The recent announcement by the Scottish government of the date of the Independence referendum – 18th September 2014, has brought out the usual Unionist bluster and lies. First up were the complaints about why we have to wait 18 months before the vote. This from parties that were positively hostile to any referendum. Parties that, if they had co-operated with the SNP in the previous parliament, could have had the referendum over and done with three years ago. Parties that repeatedly and loudly complain that there are still so many unanswered questions about independence. If so, then waiting 18 months can only be a good idea. We want people to be properly informed when they come to vote in 2014. Just a pity that the Unionists do not seem to be interested in providing any clarity.
One example came from Johann Lamont who yesterday once again claimed that we do not know what currency an independent Scotland will use. Now you would have to have been away on Mars for the past year not to know the answer to this question. The SNP have repeatedly made it clear that an independent Scotland would continue to use the pound sterling. Now you might not like this answer and you might want to ask some questions about how this would work, but to claim that there has been no answer is to put it simply, to lie.
It is amazing how Unionists demand again and again that those in favour of independence spell out in detail, with every t crossed, just what will happen in an independent Scotland in three, four or five years time. But what about the UK? Can any of our Unionist politicians tell us exactly what will happen in the UK in three, four or five years time? Of course not and it is disgraceful that our media, including the supposedly neutral and balanced BBC never challenge the Unionists to do so. An issue of particular interest to me is what will happen to our state pension in the years to come? If we vote no, will we all get a guarantee from George Osborne or David Cameron as to what the state pension will be in three, four or five years time? One that was legally enforceable? And if not, then why not? Or are we to just trust good old George to manage the economy for the benefit of us all?
Specific questions about the future have nothing to do with the referendum which is about should Scotland be independent. Part of the problem is that most Unionists are more than happy to spread confusion on this issue. So than instead of debating the merits of independence, we get sidetracked into a debate about what an independent Scotland might decide to do. For the point of independence is that it will in future be the people who live in Scotland who get to decide on all these matters, whether it is the currency, pensions, defence, welfare benefits etc. A glaring example of this confusion was to be found in the latest piece on Scotland by Ed Jacobs, who writes for the online journal, Left Foot Forward. There he demands that Alex Salmond tells us what he thinks independence means and looks like. Ed Jacobs must lead a most restricted life, if he does not know what independence means. Nobody knows what things will look like in the future, neither in the UK, nor in Germany or anywhere else. If Ed Jacobs and his Unionist friends really do not know what independence means they could usefully ask the Embassies of the many independent countries in the world just what independence means. To help them out I can direct them to this article by Lithuanian commentator Artūras Račas. His piece is suitably entitled, Silly Questions. In it he replies to those Lithuanians who, 20 years after independence were unhappy with their government and were asking is this how we imagined our independence twenty years ago. As he puts it, “One cannot imagine independence one way or another. It cannot be good or bad, democratic or otherwise, socially-oriented or liberal. It has no bearing on the price of milk, meat, heating, pensions, sick leave or minimal wage, it does not determine life expectancy or demographic situation. It simply is or, alternatively, is not.” Once independent, we can imagine what we would want our independent state to become. But first we need to be independent. To paraphrase Račas, the fundamental question facing Scotland in 2014 is, do we want to continue being a national minority within the British state or are we mature enough to have our own state? 20 years ago the Lithuanians decided in their referendum that they were mature enough to have their own state, which is why today Lithuania is both independent and a state. If the Lithuanians can do it, why not us?