The below are some thoughts of mine on the referendum for a while and now seems as good a time as any to write them down and share them in what may well be something of a stream of consciousness…or at least, that’s my excuse for any lack of flow or anything that seems to be a bit of a rant!
As you may have noticed, I’ve borrowed the title from Primal Scream. To me, it perfectly sum up the political situation in Scotland now and for many years previously and it’s the phrase which will loosely form the basis of this entry. Ready? OK then…
Scotland is widely regarded as a democracy and I suppose technically that would be correct in theory if you view Scotland as a mere region of the larger UK state. But what if you view Scotland as a country in its own right, as I and many, many others do (probably even on the “No” side of the debate)? The answer then becomes a lot less clear, and that’s what I plan on writing about although there’ll no doubt be many tangents.
In a democracy with a First-Past-The-Post system (another bone of contention, but that’s for another time), the basic idea is that the party the majority of people votes for forms the government. However, for Scotland that simply isn’t the case: Scots have voted for Labour at every Westminster election since 1955, but by the 2015 election we’ll have had Conservative governments we didn’t want for 38 of the last 68 years; in the elections which Labour won, they’d still have won with a majority without the Scottish vote. In a nutshell, our vote simply has no influence whatsoever upon UK elections. So what’s democratic about that? If you have no control over your government, you’re essentially as democratic, in a sense, as North Korea (although I’d like to stress I’m exaggerating for effect there, I’m not making a direct comparison – I’ll leave such things to the likes of Alistair Darling, a man who evidently doesn’t think much of Scottish democracy when he compares our First Minister to a murderous tyrant and describes Independence supporters as “blood and soil nationalists” [insert “inaudible mumble” here]).
Why shouldn’t we be able to elect our own government, like over 100 other countries across the world? Are we really “not genetically programmed”, to quote (to her eternal shame) Johann Lamont? Are we really so uniquely stupid that we can’t manage our own affairs? Just look at how the UK ranks across the developed world and Europe as illustrated in the below graphics:
With the extraordinary wealth of resources Scotland boasts, it is, to me, patently ridiculous, bordering on offensive, to suggest that at the very least we would do any worse on our own; indeed, it’d take a considerable effort to make a bigger mess of things than they are now. After all, even David Cameron has admitted Scotland “could undoubtedly…be a successful independent country” (which begs so many questions about the tone of Better Together’s campaign, like why they don’t actually argue in line with their title rather than about how daft we are – after all, being better than the only people in the world incapable of running their own country isn’t much of a claim). Just look at the successes of the Scottish Parliament, even just under the current (and over-maligned, in my eyes) Government: the SNP have been able to provide free education, free prescriptions and free care for the elderly amongst other things all on a limited, London-controlled budget. So why shouldn’t the same parliament be able to achieve similar successes across the board using our money to fund things like free childcare, more schools, hospitals and jobs instead of having to contribute to the abomination of a renewed but redundant nuclear weapons programme , wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or high speed trains in London? After all, good ol’ Dave has said we’re undoubtedly capable of it, so why are the people of Scotland being made to doubt their own capabilities? The answer to that has to lye with the unbelievably biased nature of the mostly London-controlled media in Scotland, which leads us nicely to my next point and back to my “illusion of democracy” theme.
In a democracy with a state broadcaster, you would expect/demand impartial, honest coverage giving equal time and credence to both sides of a constitutional debate….wouldn’t you? Not so in Scotland. It’s been increasingly obvious for a long time that the BBC is very much against the idea of independence – as far back as January this year, Prof. John Robertson of UWS published a report detailing the bias in the broadcaster’s reporting on the referendum (which I can’t find a simple link to, but he’s since produced further results here.) The BBC might just have gotten away with passing any accusations off as paranoia on the Yes side (which wouldn’t have been true, but still), but any hopes of that were shattered by Nick Robinson’s shameful behaviour earlier this week which you can see here. Such a blatant display of bias and political censorship is one thing, but the BBC’s response vindicating Robinson’s antics was the death knell for any remaining claims to impartiality for the Corporation and perhaps even for the BBC as a concept in an independent Scotland. Thousands of people turning up to protest at their Scottish Headquarters tells its own story.
