This is a question and an opinion trend that I’ve seen sweep across Twitter and other social media, and it really rips ma knittin’ – Let me be absolutely clear here, by voting yes for Scottish independence, you are not voting for or endorsing Alex Salmond and the SNP. You are voting for and endorsing your country’s right to self determination; and one beautiful prospect about an independent Scotland is that you will have the chance to vote for your preferred Scottish party at our very own general election, only a few short weeks after Scotland declares independence on March 24th 2016.
Many times in recent months I’ve seen and heard people state “I really hate Alex Salmond, so I’m voting no” – What I completely fail to understand, is the logic behind that argument. By their very own reasoning, voting no due to a dislike of Salmond, they are then pledging to support a Westminster government they in all likelihood won’t have voted for (if recent opinion polls which show the Conservatives gaining points are correct), and probably don’t even like very much either…. Nope, I still don’t get it, I am utterly baffled.
Last night George Galloway appeared on BBC2’s Newsnight Scotland to debate with Jim Sillars on Scotland’s independence, and he seemed thoroughly intent on issuing his severe warning to voters in the referendum that if they voted yes then Alex Salmond will be their Prime Minister. What George completely failed to comment on, even once, was the fact that from the day Scotland declares its independence until Scotland democratically votes for its Prime Minister in the Scottish general election, there is only a lapse of 44 days. That’s it, 44 days of Alex Salmond being in sole charge of Scotland before the people of Scotland decide his political fate. Considering the vast majority of Scots didn’t vote for David Cameron in the UK 2010 general election, and yet we’ve had to suffer 1169 days thus far of his policies and government, what’s 44 days in comparison if it means an end to Westminster rule over our country once and for all?!
Independence isn’t about political party affiliation with the SNP, if that was the case there wouldn’t be a growing number of right wing conservative voters intending to vote yes at the referendum. If it was all about Salmond, there wouldn’t be the Labour For Indy group. We wouldn’t have socialist Tommy Sheridan traipsing up and down the country putting across the case for independence (in his own colourful and unique way). The fight for independence transcends political allegiance. Members and voters from all the main parties have put aside their political differences to unite in the strong belief that Scotland will be a more equal, fair, just, and prosperous country with a yes vote.
A vote for independence isn’t a vote for Alex Salmond, it’s a vote for Scotland.
I feel the need to clarify my position on Scottish independence after reading a lot of comments online which allude to the fact that all “separatists” are moronic cretins, devoid of brain cells, who are being wilfully and blindly led down a rosy path by Salmond to an independent utopia. It’s a silly argument, and one I have so far avoided wading into on discussion forums, Facebook or Twitter. However, I have often wondered whether the “unionists” who spout this nonsense have stopped to think of the counter-argument of them being wilfully and blindly led down the rosy path by Westminster, buying into the belief that the UK is actually OK, as the Better Together tagline tells us.
Do I believe that on Scotland’s Independence Day, poverty in Scotland will suddenly and instantly disappear? That the children in Scotland, who right now are hungry due to not having had a decent meal this weekend; as their only constant food source is government funded school meals, will automatically never go without another meal? Do I foolishly assume that the masses of unemployed people will suddenly find themselves in work? Will every food bank close its doors? Will the homeless be given homes? Will low mortality rate and heart disease no longer be a concern? Will every problem Scotland currently faces be instantly and satisfactorily solved? – No, none of these things will happen on Day One of Scotland’s independence, but here’s what most certainly will happen:
On Day One of Scotland’s independence, the way to address and solve these issues will be the sole responsibility of Scotland; finally the Scottish Government will be wholly responsible for and answerable to the people of Scotland.
Will they always get it 100% right? I highly doubt it, and expecting them to would be seriously unrealistic. Do I believe they will act in their best endeavours to ensure the policies they implement will be of benefit to the people of Scotland? I completely and utterly do believe that, as no longer will they have the door of Westminster to lay the blame against. Implement policies the masses disagree with, and those very same people who voted you in will vote you out the next chance they get. It really is as simple as that, but it’s only that simple in an independent Scotland.
