Monday, September 15, 2014

Scottish independence, a tale of hope against fear


In just a few days the people of Scotland will go to the polls to decide the future of their nation.

I'm not Scottish, I'm a Yorkshireman, and I don't live in Scotland. However I have written extensively about the Scottish independence referendum because I passionately believe that Scotland could be a better country if they had a smaller, more democratic and more accountable government, instead of being ruled over by the corrupt, self-serving and unaccountable Westminster establishment down in London.


A message of hope

The Yes campaign has attracted support from all kinds of people, from all different walks of life, and all different political persuasions. In my view the one thing that unifies them all is the idea that an independent Scotland has the potential to do things better. It's the hope of a working to create a better Scotland.

This hope for a better Scotland isn't just an idle optimistic fantasy because there is already plenty of evidence that a better Scotland can be achieved through the localisation of political power. Thanks to the existence of the Scottish parliament, access to university education in Scotland hasn't been commodified and financialised as it has been in the rest of the UK. Scottish students from poor and ordinary backgrounds aren't forced to assume huge debts, which are then repayed through a 9% aspiration tax on their disposable income, that for millions will not be payed off, even through an entire lifetime of work.

Thanks to the devolution of power over the NHS and the education system, Scotland has remained immune to the waves of Tory ideological privatisations that have seen £1.5 billion in NHS contracts handed out to Tory party donors, and over 3,000 English schools simply given away to unaccountable private sector interests.

The success of an independent Scotland is by no means guaranteed. If the Yes campaign wins the vote, the people of Scotland can't just sit back and relax at a job well done, It is absolutely vital that the amazing spirit of political engagement that has been awoken by the independence debate is kept alive.

In order for an independent Scotland to "do things better" the ordinary people of Scotland will have to engage in the process of constitutional renewal, work hard to hold their politicians to account, and work together to make sure that the issues that are important to them stay at the forefront of the political agenda.

A Yes vote isn't the objective in itself. The real objective is for the people of Scotland to give themselves the opportunity to hold the Scottish government to account, in a way that has been simply impossible to do through the corrupt and antiquated political system that has allowed the Westminster establishment to ruthlessly enforce their agenda of austerity and privatisation against the will of the vast majority of the population.

A message of fear

The No campaign has promoted a very different message, a message based around the basic animal instinct of fear. The Westminster establishment and their allies in the mainstream media have bombarded the public with one scare story after another.

The No campaign has constantly fearmongered about how Scottish oil is going to dry up, even though the experts are divided on how many billions of barrels remain untapped, and how many hundreds of billions of pounds that will be worth to the Scottish economy. The only consensus between the experts in the oil industry over how much oil remains seems to be that the figures publicised by George Osborne's Office for Budget Responsibility are extraordinary under-estimates.

The No campaign has fearmongered about Scotland not being able to defend itself. Who could forget the former Secretary of State for Scotland George Robertson (who now occupies a seat in the anti-democratic House of Lords) demeaning his own country by referring to it as "a minor entity in the north of Britain" as he tried to fearmonger about the threat of Islamist extremism to an independent Scotland. In my view the threat of Islamist extremism in Scotland would be severely diminished if future governments of the nation avoid participation in the invasion and occupation of predominantly Muslim countries.

The No campaign has fearmongered about the major banks relocating their headquarters to London, presumably because they assume that the Scottish public are such a bunch of feckless halfwits that they'll have completely forgotten that it was the banks that created the economic crisis in the first place with their massive fraud schemes and their incredible binge of reckless unregulated gambling. 
Even if some of the banks do relocate their headquarters, they can't just take all of their jobs and tax revenues with them. Taxes on financial services provided in an independent Scotland would go to the Scottish government*, no matter where the official headquarters of the bank that provides them. 

RBS, which is 82% owned by the taxpayer, threatening to leave an independent Scotland in order to try to influence the outcome of the referendum just goes to show the desperation of the Westminster establishment. What on earth is a publicly owned bank doing trying to interfere with a public vote? 

Even though the No campaign has been losing ground in the debate as the referendum has drawn nearer, they have stubbornly refused to change tack. And in the final week, ludicrous stories were circulated about how the supermarkets would impose massive price rises in an independent Scotland. Fortunately there was someone with the good sense to actually write to the supermarkets and ask them. The response from all four of the supermarket giants was the same; that they have no plans at all to raise prices in an independent Scotland.

It beggars belief that the leaders of Better Together can't see that their fearmongering has been driving undecided people into the arms of the Yes camp, and with just days to go before the vote they still haven't tried to present anything resembling a coherent positive case for continued union. All they seem capable of doing is pressurising their corporate buddies into talking down the prospects for an Independent Scotland in order to constantly snipe that "Scotland just won't be able to hack it on it's own". If I was a Unionist (which I'm not) I'd be utterly dismayed with the risible Better Together campaign and the hopelessly complacent debating strategies they've used.

Perhaps the biggest fearmongering campaign of all is the insistence by the Westminster establishment that Scotland will not be able to use the Pound, which is of course, as Alistair Darling himself admits, an impossible threat. Scotland can use the Pound because it is a freely tradeable currency. The only thing that the Westminster establishment can do in reality is to rule out a formal currency union between Scotland and the remainder of the UK.

In my view a long-term currency union wouldn't be in the interests of an independent Scotland anyway (look at the Argentina-US pegged currency union and the Eurozone), however a temporary fixed-term currency union in order to ensure economic stability during the process of constitutional separation would have been by far the most pragmatic option from an economic perspective, because economic uncertainty leads to economic instability (risk aversion, market panics and the development of economic crises).

Such a short term currency agreement would have mitigated some of the worst effects of economic uncertainly on either side of the border during the constitutional separation, however such a pragmatic stance was never going to be adopted by the Westminster establishment because uncertainty over the future currency of Scotland is one of the pillars of their anti-independence propaganda campaign. The fact that the Westminster establishment would put a political propaganda narrative above the stability of the economies on either side of the border just goes to show how terribly unfit to rule they really are.

Conclusion

I know it's not possible to imagine that all pro-Independence people are hopeful optimists, nor to tar all anti-independence people as cynical and fearful pessimists, because that would be the kind of naive absolutist thinking I so often argue against in my work. However, in my view it is fair to describe that the propaganda strategies employed by the two campaigns as a battle between hope and fear.

The spirit of hope must be stronger than fear, because what optimism can we have for the future if, even after the amazing political reawakening of Scotland, the majority still choose fear over hope? What optimism can we possibly have for the future if the positive, complex and very human spirit of hope can be defeated by the negative, simplistic and animalistic sensation of fear?

I'm hoping that later this week I'll be able to celebrate the rebirth of the Scottish nation, and drink heartily to the future of Scotland, rather than having to lament that the people of Scotland passed up the greatest opportunity of their lifetimes to effect real political change because they allowed the animal instinct of fear to overpower the human spirit of hope.


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* As long as the Scottish people are prepared to pressurise the Scottish government into clamping down on tax-dodging.




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Scottish independence and uncertainty
           
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A letter to Scottish voters
       

Scottish independence and the complacency of the Westminster establishment
                             
The Tory vandalism of the education system
                                         
Who is to blame for the economic crisis?
                          
"Bedroom Tax" - tax the poor to subsidise the rich
                
Asset stripping "bankrupt" Britain with Gideon & Dave
                      



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