So again, what kind of democracy is that? Not only do you not, to any practical degree, have a vote, but you’re subject to a broadcaster that you pay for censoring the news and airing what amounts to flat-out lies. No more than an illusion, but even that image of democracy, of living in a country where the people are in charge and treated fairly by state institutions, is blown to pieces by the behaviour of David Cameron and co. in recent weeks.
What kind of country do you live in where a Prime Minister who you did not vote for is calling multi-national companies and, much worse, banks like RBS in to Downing Street – acting illegally in the case of RBS, as it may transpire – to tell them to issue threats against you, to try to counter-act the democratic process in your country by bullying and lying? How can you possibly claim to be a real, functioning democracy when you have a state propaganda machine broadcasting lies and propagating the threats and intimidations from industries whose greed and fraud have resulted in so many of the problems the world faces today at the behest of a government we didn’t vote for? It’s a lie that Scotland is a true democracy, and that is what for me underpins the entire Yes argument: the idea that Scotland’s future will at last be solely in the hands of its people.
In contract, here’s a few statements that underpin the No camp and particularly those at the top of it:
- The Westminster government grudges paying for a spare room for seriously disabled people.
- They don’t want to pay benefits to people with mere weeks to live, instead preferring to force them in to employment.
- Westminster MPs are claiming more in expenses now than at the peak of the expenses scandal several years back, where we discovered that such lovely chaps as Jim Murphy were fiddling their expenses left, right and centre.
- Despite that, Westminster MPs are in line for a staggering 10% pay rise. Just stop and think about that for a minute: 10%! In the last 6 years, normal wages have only went up by 9% yet these chancers are claiming 10% in one go as well as obscene expenses tabs.
Do you really think these people want to keep Scotland in the Union for our own good?! The entire weight of the British state and so many huge companies is being unleashed against Scotland in a maelstrom of threats of doom and disaster because those in charge are scared of the threat to their positions of privilege and power, they don’t give a flying fuck about the hundreds of thousands of Scots living in poverty as long as they’re safe. That alone should convince any undecided voter that independence is the right thing to do: nothing that terrifies the “Establishment” so much can possibly be a bad thing. If you DO, however, believe that Cameron, Darling and co are acting out of altruism and in our best interests, that the Tory-run-and-funded Better Together campaign is genuinely on the side of the people of Scotland, then please send me your bank details and I’ll arrange for a Nigerian General to deposit some money in later on.
The people telling us that we’re too wee, too poor, too stupid are the people who have failed us for so long and that’s part of what makes the Yes campaign such a beautiful movement. It’s a movement entirely for the people, by the people, and what a wonderful thing it would be if the energy and vitality which has spread across Scotland over the last few years was to be the force which shapes the future of our country. Just think about it: Scotland governed by the people who live in it and love it, rather than the war-mongerers, arms-dealers, Tories (red and blue), fascists (hello, UKIP!) and bankers who dominate the Westminster agenda either directly or indirectly. Doesn’t that just sound too good to be true? Well it isn’t. All you have to do is put a cross next to the box that says “Yes” on Thursday morning and Scotland becomes ours.
Now, no-one for a minute argues that by voting Yes all of our ills will disappear, but it DOES mean that we have the opportunity – the only opportunity – to try to make them. We have the resources, we have the people, now all we need is your vote.
Vote Yes, Saor Alba.
Edit to add: I meant to mention this at some point, but forgot about it. It’s been revealed in the last few days that some Trade Unions and “Lord” John Reid have been telling people who are unsure either to not vote or to vote No. What does that tell you about their campaign? “Don’t bother looking at any facts or you’ll realise we’ve not got a leg to stand on. Just be a good little simpleton now, and run along”…and to think we thought “Patronising BT Lady” was bad! When you reach the point where you’re actively encouraging people not to become engaged in the debate, you lose all credibility and you admit defeat on any and every argument involved by default. It’s an absolute affront to the democratic process which has been taking place in our country and those involved should be ashamed of themselves.
If you’ve reached this far, here’s some credits:
Unfortunately, I don’t have source links for the graphics I’ve used (apart from the BBC one, which is taken from their own website.) I do know they are from the Radical Independence Campaign and Yes Scotland somewhere along the line though, so go have a look at their rather useful websites:
Also, the stats about previous elections are courtesy of Wings Over Scotland and their quite brilliant Wee Blue Book. If you haven’t read it, I’d implore you to go and do it now.