Editorial: Independence – a red herring for social change

16 March 2013

Photo:  Bruce Whitehead

Independencers react to a “no” vote

Scotland today is a nation divided, and not equally. There’s the wealthy and middle  classes, with plenty to spend in M&S, two cars, holidays in the sun, gardens and home improvement on their minds; and then there’s the unemployed and working poor, their livelihoods precarious, their aspirations low. Education is often piecemeal for the poor, sophisticated for the rich. Healthcare is there, if you are eloquent and confident enough to obtain it. Public transport is dominated by private companies with no incentive to make services pleasurable to use. Council services are costly, bureacratic and inefficient. Banks, insurers and the public sector remain defiantly anti-citizen, pro-staff, sodden with bariatric restrictions that deliver sinecures for those in-house and indifference for clients.

Independencers think that after a yes vote, all this will change. That suddenly the English and US dominated finance and engineering interests which currently exploit our natural resources will smile warmly and hand over our inheritance to us on a plate. The English aristocrats who own the vast majority of open land in Scotland will suddenly open their gates, sell us plots for smallholdings and join “Real Scots from Scotland” in a celebration of Brigadoon dimensions, except that this time, instead of just one day, the fantasy will last forever.

It’s all baloney. The Sage of Linlithgow, our very own toff-socialist Tam Dalyell is no lover of Anglicised and globalised control. He would, I bet, fight on the steps of his stately home against any extension of British influence on Scottish national soil. But he is also well experienced in European politics and finance, and his latest book (“The Importance of being Awkward”) contains a comprehensive warning against divorce from Britain. It’s worth remembering that Scotland’s Union was not so much a bloody English conquest as a marriage of convenience between a profligate Scotland which squandered its savings on schemes like the Darien, and a deep-pocketed English suitor with an eye on Scots security. These days, Scotland would be risking a return to that shaky financial footing which it left behind when it tied the knot, however reluctantly in 1707.

Angela Merkell: "Schottland ist no joinin' der euro!"

Angela Merkell: “Schottland ist no joinin’ der euro!”

Mr Dalyell points out the impossibility of Scotland joining the euro; German bankers, who effectively control it, told him they won’t let Scotland join. After being daft enough to let Greece and Spain join when their economies were totally unprepared, they are unlikely to repeat the error. And he accurately predicted the row between George Osborne and Alex Salmond, resulting in victory for the chancellor in ruling out a Scottish pound backed by the Bank of England.

And what would actually change in the boardrooms of Scotland? In the oil company headquarters and the university senates, the banks and legal firms and the agriculture industry; would all these places suddenly start sharing their wealth and opportunities with ordinary Scots? Would employment soar? Would equality, fairness and protection for our countryside and health reach paramount priority?

Before swallowing the faintly-nationalistic tartan placebo of independence, the separatists should ask themselves: will things really be any better? Wouldn’t it be better to expend all this energy and anti-English bile on an honest campaign for a social order that shares the true wealth of Britain with the true workers in Britain; the grafters and citizens who keep their noses clean, who don’t fiddle their expenses and who look after their relatives and communities? Would Salmond be better off designing social services that support the healthcare and teaching staff, who give their all to their patients and pupils and return exhausted to work afresh for their own folk? A finance system which supports the labourers, drivers, tradespeople and artists who enrich our lives, instead of rewarding a handful of privileged bosses with fabulous bonuses. And will he admit that when such a system includes the whole UK, the benefits of national insurance, national health, and national assistance are far better for everyone in the land?

I’m no unionist, and I would like to see much more power devolved over Scottish affairs. But that stems from pragmatism, not nationalism. What Scotland needs is a new era of fairness, not a smaller pool of resources in a smaller country. It needs independence like a hole in the head.


One Response to “Editorial: Independence – a red herring for social change”

  1. juliusbeezer Says:

    I’m agnostic about Scots independence, as seems only polite from a position of exile—Sean Connery take note—so I’m adding this note to say that my ‘like’ is for the LOL I got from the caption of your illustration, and not necessarily your anti- position, much as I respect your view.
    I tell you one thing though: if Scottish Labour had pulled the plug on the massive New Labour sellout that began with caving to Bernie Eccleston and culminated in the debacle of Iraq, we probably wouldn’t even be having this discussion…

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