A Better Way
I try very hard to keep my writing non-political and only focus on issues surrounding Celtic and Scottish football. Today, however, I’ll make an exception and talk about the upcoming vote on Scottish independence. This is undoubtedly the most important decision the people of Scotland have ever had to make in their entire history. The ruling elite who voted Scotland’s parliament out of existence in 1707 did so for mostly selfish reasons. Among these was the failure of Scotland’s attempt to found a colony on the Darien isthmus in what we today call Panama. The rich investors lost huge amounts of money and when the English Government, who wished to see Scotland under its influence, offered £400,000 in compensation to the Darien investors the glint of gold influenced many. England also closed its markets to Scottish coal, cattle and Linen in an act of virtual blackmail and the ruling Scottish elite bowed to the pressure and began negotiations which would lead to the unification of the parliaments. Few Scots saw this as anything other than a sell out and serious rioting occurred in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Copies of the treaty were burned in the streets, windows at the Scottish parliament were smashed and a mob controlled Glasgow for a month. It was to no avail, the people Robert Burns called ‘A parcel of rogues’ voted 110-67 to close the ancient Scottish parliament down and it met for the last time on 25 March 1707.
All of that is a million miles away from the position Scots find themselves in today. This hard working and inventive nation which has given so much to the world in terms of industry, medicine, agriculture, philosophy and the arts, finds itself wrestling with some of the highest levels of social inequality in the developed world. Scotland is not a poor country. We have a well-educated, hard working population and some of the greatest natural resources in Europe and yet recent report found that male life expectancy in poorer areas of Glasgow’s East end was just 54 while in affluent suburbs a ten minute drive away it was 82. How have we allowed this situation to arise? The simple answer is that the ruling elite of the modern age, with some noble exceptions, continue to perpetuate a system of government and wealth distribution which enriches the minority at the expense of the people. We currently have a cabinet of millionaires telling us that we’re all in it together and preparing us for more austerity. Meanwhile as the welfare budget is squeezed and the poorest in our society are blamed for their own problems, the Bankers bonuses continue to rise, despite the fact their greed almost destroyed the whole economic system. We, the ordinary tax payers of these islands, paid a huge price for the actions of a selfish minority and in their utter arrogance they had us pay to clean up their mess. American political thinker Noam Chomsky reminds us that things aren’t set in stone and that change is possible if we want it enough…
"There is no reason to accept the doctrines crafted to sustain power and privilege, or to believe that we are constrained by mysterious and unknown social laws. These are simply decisions made within institutions that are subject to human will and that must face the test of legitimacy. And if they do not meet the test, they can be replaced by other institutions that are more free and more just."
Voting for Scottish independence won’t change the international systems we have allowed the elite to create for themselves but it will be the first step on the road to creating a fairer society which uses the wealth of the nation to support and develop all of its people and not just the so called ‘elite.’ The world is weighed down by inequality and injustice and the Scotland I want my children and grandchildren to inherit can be a beacon demonstrating that there is an alternative to the rapacious and divisive capitalism which is causing great harm to the natural world as well as to humanity in general. I’m not suggesting for a moment that hard working people shouldn’t be rewarded for their industry, of course they should, but that must always be balanced by what is in the interest of the common good and of the planet.
The idea of a more just Scotland can never come about while the London-centric elite dominate our national discourse. There was a time when our political parties offered real choice before they were pressured into becoming little more than a regulatory bodies for the big corporations and their media empires. We are told that we should spend £100b on upgrading our nuclear weapons capability while food-banks proliferate in our poorer areas. We demonstrated against British involvement in the Iraq war of 2003 in our millions and still our Prime Minister, a Labour Prime Minister no less, followed a right wing reactionary like George Bush into a brutal and bloody conflict which is largely responsible for the mess the region is in today. Our opinions meant as little to the ruling ‘elite’ in 2003 as they did to the ‘elite’ of 1707 who gave up our parliament and sovereignty for a wagon full of gold.
I hear siren voices which say Scotland can’t cut it on its own and that they would never vote for Alex Salmond. My reply to them is simply this: Not voting for independence because you don’t like Alex Salmond is like not buying your dream house because you don’t like the wallpaper. This isn’t about party politics or personalities, this is about a nation standing up and saying; we want the government we voted for and we want to create a fairer society. Scotland is rich in natural resources and inventive, talented people and that potential should be released and encouraged so that we all benefit from it. An independence Scotland would hold elections and we would see the political parties here, so long dancing to London’s tune, return to their roots and develop Scottish policies for the Scottish people.
The trappings of the age of Empire and the class system it supports are incompatible with a modern democratic state. The asset stripping of Scotland’s wealth to enrich a minority is also incompatible with a stable society. I’ll be voting Yes on September the 18th. Not because I’m selfish or anti-English, how could I be with family and friends there? I long for Scotland to be an example to our southern cousins and inspire them to seek a better society. My vote will be yes because I want to say….
Yes to true democracy
Yes to a written constitution based on human rights and dignity
Yes to a fairer society
Yes to Scotland being a force for good in the world
Yes to an end to the obscenity of nuclear weapons on our soil
Yes to a society which values all equally
Being Scottish is not linked to ‘blood and soil’ as one foolish commentator stated. Nor is it about narrow nationalism. Rather it is about accepting Scottish values such as fairness, democracy, tolerance and decency. It matters not if your roots are in Poland or Pakistan, if they are in India or Ireland. If you can subscribe to these values then you are welcome to help build a new Scotland. A country we can all be proud of and which will be an example to all of what a country can achieve when its potential is unleashed. This ancient nation should take its place among the independent countries of the world and work for justice and peace the world over instead of being dragged into imperialist wars which at the end of the day are fought to make rich men richer. There is another way, a better way. If we succeed on September the 18th we won't create a fair society over night but we will be preparing to make Scotland a better country for us all.
What do you say?