A better way is possible


by Isobel Lindsay

What would independence look like?  We don’t really have to imagine this.  We now have a substantial amount of evidence to predict what an independent Scotland would be like.  Twelve years of Holyrood plus what we know about public attitudes in Scotland plus what we know about the economic resource potential give us a good basis for prediction.


The ideological gap between Scotland and England has been increasing sharply.  This is not just the product of the present Tory-Liberal Government; it had developed during the Blair/Brown years.  The neo-liberal agenda was restrained in Scotland because of our Parliament – and also in Wales within their more limited powers.  We did not choose the marketisation of the Health Service and many aspects of social work, now being pushed to extremes in England.  We did not follow the fragmentation of the school system and we maintained the principles of comprehensive education.  We rejected university tuition fees.  We introduced free personal care for the elderly.  In the past four years, new PFI schemes have been stopped as have plans for new private prisons.  The pace of privatisation and marketisation in England is rapidly accelerating under the Cameron/Clegg Government.

This is tough on the many people in England who want public services to be public, not run by companies like Serco and Capita whose prime responsibilities are to their shareholders.  The quality of the service to the public and the welfare of their employees are not their priorities; maximising their profits is.  But it is English voters who need to fight to change their system.  The best we can do for them (along with the Welsh) is to show that a better way is possible.  Scotland has clearly made different choices with the devolved powers we have had.  We have pursued a model closer to that of the social democratic Nordic countries and closer to most of Western Europe in contrast to the Anglo-American route which England has been following.

With the full powers of independence, we can expect that direction to continue and what we know of attitudes in Scotland gives us a good indication of what the choices would be in relations to existing reserved powers.  There is opposition to nuclear weapons and to most of the wars to which the British state has become addicted.  There has been an impressive commitment at the legislative level on climate change, although less than impressive in the consistency of some of the implementation.  Within the very limited capacity that Holyrood has had to develop international aid work, it has shown some enthusiasm to act.  We can be confident that an independent Scotland would make a positive contribution on peace and disarmament, international justice and environmental issues.

One of the big themes on the Scottish economy that has not yet got through to the Scottish public but will be strategically central for an independent country, is that we are (both currently but also potentially) a very resource rich country.  Oil will continue for some decades to be important with scarcity pushing the price up.  While the agricultural quality of our land is not great, we have a very good ratio of space to population and we have great water resources.  Both of these factors will be increasingly valuable assets in the future.  The big opportunity will be in renewable energy.  We are geographically very well-placed and we have good research skills.  The importance of this is not just in providing our own electricity but in the potential to be a serious exporter of expertise and equipment for wave and tidal power.  We missed the boat in the 1980s with wind power – the Danes and the Germans took the initiative.  We can be in the vanguard with new technologies. We can be optimistic about the economic potential of an independent Scotland.

Isobel Lindsay  is vice-chair of Scottish SCND, convener of Scotland’s for Peace and on the board of Scottish Left Review

Published with thanks to the Scottish Independence Convention{jcomments on}