What’s the alternative to independence? Well, there are two options:
1) Nothing changes, the status quo prevails – I don’t think anyone in Scotland truly believes the current political situation benefits the majority of Scottish people. Between the fact that our entire nation’s vote counts for nothing when it comes to the General Election (except two years out of 67), and our Representatives in Westminster being grossly outnumbered by the hundreds; arguing that the status quo works just does not fly.
2) Scotland receives more devolved power – Ah, devolution, Scotland’s saviour. The word is bandied around the independence debate willy nilly, but no one seems able to pin down its definition. What does devolution mean in real terms to Scotland? We’ve heard Devo, Devo-Max, Devo-Lite, and more recently from Scottish Labour, Devo-Confusion. Scotland having more devolved power is a brilliant idea, in theory; but take in to account that any change to the current format, no matter how small, will require the majority backing and agreement from whomever rules Britannia and suddenly Devo-Whatever doesn’t seem quite so appealing.
In the end, there are two vitally important questions you need to ask yourself:
1) Do you believe that a Westminster government will put the wellbeing of the Scottish people (who DON’T vote them in and CAN’T vote them out) at the top of their agenda?
2) Do you believe that a Scottish government will put the wellbeing of the Scottish people (who DO vote them in and CAN vote them out) at the top of their agenda?
John Stevenson, the conservative backbencher MP, has declared that the people of Scotland should not be entitled to a vote if the yes campaign wins the referendum. He is due to speak in the House of Commons on Tuesday and put forward a new Bill to “amend the Representation of the People Act 1983 to disenfranchise all residents of Scotland eligible to vote in any UK General Election held after September 18 2014 in the event of a positive vote in the Scottish independence referendum”.
Mr. Stevenson doesn’t think it right that 90% of the UK should be governed by a party which the people of Scotland helped vote in when they will soon be departing from the union shortly after the next General Election. Which is quite funny when you consider how the people of Scotland are currently being governed by a party that almost 90% of its people didn’t vote for back in 2010. I don’t recall the conservative backbencher airing his discontentment at that result all over the Herald.
So, what he’s basically proposing is that whilst Scotland is still part of the United Kingdom but on the road to independence, we should have zero input or representation at Westminster level; despite the fact that at that time the policies implemented there will still affect the people of Scotland until we do declare ourselves as an independent country. The logic is astounding isn’t it?!
I’m sincerely looking forward to watching how this unfolds on Tuesday.
As a woman with a strong interest in politics, and a once Labour voter myself, I was in utter despair at Johann Lamont’s appearance on BBC’s News Night on Tuesday 18th March to discuss the findings of the Devo Commission. It was nothing short of an absolute bumbling wreck of an interview, and I was embarrassed on her behalf. Here’s a woman who leads the Scottish Labour party – a once proud and noble party who strived to create a fairer society for the masses of working class voters who hung on their every word, and hoped for the positive change they were promising – she should be taking Scottish politics by storm, she should be a woman that I look up to and admire. Sadly, it seems as though Johann Lamont has forgotten the very foundations upon which Labour was built, and is now happily skiting along on the coat tails of Ed Milliband et al as they politically spoon their new bedfellows, the Conservatives.
What I’m not quite sure about, is whether Johann realises that she is flinging her political career and dignity out of the proverbial window as she goes.
The Scottish Labour Devolution Commission was set up two years ago, and many voters in the upcoming independence referendum have been waiting with baited breath to see what new powers Scotland could have coming her way as part of the United Kingdom under a Scottish Labour government. The document entitled “Powers for a purpose – Strengthening Accountability and Empowering People” gives the impression that what’s inside is going to be a strong proposal of how Scotland can be more responsible, stronger and powerful than we are now. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case; as on page four of the document Scottish Labour lay out the matters which they deem essential to be reserved to Westminster:
” For the United Kingdom to be an effective union, it is critical that certain core matters remain reserved to the UK Parliament. Those which are not should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Essential reserved matters include:
•Financial and economic matters–including monetary policy, the currency, regulation, debt management and employment law. Without these, we cannot have a single economy.
