Scottish Independence, ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ From the ‘YES’ Side Scotland’s Future is in Scotland’s Hands


Blair Jenkins believes that the Scotland independence referendum on September 18 represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create an economy where there is enterprise and reward and a country which supports equality of opportunity

Recently, while watching a TV debate on independence, I was struck by the responses of the panellists when asked to sum up in a few words what it would mean for them if Scotland votes ‘Yes’ in the September 18 referendum. While the two ‘No’ supporters – a politician and a newspaper columnist – launched into a stream of negative propaganda for which the self-styled ‘Project Fear’ has become noted, one of the Yes panellists, a talented musician, restricted her response to a single word: ‘Opportunity’.

A Unique Opportunity

For all the millions of words that have so far been spoken on the constitutional debate, and for all the millions of words that have yet to be uttered, this one-word answer, for me, captured quite beautifully the essence of what is on offer when we go to the polling stations on September 18. In just under six months from now, we shall indeed have a unique opportunity – the chance to shape the future of Scotland for generations to come. That is a truly exciting prospect which carries with it much responsibility, as well as tremendous privilege.

The independence debate is about a choice of two futures. One is about sticking with a Westminster system that is clearly not working for Scotland, is broken and discredited and has led to the UK becoming the fourth most unequal country in the developed world. The alternative choice is to take our future into our own hands, to be assured that we always get the governments we vote for, to build a country that matches our aspirations, priorities and values and to be a fairer society where the benefits of our enormous wealth are shared more equally.That is the opportunity that a Yes vote represents.

An Informed Choice

On my travels around the country, speaking at public meetings and chatting with our ever-growing army of Yes volunteers and ambassadors, I often get asked why I’m so confident about winning the referendum when the binary headline polls appear to forecast a different result.

One part of the answer is that we know from our own research that the more people become informed about the issues, the more attracted they are to independence and the more likely to vote Yes. And that direction of travel is beginning to emerge clearly when we look beyond the surface of the straight Yes/No polls. The direct correlation between feeling you have enough information and being more likely to vote Yes will prove pivotal.

We have enough time to have conversations in every part of the country, to present the full facts, to get the fictional roadblocks of the No campaign out of the way of the debate, and to explain that the people of Scotland are coming to a fork in the road where we have to choose one of two paths.

As people move towards Yes, they begin to see themselves as part of something bigger – a Scotland-wide grassroots movement and community grounds well with a shared purpose, where individuals look typically not just to their own interests, but also to what is right for the society of which they are a part.

When people (always in their own time) become more engaged with the debate, the two futures on offer will be compared side by side. Which will people prefer – a superficial ‘choice’ between two UK parties in a 2015 general election with little difference between them in terms of economic and social policy; or the wide-ranging debate with competing and compelling visions to be enjoyed and evaluated in the first elections to an independent Scottish parliament in 2016?

The first part of the campaign has been dominated by the mechanics of independence – how we get things set up after a Yes vote. We’ve had the kitchen sink thrown at us – some valid questions, as well as some ridiculous scare stories. People have looked at how we’ve responded and seen that there are good answers and sensible solutions, and we will keep providing these as the debate develops. Project Fear is getting an increasingly incredulous response.

A Brighter Future with Independence

In the weeks and months ahead, we will see many new ideas about how an independent Scotland can build on its strong foundations and address its challenges, using our great economic strengths and tackling our legacy of social injustice and inequality. The basis of this fresh thinking emanates from the Scottish Government in the crucial White Paper published on November 26, and political parties, but also from bodies such as the Jimmy Reid Foundation with their emerging vision of Common Weal, from the imaginations of Scotland’s artistic and creative community, from the vitally important food and drink industry, and from the many business figures who think the future looks brighter with independence. The Yes movement is much bigger and broader than the party political framework.

There is a consensus for economic and social development in Scotland that is markedly different from the divisive and socially unjust model that has dominated Westminster politics for more than 30 years. We need to move away from being a low-pay and high-anxiety economy, where people are disposable units of labour and the majority of Scots live with a constant sense of jeopardy and insecurity. We can do much better than this. We must do much better than this.

With independence, we will enjoy the benefits of a written constitution with guaranteed rights, a commitment to the cradle-to-grave welfare state and much greater certainty on the continuation of high-quality public services. We can scrap Trident and the bedroom tax. For the first time in a long time, we can link housing supply to housing benefits and have a joined-up policy on decent homes for all our people. We can adjust business taxes and incentives to grow our existing industries, and attract more inward investment.

Within the UK, voters in Scotland have very little influence on the choice of governments or policies. Our democracy will benefit from voters no longer feeling helpless and marginalised, from an end to the attacks on the living standards of working people and their families, and from a departure from the austerity agenda that stifles growth and destroys jobs. I have no doubt that any elected Scottish government in an independent parliament will have a stronger commitment to social justice than any UK government has had for several decades.

Rejecting Westminster Politics

Westminster isn’t working. Going even further, it can also be argued that in some respects Westminster has for a generation been pursuing policies that are the antithesis of mainstream values, and are designed to serve the City of London at the expense of everybody else. These are policies which have seen inequality among working age adults increase faster in the UK than in any other developed country in the period since 1975.

Westminster isn’t working for Scotland’s defence – the MoD’s track record in Scotland is one of cuts and incompetence. Scotland has a longer coastline than India, yet our defence provisions do not match our current needs. The MoD is spending billions on two new aircraft carriers – without any planes to carry. Our soldiers are sent to fight overseas with inadequate equipment. And because Westminster hasn’t located a single major surface vessel in Scotland, when a Russian carrier ship appeared in the Moray Firth in 2011, the MoD had to scramble a ship from 1,000 miles away in Portsmouth.

Meanwhile, every year £250 million of Scottish taxpayers’ money are being wasted on dangerous and obscene nuclear weapons. With 225 Trident warheads in Scotland, we have the equivalent of 1,800 Hiroshimas lying in wait just 25 miles from Scotland’s largest city.

A Yes vote is a rejection of Westminster politics and power and a preference for Scotland’s future being in Scotland’s hands. Scotland already has most of the structures in place for independent statehood. We are almost certainly better prepared for independence than any other European country pursuing self-determination in the last 100 years. We have the experience of devolution, great financial strengths, and a clear transition process.

We have a great deal to gain from independence. And more and more people in Scotland are beginning to realise what we will lose if we don’t vote Yes next year. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create the kind of society that we would wish to have, an economy where there is enterprise and reward, but also a country where we support equality of opportunity. Of all the countries that have sought independence, none has ever gone back. A No vote would lead to deep feelings of regret, the real sense of loss that follows a missed opportunity, and the painful awareness of the benefits and gains that we have squandered. I don’t believe Scotland will make that mistake. I’m convinced we shall seize the great opportunity that a Yes vote represents.

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