was written for ‘No’ leaning Labour voters. It was also written specifically to address the key reasons presented for voting ‘No’.

    Hence the questions I chose to address, and hence the emphasis on the fact that the Labour movement could benefit hugely from independence, and even a rejuvenated Labour Party could benefit if those with vision decide independence is the way forward and choose to reclaim their party.

    I think Bella is a wonderful place to write and read and discuss, and that thinking of how Scotland could be post-independence is liberating our political imaginations in a way that is so rare in any society.

    BUT we need to be able to talk with and persuade those who are currently intending to vote ‘No’. Simply hurling vitriol at their parties is not going to convince them – in fact it does the opposite. If anyone else here is concerned (and had ideas about) how we persuade the No leaning Labour voters to shift, then us really like to hear it. That’s what I was trying to do here, and help (rather than outrage – however understandable – at taking their affection for their party seriously) would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Sneddon says:

      Mostly a good article but you might have mentioned there is a place for labour voters and members with a positive vision for their party and Scotland its called Labour for Indy as I’m sure you know. Personally I consider the current SLAB leadership tainted. Maybe next time you are writing for a labour audience it would be good to mention LFI and link them/ Nevertheless I enjoyed your article

      1. Very good point. Like all of us, I’m learning as I go.

  7. As a lifelong SNP supporter, I am entirely with Justin on this. Tribal squabbling about which party will merit our support after independence is beside the point at this stage. There is room for a wide variety of views on that and it will depend on the programmes the parties put before us and the quality of the leadership they can offer. The thing we need to do now is to secure the “Yes” vote. After that, anything is possible!

  8. Crubag says:

    “In fact, their main reason for existence would vanish on the day Scotland cut its ties with Westminster; and Labour in Scotland is likely to be the main beneficiary of independence, just as the SNP has been the main beneficiary of devolution.”

    It used to be the received wisdom in SNP ranks that the party could split into right and left blocs post-independence, but I don’t get that sense now. The pursuit of power has a consolidating effect and I’d expect the SNP to continue as a party (as the South African ANC or Mexican Institutional Revolutionary or Irish Fianna Fail have done). Due to continuity of personnel and structure I’d also expect the SNP to win the 2016 election and quite possibly the one after – though probably as the leading member of a coalition.

    Longer-term, I think the biggest winner of the current party set up would be the Scottish Conservatives – new personnel and policies drawn from Scottish concerns could see them reaping many more seats (well, that wouldn’t be hard).

    Scottish Labour by contrast, separated from London direction, would likely rethink their purpose – are they for socialism or social democracy? – and could well split into a socialist and a social democractic party reducing their electoral effectiveness while that split works out.

    1. Personally I’d hope that the longer-term winner would be the Greens (or equivalent coalition), otherwise I don’t see our long-term lasting very long. However, given my audience for this piece, I wouldn’t have wanted to make your or my argument, but simply wanted to highlight Graeme Purves point above, that any party that cares, dares and is capable stands as good a chance as the SNP (over the longer term)

      1. Crubag says:

        I don’t think we would see much difference in Green party representation over the next 5 to 10 years. Greens have done better in other European countries than in the UK but that is as a result of various forms of proportional representation – which we already have in Scotland. Greens could still improve on the 5% vote in 2011 – especially if they can move into the constituencies and displace the Lib Dems.

  9. habibbarri says:

    What political party governs after the first general election in the kingdom of the Scots is best left until after the Referendum. What matters now is to persuade the majority of residents in Scotland to vote YES. Since it seems that many don’t like the SNP and Alex Salmond, is very important to loudly and constantly reiterate that the Referendum is not about the SNP or Alex Salmond. It’s about the Scottish People exercising the Sovereignty that we already have according to the Constitution of the UK, but is denied us by Westminster, taking responsibility for ourselves, getting a Government that we vote for, having laws passed that we want and not having laws imposed on us that we don’t want, becoming nuclear free, having an army for defense and not to “punch above our weight” by engaging in neo-imperialist wars, collecting, deciding how to spend, and spending our own revenue rather than subsidise the rest of the UK, having good relations, an equal partnership in the British Isles, and being treated with respect.

    Yes Scotland! We will be better together as independent and EQUAL countries.

  10. Brian Powell says:

    I had been a Labour supporter, and defender, all my life. I also believed we should be an Independent country.
    Over several years leading up to this point I started to look much more carefully at what Labour in Scotland had been doing, and more what they had not been doing.
    The big thing that came across, was the time they have been in power in Scotland, 50years, and coupled with that the 13 years in overwhelming control of Westminster, and what they did with that control.
    Labour used the damage Thatcher did for the last 30years to say look at what she did, now vote for us.
    They assumed our votes without earning them.
    They could have taken the revenues from the oil resources and allocated portions of it for a certain length of time specifically for regeneration of areas of Scotland, North East of England or Wales. But they didn’t.
    We might have felt good removing Tories from power in Scotland, but our 50 Labour MPs in Westminster simply gave an illusion of control.
    It was only when the SNP formed the first Scottish Government, and not an Executive, that the possibilities of what we could do as an Independent country became clearer.
    While Labour was getting Councils bogged down in PPI contracts for schools etc, some costing four times what they are worth, Jack McConnell, as FM was returning £1.7billion to the Treasury to show how ‘fiscally prudent’ the Labour Executive was.
    I fully support Independence and this Scottish Government to make Scotland work as an country.

