Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Can! Should! Must!

Yes we can! Yes we should! Yes we must!
With six months to go until the people of Scotland vote on the constitutional future of our nation, Yes Scotland has launched a massive campaign to promote the message that Scotland can, should and must be independent. As you might expect, I have no disagreement with any of that. But, as you might also have anticipated, I have my own slant on this message.

That Scotland can be independent is a given as far as I am concerned. The economics of it all have never been an issue for me. So long as I was persuaded that independence would not result in an economic catastrophe of epic proportions the finer details could be of no more than academic interest. Facing a decision with such momentous implications for my country and its people, I find at times darkly comical and at times grossly insulting the idea that I might be swayed by necessarily tenuous promises and threats involving relatively trivial amounts of cash. Or threats involving large amounts that simply aren't credible.

There is, of course, no economic catastrophe looming. At least, not one caused by Scotland restoring its rightful constitutional status. We know what causes economic disaster, and it's not the people exercising their democratic right of self-determination.

If the economics of it all have not been an issue in the sense of something that causes me any significant concern, it certainly has been an issue in terms of the obsessions of unionist politicians and their friends in the media. They would have us believe that the economy is the only issue. That it is all about the economy. There are reason for this.

Firstly, the anti-independence campaign knows that people tend to be pre-occupied with money. Even if there were not genuine reasons for worrying about how we are going to pay for the things we need, we are conditioned to fret about whether we can afford the things we want. Democratic politics has all but been abandoned in favour of a neo-liberal economic imperative. Politics outside the referendum debate long since forsook lofty or even merely worthy ideals. It has been reduced to unseemly squabbling over money. Since this is all they know, the British parties have tried to frame the referendum debate in the same terms.

Then there is the fact that economics is the perfect territory for a campaign which, apart from the odd smear attempt, relies entirely on scaremongering. Nobody does doom-laden prognostications to order better than practitioners of the dismal science.

But, perhaps most importantly of all, the obsessive focus on economic arguments serves to divert people from the areas where the No campaign's arguments are pitifully weak or totally non-existent. They are distinctly uncomfortable talking about democracy and social justice. As well they might be.

There is no economic catastrophe looming. Don't take my word for it. That is the verdict of authorities such as The Financial Times and credit rating agency, Standard & Poor's. Even David Cameron admits that Scotland is economically perfectly viable. Anti-independence campaigners will throw their hands up in horror at any suggestion that they are arguing that Scotland is "Too wee! Too poor! Too stupid!", while simultaneously pumping out propaganda which suggests precisely that. They don't feel any need to be consistent. Inconsistency and even total contradiction serves their purpose of creating a sense of confusion.

I absolutely abhor and totally reject the suggestion that Scotland must tick somebody else's economic boxes in order to qualify for that which is ours by right. But if those boxes must be ticked, then they have been. Scotland is a wealthy nation. Scotland can be independent. Next question!

In addressing the matter of why Scotland should be independent Yes Scotland builds its case on democratic accountability, economic efficiency and social justice. And a very strong case it is too. An unanswerable case. The argument that, as an independent country with a government that we have actually elected, Scotland will "make better and more relevant decisions for our future than remote Westminster" is just about as solid as any political argument gets. Especially when one understands that the "remoteness" of Westminster refers, not merely to linear distance, but to an ever-widening gulf in political culture.

Impeccable as Yes Scotland's approach undoubtedly is, I would tend to approach the argument that Scotland should be independent on a more basic level. I would argue that Scotland should be independent because it is fundamentally right. It is a matter of constitutional justice. Independence is normal. What we seek for Scotland is no more than the constitutional status that all other nations take for granted. It is not a question of whether Scotland should be independent but a question of whether Scotland's anomalous constitutional position as an appendage of the British state can any longer be justified.

In fact, it is a question of whether that anomalous position is tenable even in the relatively short term. I would argue that it is not. I would argue that we have reached a tipping point. I would contend that the political union between Scotland and England is broken beyond any hope of salvation. I will go further and argue that efforts to preserve the political union will ultimately fail - with the probability that other aspects of the union between our nations will be severely and perhaps irreparably damaged in the process.

This is a price that the British establishment appears to be willing to pay in order to preserve the structures of power and privilege that define the British state. We see confirmation of this readiness to sacrifice the social, cultural and economic unions, which largely work to our mutual benefit, in the increasingly shrill and confrontational stance of the UK Government and the British parties.

For decades the union has been held together by a noisome potage of lies, deceit, bribery and ever more uncomfortable compromise. Various things have served to dissolve this unreliable glue - the reconvening of Scotland's Parliament, the rise of the SNP as a political force, and the burgeoning of internet communication all being major factors. The political union is done. It is now only a question of how much we can salvage of the rest of what has been developed over the past three centuries. Unionists seem hell bent on destroying all of it in a fit of pique.

And that is one of the reasons why Scotland must be independent. We simply cannot afford to let the forces of reactionary ultra-conservatism triumph. We must not allow the ruling elites to destroy that which is ours by any measure of natural justice in order to preserve that which they regard as theirs by divine right.

There is another reason why Scotland must be independent. It is, I am convinced, the consideration which will ultimately persuade those still swithering as they stand with pencil poised over ballot paper that they must vote Yes. Or, that they must not vote No. It is the consideration of what a No vote means. What will persuade many in that eleventh hour is the thought of the consequences for Scotland of voting No.

Addressing a meeting in Dundee recently I asked the sixty or seventy people in the room to think about whether we would ever be able to look each other in the eye again if Scotland voted No. I urged them to think about the question we are being asked in the referendum. The question which, in reality, we are asking ourselves.

Should Scotland be an independent country?

I asked them to try and imagine that question being asked in any other country? I asked them whether they could conceive of the people of any other nation even considering the possibility of answering No to that question?

We must vote Yes even if for no other reason than that the alternative is unthinkable. Voting No  is an admission of inferiority that will blight our nation for decades - perhaps forever. It is a failure to grasp the opportunity that we have won for ourselves which will bring down upon our heads the bitter condemnation of future generations - not to mention the deserved contempt of our neighbours and the world in general.

If we vote No then we will be the nation that threw away its independence, not for any sound, rational reason, but out of craven timidity.

If we vote No we will be the people who held our sovereignty in our hands and chose, through fear of shadows and phantoms, to hand it back to the ruling elites who have treated us with nothing but sneering disdain.

Forget about the tawdry trinkets of "more powers" being dangled before you by the British parties in the hope of persuading you to abandon both pride and enlightened self-interest to vote No! The idea that the ruling elites of the British state might voluntarily relinquish power is ridiculous at the best of times. That they might do so having, in their own eyes, just triumphed in a battle to preserve their grip on that power is a notion so ludicrous as to border on the insane.

It is obvious that we can be independent!

It is easy to understand why we should be independent!

It is vital we realise that we must be independent!

This article first appeared in the March 2014 issue of AYE Magazine.
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