Sunday, 22 January 2012

Independence - what are we fighting for?

Independence -
What are we fighting for?
Nothing -UGH! Say it again!

In the scatter gun and scatological debate that is current in Westminster, Holyrood, the MSM and a lot of blogs this would appear to be the case. Westminster and the Unionist Cabal at Holyrood rely on ignorance to win their case. Gerry Hassan on his good days regularly reflects the tribal nature of the public contest, Newsnet Scotland, of late, has been falling into the same trap of righteous indignation while blogs such as Better Nation still try to understand what is going on through the lens of the old fashioned British politics of left and right while failing to grasp that British politics is now about shades of neo-liberal, right wing authoritarianism. I have been equally guilty in my Tarff Advertiser blog of letting my verve for independence miss out the potato and two vegetables. Like or loath Gerry Hassan (and I can do both equally) he is right, the space that is not being addressed by any side is; just what sort of a Scotland do we wish to live in and create for future generations?

A skim through most threads where the subject is being considered, as an aside to the tribalism, says a lot about how the engaged think an independent Scotland should look. Amongst the ire cast upon the Gaderine unionists for their too wee, too poor, too stupid narrative of Scotland there occurs, on occasion, and flash of what it is the pro-independence folk wish and a narrative widely ignored by Westminster and the MSM. It is a civic Scotland centred on a fundamental, deeply imbedded concept of what it is to be Scottish, a concept which means you look out for others both family and outsiders. In the Highlands it historically presented itself in the form of the ‘Clan system’, in the lowlands the same sense was seen at work in the shared closes of the Burghs and the communal building of houses in the countryside. This is the manifestation that we are ‘Aa Jock Tamson’s bairns’ and it lies in the fundamental placing of the Scot, in their own country, as being sovereign.

This sense of looking out for all predates the Scottish Reformation but sees, after that date, a number of rights and responsibilities being laid on parishes in both the provision of education - Sunday Schools were originally just that, places where young of all classes learnt to read, write and have basic arithmetic - as well as the welfare of the poor and the sick. These ‘Christian responsibilities’ were backed up in law by the Scottish Parliaments of the 16th Century and failure of the Kirk elders to carry out these obligations could see them fined or imprisoned - as happened in the early 1600’s when Tranent Parish was visited by a local moderator and found to be wanting in its care of the parish poor. It is in this sense I would suggest that a social democratic polity is deeply imbedded in what Scotland means to its inhabitants both socially and in law.

This hard wired sense of ‘fairness’ is one of the main threads of Scottishness which a neo-liberal Westminster can not grasp and as Labour’s drift to the authoritarian right, in the form of ‘New Labour’, has accelerated over the last two decades is the very connection with Scotland which has been lost by the party founded, in the main, by Scots whose purpose was to make the UK a fair place to live in. The Scottish Labour tradition of Hardy, Moxton and McLean was one of fairness as represented in the Govan Rent Protests of 1916. It is reflected in the anger the issue of the clearances of tenant and tied farmers across Scotland from the 1720’s onwards, reaching its peak in the forced clearances of the early 1800s still causes. It is heard amongst ‘wains’ across Scotland every day - “That’s no fair, mister!”

So what are we fighting for in terms of independence? Is it ‘nothing’ or an idea of a Scotland which is reality as far divorced from neo-capitalism as it can be?

A lot of the articles and threads running in Scottish blogs and online news sources  are still along the 'Its no fair, mister!' line of narrative which is now becoming, for me, as irritating as the too poor, too wee, too stupid narrative. It is time to move the independence discussion away from what Westminster thinks it can stop the sovereign Scottish people from doing to expressing what we want for Scotland.

It is clear from the growing support for the SNP across Scotland (and the increasingly strident denial this is the case by the other side of the debate) that Scots of all political persuasions find a deal of comfort in the SNP's social democratic, easy does it, approach. There are many political commentators who see this as SNP not having made plans or frightened of independence or looking to hedge their bets as there is no rush of announcements by the SNP to feed the MSM's greedy maw. As the SNP have cannily wired themselves into the Scottish sense of fairness they have no need to trumpet to the MSM while making over weaning and  mostly empty threats or promises to create awareness amongst the voters. The SNP's social democrat essentials are felt by ordinary folk every day when they do not pay a prescription charge or have a sense of relief their Council Tax has not gone up again this year and know their child or grandchild can afford to go onto University education if they wish. There is an intrinsic message of fairness in everything the SNP do and a sense they are looking out for Scotland; that deep chime which sounds clear with 'Jock Tamson's bairns'.

Scotland needs independence from Westminster, not for oil or gas or re-useables but because to stay with Westminster will turn Scotland into an anathema of the country it is. A country where everyone who can not afford to pay for health, services or education will become a third class citizen, trapped in their subservience, 1984 writ large.

Over dramatic?

Look at what is already happening in London and the south east and the sense of 'no hope' which gave rise to the riots and the 'free for all' in looting of the summer of 2011. Greater London has only a slightly bigger population than Scotland but is where the divide between rich and poor is accelerating, bringing along with it increasing racial tension reflected in London's politics and its gang wars - Caribbean vs SE Asians vs Eastern Europeans vs East End Gangs.  Let us be clear, compared to the racial and class tensions in London and many other English cities, Scottish sectarianism is very small beer. This increasing  tension is a direct result of Westminster's neo-liberal thinking and policy which no attempt to claim Cameron's 'Big Society' as a cure can attenuate.

It is this deep, underlying social democratic polity in Scotland which I wish to protect and the only avenue open to me is to vote for independence. Forget Braveheart, tartan, shortbread and the rest - we are talking about what it means to be a sovereign Scot being destroyed once and for ever and along with our sovereignty a 1200 year old nation if we vote 'No' this time.