    The big dilemma for Labour voters who believe putting Labour back in Westminster will solve the problems, is what about the next time and the next time. 60% of the last 50yeaars we have not had the Government we voted for. All policies can be reversed by the next Government.
    We, in Scotland, have a Social Democratic Government in Holyrood, and Labour voters believe in a social democratic future. We could do it together in Scotland.

  11. Trade unions should disaffiliate from Labour and use their members’ funds to establish a new party of the left.

    With such a party, we could then call for a host of socialist policies:

    progressive taxation; close all tax loopholes; increase corporation tax; cut defence expenditure (especially weapons of mass destruction); cancel all PFI schemes that drain funds from our NHS; invest in a massive house-building programme, a publicly-owned transport sytem – re-nationalise our railways under democratic control of those who work in the industry, re-nationalise our public services and develop renewables in the energy sector. We would then have sufficient funds to properly expand our health, education and social services. We would be able to offer decent living wages and full employment.

    Such a party in Scotland, with such a programme, would act as a beacon to others in the UK (and, indeed, Europe) and we could then discuss a socialist federation across those artificial, arbitrary ‘borders’

    Oh, and let’s not forget, ANY representative – MP/MSP should only receive the wage of a skilled worker and be subjected to instant recall.

    mass mass destruction

    1. Chris – Thanks for that.

      The policies you list are already Scottish Green Party policy – so maybe there is no need to create a new party, just a need to make sure we succeed?!

      – progressive taxation?

      YES (Policy 3.14.2The Citizens Income will replace the personal tax allowance and most welfare benefits. Further income will then be taxed on a progressive scale.)

      – close all tax loopholes?

      YES (SGP would introduce a code of conduct that would set out that corporations and individuals should agree to seek to pay the right amount of tax in the right place at the right time where right means that the economic substance of the transactions undertaken coincides with the place and form in which they are reported for taxation purposes – 3.19.17.2; 3.19.17.3)

      – increase corporation tax?

      YES (3.5.19 Corporation Tax will continue to be levied on the net profits earned by companies. These will be banded, with higher rates payable by larger companies in order to encourage smaller businesses)

      – cut defence expenditure (especially weapons of mass destruction)?

      YES (11.9.1The possession of nuclear weapons by Britain contributes nothing to our security and we believe that the current commitment to disarm if the other nuclear powers do the same should be changed to one of unilateral nuclear disarmament. We will get rid of the current Trident armed nuclear submarines. The Scottish Green Party will work towards outlawing the movement of Nuclear warheads on Scottish roads both through proposing legislation in the Scottish Parliament and through supporting peaceful direct action to block the nuclear convoys travelling on our roads from Burghfield in Berkshire to Coulport near Faslane;
      (11.9.2 We reject chemical and biological weapons and include in this those using depleted uranium, removing the threat of long term toxicity from civilian populations and our own troops;
      (11.9.3 We will close US military bases in Scotland and reject the idea that these can be sovereign US territory outside UK and Scottish law;
      (11.9.4 We will raise the recruitment age for armed services to 18. We will reduce overall recruitment to armed forces. More attention will be paid to retaining skilled personnel;
      (11.9.5 We will integrate army, navy and air force into single force. We will disband the Territorial Army to reduce the culture of militarism. We will disband the Gurkha units and make provision for the support of Nepalese communities who rely on this as a source of employment. Integration of the armed forces will include reviewing the number and role of RAF squadrons with the aim of reducing them. We will end low flying exercises over land.
      (11.9.6 The provision of training to the military forces of third countries will be restricted to the support of newly emerging democratic governments and United Nations peace-keeping forces.
      (11.9.7 We will balance the need for the armed forces to train with the needs of local populations and the environment within military training areas with a presumption against any expansion.
      (11.9.8 Defence forces should include the provision of disaster relief in their planning and training.

      – cancel all PFI schemes that drain funds from our NHS?

      YES (3.11.1 We will phase out public-private partnerships (PPP) and the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

      – invest in a massive house-building programme, a publicly-owned transport system?

      YES (We would heavily crack down on unoccupied properties and are in favour of publicly owned public transport (covered elsewhere).

      – re-nationalise our railways under democratic control of those who work in the industry?

      YES (5.7.3 We will bring rail services back into public ownership.

      – re-nationalise our public services?

      YES (3.9.1 We believe that the provision of basic public services in health, education, law and order, the road and rail networks and the postal service should be under public ownership and public control, with that control located as close to the community level as possible. Greens would end any administration of such crucial public services by private companies for profit.

      – develop renewables in the energy sector?

      YES . . .

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