Tag Archives: Independence

Independence is the radical, revolutionary choice

This post is my initial response to the recent article by Gerry Hassan on Bella Caledonia. Entitled “Time to Wake Up and Ask Some Difficult Questions about the SNP and Independence” . It is a very interesting piece and well worth reading, along with the comments, some of which are good and others, not so. You can access it here.

Gerry raises some very pertinent questions, but as many commentators have pointed out, very little in the way of answers. He does give a sort of answer to one of his own questions, but it is not one I can agree with at all.

Gerry raises what he considers to be “the big strategic question – what is independence the answer to?” He goes on to write that, “For some, this question has an obvious answer: independence is an end in itself to be a sovereign nation.” However this is not a satisfactory answer as far as Gerry is concerned. For he continues, “But that is the response of Nationalist Scotland (whether in or out of the SNP) and does not address how the majority of Scots who don’t see the world in these terms are motivated to sign up to the cause.”

To the extent that Gerry offers us an answer to the big strategic question, it is rather vague, to whit, “Independence has to be for something bigger and bolder, with a clear vision, if it is to cut through, to tell an engaging story, and to speak beyond true believers.”

I am a bit bemused by Gerry’s framing of the first answer he gives to his question. He opts for what he claims is the standard Nationalist Scotland response. Which is fair enough in a way, but does beg the question – what are the other non Nationalist Scotland responses? The failure to mention even one, would seem to indicate that Gerry thinks there are no other responses. Which must have come as a bit of a surprise to Greens, socialists and others. Presumably he just gives what he claims to be the standard “nationalist” response to that he can then dismiss it as inadequate.

Now I agree with Gerry that this is in many ways the big strategic question. But as such it deserves a bit more consideration than Gerry offers. For a start the answer can be framed in democratic terms. In which case the question that independence answers is, Who decides? With independence the key decisions about the kind of Scotland we will live in will be decided by the votes of the people who live in Scotland. And not as at present, by the votes of people who live in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Now Gerry might contend that this answers means that Scotland becomes a sovereign nation. Which would be true, but the framing and the emphasis is not longer a “nationalist” one, but a democratic one.

I was also struck by Gerry’s apparent penchant for seeing things in an either/or frame. This is clearly to be seen in his claim that “nationalists” see “independence is an end in itself.” Now this may well be the case and not just for those who might describe themselves as “nationalists”. However independence is also a beginning. Without independence we, the people who live in Scotland, don’t get to decide ourselves what kind of Scotland we want to live in. But with independence comes a new beginning, in which we can seek to convince a majority of our fellow citizens of our particular vision for the future of Scotland. Without having to rely on voters in the rest of the UK.

Gerry also seems to trapped in an either/or frame when he writes, “Independence has to be for something bigger and bolder.” As one commentator replied, “No, it doesn’t. I’m not after radical change. And I’m entitled to my own reasons.”  He is of course correct. It is perfectly possible and honourable for someone to want independence and at the same time not want radical change. The reason this is so, comes back again to the democratic justification, indeed necessity for independence. If Scotland is to remain more or less as she is now, with little or no radical change, then that should be result of choices made by the voters in Scotland. As opposed to something that is imposed or forced on us.

For those of us, like myself, who are in favour of some significant radical changes, then we will only achieve this when and if, we can persuade our fellow citizens that this is right way forward.

Which is why all of us, those who want radical change and those who do not, can work together to achieve independence. For only with independence can we ensure that choices about our future will depend on us. Independence in the context of the UK is in itself the most radical and revolutionary change we can aspire to.






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More Unionist Whingeing

486053_533041736747229_1759775114_nThe 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?

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