Community Voices piece for the Irvine Herald – Scottish Independence

Our local paper here is running a new feature “Community Voices” and each week will give space to a guest writer to contribute their thoughts on a subject close to their heart.  This month the topic is Scottish Independence.  Here are the words I wrote on voting YES:

On the 18th of September 2014 we will be asked whether we wish to restore political independence to our country. 

My personal position on the constitution of Scotland is not complicated.  Scotland is a nation and a nation should govern itself.  I want to live in a fairer and more prosperous country.   I believe that with the wealth of resources we have and full control over spending we can achieve a better standard of living for all our citizens.  The simple truth is that the people living and working here are best placed to make decisions about how things run here. 

Yes, Scotland should be an Independent country.

There’s been a narrative in the past that we’re too wee, too poor, and too stupid to govern ourselves.  Of nearly 200 independent countries in the world, around half are smaller than Scotland.  Seven of the ten wealthiest countries in the OECD have populations of less than 10 million, including 4 that are very similar to or smaller than Scotland.  Scotland contributes 9.6% of UK taxes and receives 9.3% of UK spending.  Not even the staunchest defenders of the Westminster government attempt to peddle the myth we can’t afford our independence anymore. 

Now that the economic argument has been conceded by even the UK prime minister, supporters of the status quos must explain how, with all we have in natural and human resources, with many other countries our size doing so well why we aren’t doing better?  20% of our children in Scotland are living in poverty.  How can you say the “UK is OK”?  Westminster isn’t working for Scotland, with the recent debate on the Bedroom Tax 90% of Scottish MPs voted against it but still it is imposed.  I wonder if our referendum was asking us to form this union rather than restore our independence, how many of us would vote to be governed by a parliament where our voice goes unheard on such important matters as welfare or defence?  

An Independent Scotland has never meant isolation or separatism to me, independence is a natural state of affairs.  When we encourage independence in our young people it is because we know in our hearts that it is best for them to be able to stand on their own two feet.  To take responsibility for themselves and their decisions and, most importantly, exercise their right to make the choices that are best for them.  Anything less than full autonomy feels undignified.  Why on earth wouldn’t we want to take full responsibility for the decisions that affect all of us? 

My eldest daughter was born in 1996 and in 2014 she will be joining with young folk all over the country in voting for the first time in our historic referendum.  It’s an exciting time politically and only right that 16 and 17 year olds will take part in determining the future of our nation.   For them, the devolved Scottish parliament has always had responsibility for many of the areas that affect their lives.   And it’s this control that has allowed us to make different choices here in Scotland, choices that reflect our values and wishes for our society.  Unlike in England, we can retain and protect our NHS ensuring it is run in the interest of patients and not profit and provide free personal care for our older people.  College and University are an opportunity accessible to all with ability not only those able to pay.

I care about social justice and equality for all not just Scotland’s people.  In areas of Health policy Scotland has pioneered the smoking ban and minimum alcohol pricing being good examples of where Westminster has followed our lead.  Showing that decisions we make independently here can have a positive impact on our friends and neighbours south of the border.  A progressive approach to welfare and employability could make an equally good impression, with Scotland presenting a better way than Westminster austerity, driving debate and accelerating change in the other countries on this island.  For those of us opposed to nuclear weapons, an Independent Scotland provides the only realistic opportunity to remove them from our soil and indeed the constitution for our newly independent country could choose to ban them entirely from our land.

I have high hopes for Scotland, for a caring society where there are opportunities for all our citizens and support for those who need it.  An independent Scotland is not a panacea to all our social and economic problems.  The global challenges being faced will not disappear overnight and we may not always get things right first time, but decisions will be made by a parliament 100% accountable, responsible and reflecting the wishes of the people of Scotland.  For that to happen, the people making those choices must be those who care most about Scotland, the people living and working here.  Our voices must be heard. 

Yes, Scotland should be an independent country.

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