•Foreign affairs (including international development) and defence, both of which are central to what defines a nation state
•The core of the welfare state – pensions and the majority of cash benefits. These allow the social solidarity that helps bind the UK together.
•The constitution. Other issues which the Commission has reviewed and concluded should remain reserved are:
•Drugs, drug trafficking and related laws.
•Betting, gaming and lotteries.
•The civil service.
•Abortion and analogous issues”
So what’s left for Scotland to take power of? Well, there’s a wee bit of proposed tax powers, a smidgen of welfare powers, and some vague comments about a not-for-profit rail service. Let’s take a look at the tax powers Scotland could have… Actually, first let’s take a look at what we won’t have:
“We concluded that, for a variety of good reasons, VAT, national insurance contributions, corporation tax, alcohol, tobacco and fuel duties, climate change levy, insurance premium tax, vehicle excise duty, inheritance tax, capital gains tax and tax on oil receipts should remain reserved”
I guess we just need to take Scottish Labour’s word that these areas will remain reserved “for a variety of good reasons”, as they don’t actually outline what those reasons are. So, now that we know definitively what tax powers Scotland will not have, here’s some detail of what we might have power over:
TAX: Income tax – well not all of it, but three quarters of basic rate income tax will be controlled by The Scottish Government; who will also have the power to raise tax, but not lower it because lowering tax is a bad idea apparently and will just lead to tax competition according to Lamont – who seemed oblivious to the fact that raising tax could also lead to tax competition with the rest of the UK, thus putting Scotland at a disadvantage.
WELFARE: The proposed devolved powers in welfare are utterly confusing. With Universal Credit just around the corner, which will see all benefits united under the one umbrella payment – Johann Lamont is now arguing that it’s possible for Housing Benefit and Attendance Allowance to be separate payments within Scotland and not tied in with Universal Credit, which would make Universal Credit not really universal at all in Scotland. Interestingly, there is absolutely no mention of Employment and Support Allowance being devolved to The Scottish Government, and with Labour already having commented that nothing will change on a UK level when it comes to ATOS and work capability assessments under their rule; this is a heavy blow to the sick and the disabled in Scotland.
Sometimes the things that are left unsaid speak the highest volumes.
RAILWAYS: Daily commuters should rest easy knowing that Scottish Labour propose reforms to the rail system:
“We favour devolution of railway powers that could facilitate consideration of a “not for profit” option in terms of the Scotrail franchise. This will widen the powers of the Scottish Parliament over the rail system”
Yeah, I have no idea what that truly means either, and Scottish Labour offer no further information on the matter. I would be interested to hear ScotRail’s reaction though.
LOANS: Scottish labour propose to give Local Authorities greater control in order to stop the growth of dodgy pay day loan companies opening up shops. Considering this is out with Scotland’s control, I’m not quite sure how they plan to do this. Maybe they’ll just ask Westminster nicely.
FUEL DUTY: “We do support, in principle, a derogation to allow a lower rate of fuel duty to be charged in remote rural areas of the Highlands and Islands” Again, they’ll need to ask Westminster nicely if this will be allowed.
So there we have it, two years worth of work in a teeny wee nutshell. It’s not very impressive or empowering, it’s basically a list of things which Johann Lamont and her commission group think we stand a chance of Westminster agreeing to give us control over, rather than the areas which Lamont believes Scotland categorically should have autonomy over. It should have been titled “Powers we might be allowed”, because really this is all well and good in theory, but it does rely completely on a few “wee things”:
1) Scotland voting no in the independence referendum.
2) Scottish Labour winning the Scottish election.
3) The majority backing of further devolution for Scotland from The UK Government.
Perhaps now would be a good time to hear Scottish Labour’s plan when it comes to the outcome of a yes vote in September, as I highly doubt their devolution proposals will be winning anyone over anytime soon. Do they even have a plan, or are they sticking their head in the sand and putting all their eggs in a wonky-wheeled unionist trolley? With six months to go until the referendum, and the yes movement gaining momentum with each passing month, it looks as though Labour have some serious work to do.