Commentary / World

Scots have nothing to lose going the 'indy' route

by Iain Robertson

Special To The Japan Times

Yes. The country is financially stronger than the United Kingdom as a whole and its people desire a government very different from the one sitting at the Westminster Parliament, London.

Under the current devolved settlement, Scotland has a parliament sitting in Holyrood, Edinburgh, which controls a paltry 16 percent of the country’s tax base. The game-changing economic and social policy levers remain in the hands of the U.K. government, leaving Scotland unable to properly tackle some of its social ills or take full advantage of its many natural resources.

Scotland’s union with England and the other parts of the U.K. is not offering Scots the best option. The current political landscape across the nations of the U.K. is one where Westminster is controlled by a Conservative-Liberal coalition government that was roundly rejected by Scottish voters at the last election; just one Conservative member of Parliament hails from a seat north of the border.

London makes the crucial decisions and, unsurprisingly, makes them in the interests of the city and its surrounding area. It places little importance on improving the social and economic well-being of Scotland. Those who say no to independence will be guaranteeing a continuation of this sorry state of affairs.

Scotland should no longer allow a distant parliament governed by political parties it didn’t vote for to dictate the country’s future path. And the idea, promoted by many newspapers and British state television, that Scotland survives on handouts from London and gets far too many “freebies” is not just incorrect, it is divisive.

Recent figures revealed in “The Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland 2011-12 Report” show that, rather than enjoying handouts, Scotland is paying more money in tax than it receives in U.K. public spending, to the tune of around £863 per head of its population.

Newspapers the length and breadth of the U.K. continue to run baseless front-page scare stories about independence. What many of these failing newspapers make clear is that the so-called “union” of countries is viewed by London as being one they control.

As for the wording of the referendum question “Should Scotland be an independent country?,” one Daily Telegraph newspaper columnist wrote: “If the British government ‘allows’ this question to go forward, it deserves to lose.”

Scots are very much the second-class citizens of the union, only independence can change this. Most newspapers in the U.K. are losing their influence though, as readers increasingly turn away from a printed press clearly biased on this subject, and look online for their news.

This is especially true of the younger generation, who are using the Internet to access more balanced articles on Scottish independence. And the possible effects of this were highlighted in a recent opinion poll, where a majority of 18-24 year olds supported independence.

The democratic, economic and social inequalities being experienced in a Scotland tethered to a union designed to work for the benefit of one constituent — England — can end next year if Scots back themselves and say yes to independence. Because energy-rich Scotland has the people, economy and social solidarity to chart its own course, for the benefits of all that choose to call the country home.

There is even more to Scotland’s economic potential as an independent country than its booming oil and renewable energy industries. It has a number of world- class business sectors; including food and drink, life sciences and a first-class education system. Scotland has much to offer — both to itself and the world.

For 40 years, Scotland’s oil and gas wealth has been used to prop up the U.K. economy and bankroll expensive infrastructure projects in London and the south of England.

In return, Scots have witnessed the country’s manufacturing base destroyed and its social ills escalate.

Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, governed at a local level by the same political party — the increasingly rightwing and unionist Labour Party — for much of the last half century, has some of the worst mortality and child poverty rates in the developed world. The notion that the country will face some sort of biblical apocalypse if it becomes independent; as most Scottish and U.K. newspapers seem to imply is unfounded and insulting.

The business and economic case for Scotland being independent is strong. Of course there will be challenges but when things do go wrong, as they have been going for some time now, Edinburgh will have a sovereign parliament that can make decisions in the interests of the people who voted them into power: the Scottish electorate.

As Scots singer Eddie Reader retweeted: “indy (independence) gives us uncertainty with power, U.K. gives uncertainty without power.”

According to most opinion polls, Scots trust Edinburgh’s Parliament a lot more than Westminster when it comes to acting in their best interests.

So Scots should say yes next year to giving their Edinburgh Parliament the natural powers of independence needed to reroute the country onto a positive path and, crucially, bring democracy closer to the people.

Iain Robertson is editor of Enterprising Energy magazine, and partner at Write Word International.

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