An independent Scotland needs Grangemouth - We should fight for it

While Europe's eye is fix'd on mighty things,

The fate of Empires and the fall of Kings;

While quacks of State must each produce his plan,

and even children lisp the Rights of Man;

Amid this mighty fuss just let me mention,

The Rights of Woman merit some attention.

Of course I quote from our National Bard Robert Burns who will be celebrated in Scotland and across the world later this week.

However, over the weekend as I reflected on the devastating news that both our Scottish Government and the UK Government have decided to sit back and allow the closure of the Grangemouth Oil Refinery, it was the words of Scotland’s first ever Makar Edwin Morgan that I thought of.

In his poem, read by Liz Lochhead, to celebrate the opening of the new Scottish building, he asserted the following:

What do the people want of the place? They want it to be filled with thinking
persons as open and adventurous as its architecture. A nest of fearties is what they do not want. A symposium of procrastinators is what they do not want.
A phalanx of forelock-tuggers is what they do not want. And perhaps above all the droopy mantra of ‘it wizny me’ is what they do not want.

I wonder then what he would’ve thought of the decision to surrender the battle to save Grangemouth without a fight? The workers at the refinery deserve better. And Scotland must demand better.

Last year, revenues from Scotland’s offshore oil and gas activity reached a record £10.6 billion in 2022-23 flowing from Scotland to the U.K. Treasury. If less than 1% of the annual bounty of Scotland’s oil was invested in the hydrocracker at Grangemouth the life of the oil refinery would be extended beyond 2025.

Supporting an investment in a strategic National asset shouldn’t need open and adventurous thinking, it just needs a Government not to be procrastinating out of fear of upsetting their Green partners. A team that will roll its sleeves up, work with the Unite the Union and get on with the job of saving the refinery. Saving the jobs it provides and the significant benefit it brings to the Scottish economy.

For years we have condemned the Tories for devastating our industrial capacity. The images of Ravenscraig being demolished have been melted into our national psyche.

But why, now, with a Scottish Parliament in place, do we not have a Scottish Government demanding that Scotland should see a share of its oil revenues invested in our oil and gas infrastructure?

The UK Government don’t care if Scottish industrial infrastructure is decimated as long as it doesn’t impact on where votes actually matter to them. You just need to look at the absurd reality that England will be left with six Oil refinery’s but Scotland will become the only top 25 Oil producing nation in the world without a refining capacity. This is a disgrace.

An independent Scotland needs Grangemouth. In the here and now our industrial backbone needs it too so it simply won’t cut it for the Scottish Government to sit back and watch it close and say ‘it wizny me’.

It is a strategic blunder. When Scotland becomes independent Oil will be the powerhouse of an independent country for the early years of our nation. It is an act of extreme folly to allow Scotland to be asset stripped of a key constituent part of our energy sector. Without a refinery we will be forced to send all of the North Sea’s Oil to England and further afield for refining. Exporting the added value and the highly skilled and well paid jobs, with the people of Scotland left with yet more low paid service jobs. With vision Scotland should be the beating heart of Europe’s energy industry.

An important aspect of becoming independent is to start acting like an independent country. If the UK Government want to sit back and happily watch the closure of Grangemouth then the Scottish Government should step up to the plate to ensure the Grangemouth Refinery is saved from closure.

Last week Alba Party at Westminster brought forward a Bill to transfer the powers to hold a referendum on independence to the Scottish Parliament. Despite a strong majority of Scotland’s MPs voting for the Bill, it was overwhelmingly defeated, as we knew it would be. But wasn’t it interesting to see that the highest number of votes against the right of the Scottish people to Self Determination came from Labour MPs? We should remind Anas Sarwar and Keir Starmer of this point when they next try to woo Yes voters.

For many years the National movement were in a very strong strategic position in Scotland because we had a route to gain Scottish independence.

We secured the re-establishment of our Scottish Parliament, we then won a majority in that Parliament to hold a referendum and for Scotland to possibly vote itself to independence.

Now there is a roadblock and there has been since 2014. The reality is that Westminster will say “no” to another referendum. And it will say no regardless of whether the next Prime Minister wears a blue rosette or a red rosette . So we have to find a new route forward.

Alba Party have that route forward.

In the absence of an independence referendum we must treat every election, whether it be for Westminster or Holyrood as the means by which people can exercise their sovereignty.

This is why the Scottish Parliament Powers Bill I’ve proposed is important because it’s within the gift of Scottish Parliament to introduce and pass a bill which allows people in Scotland to say that they want the issue of independence decided within the powers of the Scottish Parliament. If you have a vote in an election for independence, and the people of Scotland have said in a referendum that Scotland is where the issue of independence should be decided, then you’ve got a winning strategy that can face down Westminster and put Scotland back on the road towards independence.

However, it is disappointing that so few independence members of the Scottish Parliament have taken up the opportunity to discuss taking this strategy forward. The Scottish Parliament Powers Bill stands ready to be brought forward if independence parties in the parliament give it support. Humza Yousaf could embrace it tomorrow and his Government could be the ones to take if forward - something which I would be happy to support because a winning strategy to deliver independence is what our movement needs.

The Alba Party way forward is the way forward for independence.


(This article was first published in The National 22.01.24)

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