Patriottish – why my decision is Aye
Patriotism: I have mixed feelings about it. On the negative side I feel it encourages a “we are better than them” attitude, whilst on the positive, the passion that patriotism instils in people is fundamental in creating the most cohesive and representative society possible for that nation. The Yes/No debate is tricky as it pits two sets of patriots against each other and, in a divisive over-simplification of the issues involved, can be seen to boil down to the question; “Which is better: Scotland or the UK?”. However, if we are talking about identity, most Scottish people feel “Scottish”, rather than “British” – the 2011 census showed 62% of people living in Scotland described themselves as “Scottish only”, while 18% said they were “Scottish and British”. Whilst any mention of the word “patriotism” tends to end in a rammy, it is fair to say that people want to live in a society that adequately reflects their views and values and the fact is, the majority living in Scotland have values that are poles apart from the ones reflected in the policies inflicted on our society by the UK government. This, for me, is the crux of why we should call it a day.
Most English people I have spoken to have little more to say on the matter of Scottish independence than “But you don’t have to pay university tuition fees. And you get free prescriptions”. They shake their heads bemusedly, clearly envisioning tartan clad gingers paddy-bahing across the heather covered quadrangles of educational institutions of excellence whilst necking Benadryl and popping antibiotics, all at their expense. The feeling is, overwhelmingly, that Scotland is subsidised by England. And why wouldn’t that be the feeling? That is what the politicians and the media have fed the masses. I myself, despite my anti-establishment leanings and penchant for a good conspiracy theory, was surprised to learn that the GDP per head of Scotland is greater than that of the UK as a whole.
Being honest, I find the obsessive battering of Scotland’s current and potential financial status patronising at best and more than a tad disingenuous – if we really are such a financial burden, why do they want us to remain part of the UK? There is also the thorny issue of the McCrone Report and its subsequent cover-up to mull over in considering how well Westminster has behaved in relation to Scotland over the years…
Money is important. If stereotypes tell you anything then let it not be said that the Scots don’t know this! I could enter a debate here about the estimated value of the remaining North Sea Oil, the revenues that tourism and whisky bring in, as well as the massive potential financial contributions from green energy, all aces in the hand of the Yes campaign, but for me the question of doubt is not economics. There are many small countries that have fewer natural resources than Scotland, who still manage successful economies [insert obligatory utopian descriptions of Scandinavia].
My decision to vote yes or no will be made, not depending on what I think is best for Scotland, but what I think is best in general. I love Scotland but I would not vote Yes merely to allow us to take control of the oil and become wealthy, which is often toted as our cunning plan and the only possible reason we could want Independence. If the revenues from Scotland, whatever they were, were used under the “UK umbrella” in ways that I thought were good for everyone in the UK, I would say “Fire in, powers that be!” and happily chuckle along as we are. But I sincerely do not believe this to be the case.
Being pro-EU, the argument of “we are better as part of something bigger” is one that I get, however this has proved not to be the case with Scotland in the UK as time and again the opinions from Scotland are ignored. Some of the policies that Scotland voted against that were still imposed include:
I feel so strongly about this and I cannot fathom how the UK Government have managed to make some people in Scotland believe that we are adequately represented. Since 1945 Scottish representation has made no difference to the outcome in a general election except in three instances, and these would have led to a hung parliament. I often hear people saying that we are better as something bigger as we will have more sway over important matters – the above shows that this is blatantly not the case. Scots are contributing more but feel the bitter end of the health and wealth inequalities that are inherent across the UK – Scotland has contributed £222 billion more in tax revenues since 1980-81 than if we had simply matched the per capita contributions of the UK . What is the point of being “part of something bigger” when their ideals are so painfully in opposition to your own and their policies are having such a negative effect on your society?
I also don’t buy in to the great devolved powers argument. I apologise if this sounds paranoid but once we vote No we give up our bargaining chip – why would Westminster give us greater power then when we have, in effect, not bolted through the open stable door? After a No vote it is likely that we would then see efforts to harvest the North Sea’s natural resources increase under the guise of “investment in Scotland” and when the next time a referendum rolls round in 30 years the reserves will be gone. Listen to Alan Bissett’s interesting devolution theory here.
Central to the Yes/No debate is the question of what is important to Scotland and this has been shown to often be in conflict with Westminster. There are many more reasons to vote for Independence, but these are my main ones:
- The UK is now the 3rd most unequal country in Europe – how is it right that in 2012 a nurse earned between £21,388, rising to £27,901, while more than 2,700 bankers in the UK were paid more than £800,000. Think about that for a second, someone who moves money round gets paid more than 34 times what the person caring for your sick or dying grandmother/father/child earns.
- Last year the UK spent $57.9 billion on the military, which is the 6th highest in the world. Also last year the UK Government sold military and intelligence equipment to 25 countries out of the 27 on its own list for human rights abuses. In danger of coming across as paranoid again, it almost sounds like war is not such a bad idea if you are going to make hunners of cash out of it. There is also the small problem of the illegal war in Iraq, with 120,816 civilian deaths as of the end of 2012 being a conservative estimate and almost half of the country’s children being left as orphans.
- Trident costs Scotland £163 million a year. I can literally think of 163 million better things to spend that money on. The fact that it is parked in the Clyde, a mere 25 miles from Scotland’s largest city and has been known to leak radiation bothers me somewhat. As well as the fact that it seems to be acceptable for the MOD to dump radioactive waste into the Clyde (with plans to increase this). Incidentally, did you know that the Thames is the cleanest metropolitan river in the world?
- The environment – David Cameron is a supporter of fracking which is shown to be dangerous, toxic and bad for the environment. He is also trying to sneak through laws that make it impossible for the man on the street to be able to stop big business drilling under their homes, despite a recent YouGov survey which found three-quarters of people in Britain are against plans to remove people’s access rights to clear the way for fracking. Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has targets for renewable sources to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s gross annual electricity consumption as well as to provide the equivalent of 11 per cent of Scotland’s heat demand by 2020. It is thought Scotland’s offshore wind industry could create 28,000 jobs by 2020.
For me the question is not a case of “my country is better than yours” but that I simply don’t believe in Westminster’s “dream”. If I hear David Cameron mention something about “winning the global race” one more time I think my head will explode. And here I go back to the notion of patriotism and what I think is best for “my” nation, be it the UK or Scotland. I don’t think winning some mythical global race and becoming the richest/most powerful nation in the world should be the most important thing for any nation. Elitism is a nasty, dangerous thing. National pride and patriotism, for me, do not come from “winning the global race” but from the respect that a country earns on account of it being fair, equal, inclusive and representative of all its citizens.
People often say that a Yes vote is a vote for uncertainty but I look at a No vote as a vote for certainty – we will be certain to get more of the same from our current government in Westminster and to me that means an implicit vote for inequality, elitism, illegal wars, nuclear weapons and a contempt for the disabled and the poor. I believe that change is needed and the only way to change these things is to vote Yes on September 18th. I want to live in a country that values all members of its society, whether they were born there or migrated there, whether they have money or not. A country that sees the potential of the land in terms of its beauty and its need for protection as well as its resources , that listens to the opinions of and is accountable to its people over corporations and cronies. A country that lives in peace with other nations, learns from its mistakes, sees its own potential and puts its head down and goes for it. I want to live in a country that thinks beyond what is best for individuals to what is best for all. That would be a country we could all have pride in and we have a chance of getting closer to that if we vote Yes in September.
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From Québec, I wish you a “merry” Independence!