Crisis of confidence in the UK is a huge opportunity
For me, the belief in Scottish independence will always be contemporary for all times and for all circumstances.
A few years ago I won protection from unlawful discrimination for every independence supporter that believes Scotland should be an independent country.
Like me, many independence supporters believe that Scotland should be an independent country because Scotland is a nation and we should have the right to make our own decisions like any other normal country in the world. People in Greenock wouldn’t accept people in Inverness making decisions on which roads should be fixed so why should people in Scotland accept that a Government based in London should make decisions about what our priorities as a nation should be?
There isn’t a set of circumstances that would make me believe that the people of Scotland should not make the decisions about how we live our lives. Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands isn’t just a slogan, in five words it encapsulates the entire argument for independence.
However, many of our fellow Scots won’t accept that independence is right for all time and seasons. It is therefore incumbent on those of us that campaign for our right to self-determination to make independence relevant to their everyday lives.
I was struck this week when a stat jumped out at me on Alba Party’s own social media account. In a few weeks time the 60th Wee Alba Book Meeting will have been held.
Over the past year Alba Party have toured Scotland, listening to people and putting forward our ‘New Case for Independence’.
Since 2014 I’ve heard iterum atque iterum that we need to “Convert No’s to Yes”.
But other than pointing to the Bogeyman at Westminster what has actually been done to help achieve this? Because since 2014 we’ve had Brexit, the threat of Boris Johnson, actually Boris Johnson, Westminster wrecking the economy, and the dial for independence has not significantly shifted.
If in another universe there was to be an independence referendum on October 19th 2023, as was promised “No Ifs No Buts”, as the De Facto lead organisation in the campaign what is the Scottish Government position on many of the key issues that people that didn’t back independence in 2014 tell us were the reasons they voted No?
What should the currency of an independent Scotland be? What will pensions look like in an independent Scotland? How will they be paid and how will we fund them? How will the issue of a border with England work whilst wanting to be part of the EU?
We know that these are issues that people want to know more about, but despite a series of Scottish Government policy papers that have a lot of gloss on the front covers there has been a lack of substance inside.
If you get along to a meeting of the Wee Alba Book - or look out for the latest edition this year - you will hear all of these questions answered. You’ll hear how Scotland can speedily set up our own currency. The world has changed since 2014. A currency union made sense then but if Westminster don’t want Scotland to have its share of the asset why would we saddle ourselves up to allowing the Bank of England set our interest rates ?
For much of our lives the phrase "sound as a pound" was an expression of absolute dependability, until Westminster tanked the economy and inflation began to shrink the value of the money in our pockets and our savings.
Back in 2014 the Labour Party were the cheerleaders of scaring pensioners that with independence they would lose their State Pension. It was a grotesque lie then and it’s easily debunked now. You only have to point to the hypocrisy of a Labour Party that say they’ll use a Windfall Tax on Scottish Oil & Gas Reserves to fund a Council Tax Freeze for people in England to understand how silly it is to suggest that an independent Scotland couldn’t look after its pensioners much better than the UK does now.
And on the issue of borders, the Windsor House Agreement has made an issue that’s different from 2014 due to Brexit much easier for us to navigate. A few months ago the UK Government would’ve said that it wouldn’t be possible for an independent Scotland to be part of the Single Market and to have the same trading relationship with England that it enjoys today.
But that’s exactly what Northern Ireland now benefits from.
The six counties (technically four of them yes) share a land border with the EU and are allowed access to the Single Market whilst maintaining their healthy trading relationship with the rest of the UK. Rishi Sunak called it “the best of both worlds” and it creates a model for an independent Scotland as Alba Party points out, we can be a member of the European Free Trade Association, in doing so gaining speedy access back into the European Marketplace, whilst continuing to trade without friction with the rest of the UK.
All of these issues, and many more, have been addressed head on by Alba Party. And as we provide the arguments and the answers we provide the confidence to those that are undecided to then put their faith in an independent Scotland.
Today, in a new poll commissioned by Alba Party The National has exclusively revealed the results of a survey of people across Scotland as to what their views are to the question “Do you believe that the next 5 years living in the UK will be better or worse than the last 5 years living in the UK?”
The results did not surprise me, but for the independence movement they should provide an opportunity. In total, 63.8% of all respondents think that the next 5 years living in the UK will be worse than the previous 5 years.
But surprisingly, despite the Labour Party and the Tories both hoping to win the next UK General election, a majority of both 2019 Labour voters and Tory voters in Scotland believe that the next 5 years will be worse than the last 5 years. For the Lib Dem’s it’s almost two thirds that have no hope for the future.
And of course back in 2014 it was these three parties that joined together to give us ‘The Vow’ that if we didn’t vote for independence then things would get better for Scotland.
Then we had Brexit imposed upon us and the past five years have seen a drastic drop in living standards. What chance have we got when even the supporters of Unionist Parties think that life in the UK will be even worse by 2028 than it is today!
A crisis of confidence now engulfs the UK. People across Scotland have lost faith in Westminster’s ability to govern, and they have lost faith in the future of this United Kingdom.
But restoring faith and confidence in the ability of the Union to adequately serve Scotland is now a tough grind considering the people of Scotland have lost all faith in the political parties that once did the heavy lifting for UK PLC.
If we want to win over people that voted No in 2014, and those that chose not to vote and those that weren’t old enough to vote, we should reflect that the hope for a better Scotland free from Westminster can see an overwhelming majority of Scots give independence their support against the despair of a future as part of the UK.
[This article was first published in The National on 31/07/2023]