Today is the minus second anniversary of Scottish Independence. Quick! Un-light a firework! Sing ‘Flower of Scotland’ backwards! Or whatever you do on a minus anniversary… What I mean is, if Scotland votes Yes on September 18th this year to the question: ‘Should Scotland be an independent country’, the resulting Independence Day will be 24 March 2016 – two years from today.
To celebrate this, the National Collective (artists and creatives for Scottish Independence), have declared today Reasons Day, and asked supporters to tweet, blog, post, sing, dance or whatever their reasons for voting Yes. This is my response to that call. There are many reasons why I believe Independence is the right decision for Scotland, the UK and the global community. In the interests of time and sanity, I have chosen 3 of these reasons to outline. Happy Minus-Second Anniversary Scotland!
1. Nuclear Disarmament
Like most New Zealanders, I struggle to comprehend why any nation would allow nuclear weapons to dirty their shores. They are capable of the most horrendous mass murder, destruction of cities, cultures, and lives for decades after they are deployed. The fallout from atmospheric testing alone is estimated to cost 1.5 million lives in the long-term. Many of these lives are those of the Pacific Islanders such as those on Muriroa or Bikini Atoll and the Marshall Islands whose homelands have been made unliveable.
Quite apart from the reprehensible morals of nuclear weapons, there’s the cost. The UK’s nuclear programme costs about £4 billion a year, with a planned replacement cost of over £150 billion. These are costs passed on to the Scottish taxpayer, and Scotland is a country which has made their views on nuclear weapons clear, as shown by the graph above. And this is reasonable because where are the UK’s nuclear weapons kept? In Glasgow! The part of the country the most opposed to nuclear weapons and with good reason! The biggest targets in this world for nuclear attack are those with nuclear weapons. This may explain the graph below showing the divide between Scottish politicians and their Westminster counterparts in terms of their views on the nuclear programme. It’s much easier to look at the cost-benefit of a weapons programme objectively when they’re a cheerful 400 miles north!
The Scottish Government has vowed to remove these weapons from their newly-sovereign territory in the event of independence. Given the water depth requirements of the current Trident programme, this would pose a severe challenge to the UK retaining its nuclear capabilities, and I strongly believe that the fewer nuclear weapons in this world, the safer and healthier it will be.
2. It’s time to end the Empire
A couple of weeks ago, New Zealand’s Prime Minister announced there would be a referendum (another one – at least I can definitely spell it now!) in 2017 on whether or not to keep the New Zealand flag. One of the driving forces behind this is that the Union Jack which dominates that flag, is a representation of a colonial reality that we like to think we’ve now shaken off. But of course Britain itself could be abandoning that same emblem if Scotland votes yes. I see these two developments as siblings in the big dysfunctional family of post-colonialism.
In many ways Scotland is the first British colony, but of course Scots are as complicit in empire and British expansionism as anyone else. Today is Otago Anniversary Day for example – commemorating the day when the Scottish colony – my former home of Otago – was founded by Scottish Presbyterians in 1848, casually taking over the land of otakou from the indigenous population. But if Britain itself ceases to be, it could be more than just flags that the nations of the Commonwealth, and the 16 countries who still call Elizabeth II their head of state, abandon to history.
Additionally, an independent Scotland would be given an almost unique opportunity to forge a brand new foreign policy, which could well include apology and even reparation for the scars of Empire.
Scotland has the chance to end the colonial age if they vote Yes.
The UK is one of the least equal societies in the OECD – the fourth least equal developed country in the world, and that fact should be a surprise to no one who’s lived here. The majority of the ruling elite are blatantly of a different world to most of the people they govern. Picture a middle-aged white male, with a last name that can be found throughout the annals of British history, a very expensive education behind him, probably Oxbridge, and all you’ll need to make him the archetypal Westminster figure, is a speech bubble coming out of his mouth saying ‘I’m one of you’.
If you read the Scottish Government’s white paper, Scotland’s Future: Your Guide to an Independent Scotland, you’ll see it’s full of plans for making sure Scotland is no longer part of this trend of inequality. There are plans for making it a reality that women are fairly represented on company boards, in parliament and in other decision making bodies, and the same for ethnic minorities. There are comprehensive plans for utilising Scotland’s substantial resources which provide a proportion of the UK’s GDP well in excess of the proportion of the population of Scotland, to ensure anyone in Scotland would have the right to a quality education to tertiary level, and to enter the workforce without discrimination.
Then there’s the inequality of representation. The pervading opinion both south and north of Hadrian’s Wall is that the rest of the UK carries Scotland and they wouldn’t be able to cope. This is so far from true it’s laughable, except I’m not laughing because so many people believe it, and use it to openly mock Scotland. The infographic below has some key figures which show that Scotland, under the Barnett formula, are over-taxed and under-funded by Westminster which makes no secret of the fact it privileges London and the south-east above every other region of the United Kingdom.
So those are three of the many reasons I will be voting Yes in September. But then, you can make all the logical and well-thought out arguments in the world. In the end, a large part of what will drive any vote is emotion. I am absolutely no exception to this.
When I’m drinking whisky with other literature postgraduates at 3 am in Oran Mor, or when I’m walking down the street and I exchange a smile with someone else wearing a Yes badge, when I read poems of the devolution era or go on a tour of Holyrood, designed with openness and equality as its core values, there’s a palpable excitement that right now, we fortunate voters have the chance to make a positive change for Scotland, and perhaps for the world. If we vote yes, it will be the most exciting day in this land for a generation, and how wonderful would it be to be a part of that? We can’t spend the rest of our lives watching a government that does not have a mandate in Scotland make decisions that adversely affect our lives, and wonder what would have happened if we’d gone for it.
I want to have the biggest party ever on September 18th, I want to be a part of a great historical moment and watch a nation flourish.
See you on Independence Day, only 2 years to go!