It is not a backward looking support, clinging to the ‘old days’. It’s not based on centuries-old grudges against ancient wrongs – real and perceived – or a romantic notion of a people ‘freed’. It is a pragmatic assessment of how best those values can be realised in my lifetime.
Scotland is a nation and for 300 or so years we have been part of a union. For many of those years, many people living in Scotland did well from that union. But successive Westminster governments have failed to use their powers to redistribute wealth, or to systematically and systemically deliver equality of opportunity to working people in the UK. Of course, improvements have been made and some progress secured over that time. But not enough, because the fundamental political and economic model on which that union is based has remained largely unchallenged and almost totally unchanged.
Those who were rich have become richer, those who were poor have become poorer. In the middle, some have won through to the top but the majority has struggled and continues to struggle to keep their heads just above water. We have not yet challenged the fundamental notion on which all of this is based – that if you just work hard enough, are ‘clever’ enough and try hard enough, you’ll do fine.
Now in 2014, as part of the UK, we are actively encouraged to keep on blaming each other. So unemployment is the ‘fault’ of those who arrive on our shores and take our jobs and food banks are the ‘fault’ of those who can’t manage their money responsibly. The financial crash and the justification that has been offered for austerity economics are the ‘fault’ of those of us who borrowed too much, in mortgages or on credit.
The impact of zero contract hours, poor wage rates or the deregulation of banks and financial services is seldom coherently offered as underlying the employment position or the parlous economic state of the UK. The message is: let’s be divided and blame each other. And what of equality? We live in a union that is the fourth most unequal in the western world. A union where the wages gap between men and women is the highest in Europe, and where our pensioners are the poorest and our childcare and transport costs the highest.
The alternative to independence? That the Union has always worked for us and always will? It hasn’t, it won’t and the hard won gains we have made in that union are increasingly threatened. That it will all be sorted if we only hold fire and vote Labour in the Westminster election in 2015? Not with the UK Labour commitments already made to keep the failed economic model and the discredited political model of the past decades. That we should remember that the ‘real’ left is supposed to hate nationalism and that our loyalty demands a No vote?
Independence is no party’s prize. Independence is about asserting our own right to govern ourselves, and no party loyalty is greater than our loyalty to each other, ourselves and our values. That it’s not ‘our place’ to do these things, to take decision-making power into our own hands?
No, because in each of the past 14 years of devolution, we have shown that there is no one better able to make the right decisions for the people of Scotland than those of us who live here. Independence is about choice – choosing to trust ourselves, choosing to have confidence that we can run our own affairs, choosing to build our country anew – with power and wealth redistributed to benefit the many and not the few.