By Alex Robertson
At the end of last week the explanation for Johann Lamont’s exceptional message about having to dream up cuts for the Scottish economy was made clear – it was all made in Westminster, again.
Ed Balls designed the whole shebang and announced it just three days after Ms Lamont. What is really remarkable about the Scottish announcement, apart from going back on the commitments and pledges made only months ago at the local elections, is the hopelessness it testified to.
Certainly the last government allowed the economy to plunge into a deep, deep decline, fuelled by the unrestrained greed of bankers and abetted by the feckless last Chancellor and Prime Minister who claimed he had abolished boom and bust. Boy, did he get that wrong! So now the country is left with a gargantuan debt, and the interest per day alone is gigantic. Now we have to rebuild our economy and bring down the deficit. So much everybody more or less agrees.
Vince Cable has repeated his accurate observation that Britain is in an economic war. But any student of the Second World War and the plight of Britain in 1940 knows just how important it was to do everything that could be done to defend the country when it was left to face Nazi Germany alone. The country was forced into a desperate search for other means to safeguard the future, like amazing politics to get the US to support us, but also to find all sorts of other ways, like pinching the Enigma machines, the daring raid on Dieppe, and developing new technologies such as radar – without which the Battle of Britain would have been lost. One thing quickly emerges. Virtually alone, Churchill never lost hope amidst lots of defeatists. So it must be with us now.
Johann Lamont and David Cameron, George Osborne and all around them cling desperately to deficit reduction as their only hope – at any cost to the future. Out goes all pretence at building a compassionate society, out too goes building anew, in the place of all the destruction going on around us. It is of little use having a balanced budget if we have become a country where you mustn’t be sick, mustn’t get old, mustn’t be a single mother and you mustn’t become unemployed or employed in a sunset industry. For then you will suffer in conditions unseen for around a century or more. A country divided, its heart broken and the weak and vulnerable abandoned, is all that will be left.
But like Churchill, if you have hope then you can save what is precious and safeguard the future. It seems to me that is precisely what the Scottish government is straining to do, amidst the no-hopers of the unionist parties. We need to find clever ways of creating jobs and renewing economic growth despite all the dreadful stuff going on around us. And there is no doubt whatsoever that Scotland would fare a lot better if it were able to make its own decisions and choices.
I am beginning to believe that the debate on Scottish independence is between those with hope and those who have none. Let those without hope seek solace where they may, but we Scots must defend in defiance of all the no-hopers all the social progress that testifies with incomparable eloquence to the compassion of the Scottish nation. We are good at inventing, at innovating and so we must do now, with technology, and how we organise ourselves. But we need the freedom to do what the Scots decide is the right thing.
Those who favour independence for our homeland are the ones with hope in the future and in our nation, and all the others are just part of the problem, not the solution.