By Stephen Noon
My first introduction to politics was in the early 1990s in an organisation called Scotland United – we campaigned for a multi-option referendum in the period just after the 1992 election returned the Tories to government in the UK (despite Scotland voting overwhelmingly against them). For me independence and devolution are very much part of the same ‘more powers’ continuum. This is an article I wrote on the Yes Scotland website on this very point:
Scots like it and want it to continue and grow. Devolution, that is. That’s why we want to complete the powers of the Scottish Parliament, not set limits on them.
Devolution has been a good start: we’ve had a strong Scottish Parliament with full control over things such as health and education. But now Westminster is taking us in a dangerous direction, with greater instability and insecurity through policies such as austerity and welfare changes. It is clear we need a stronger Scottish Parliament and a new approach.
Since devolution in 1999, the Scottish Parliament has delivered for the people of Scotland. Our parliament has led the way with groundbreaking legislation. It has transformed our country and brought power closer to our communities.
It is therefore little surprise that opinion polls routinely show that Scots like devolution and want to see our parliament’s powers grow. In particular these polls tell us that people want the Scottish parliament to be responsible for decisions on tax and welfare and to have the power to remove nuclear weapons from our shores.
In recent weeks the debate about how we build upon the success of devolution has taken centre stage. All the parties in the Scottish Parliament now support the strengthening of devolution.
We all know that devolution is popular. The Yes parties believe the Scottish people should decide how our parliament grows, whereas the No parties believe that decision should be made at Westminster.
The No campaign points out that devolution and separation are two very different ideas. We agree. But devolution and independence are part of the same journey. Independence is very different from separation.
In September 2014 we face a choice between two different paths: building on the success of devolution with an independent parliament or major changes to our society with Westminster’s austerity and welfare changes – with all the risks and uncertainty those things bring.
It’s a choice between focusing on getting our economy back on track – with Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands – or years of uncertainty and instability if we leave Westminster politicians in control.
It is a choice between the values of unity and solidarity, where we work together as equal independent nations (much like the most successful union in the world – the partnership of Scandinavian nations), versus the politics of division, where a Westminster system delivers even greater inequality and undermines so much that is good in our society.
By voting positively for a new partnership on these isles, allowing us to work together as part of the same family of nations, we are taking the opportunity to complete devolution. This completion of devolution with independence is the exact opposite of the separation the No parties talk about. By choosing Yes we can reject the No campaign’s separatist vision and rhetoric – we can reject the sort of Scotland they speak of.
All three No parties are now “actively considering and putting forward their ideas” on how they think we can best develop devolution in future. But the fantastic thing is that we don’t have to wait for these politicians to make up their minds, or indeed to get permission for any changes from their bosses in London. Instead the people of Scotland can choose to complete the devolution project with a Yes vote in 2014.
That’s how we have done it before – through our votes we have a track record of delivering, including the creation of the Scottish Parliament back in 1999. The devolution debate is alive and well. And now that we are seeing the full impact of the new and highly damaging Westminster agenda, more and more Scots are moving towards a Yes.
A Yes to completing devolution with independence. A Yes that once and for all rejects separation and the sorts of divisions in our society delivered by successive Westminster governments over these past 30 years (inequality that respected international experts tell us has grown faster here than anywhere else in the developed world).
The London parties are keen to present this as a false choice between devolution and separation, but nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, with a Yes vote we can get the best of both worlds – an independence that allows us to build on devolution, to see it grow and develop into something that protects us from the worst of Westminster’s ways.
The devolution debate has always been pluralistic with different parties and Scottish society setting out how they want Scotland’s democracy to work. That was how devolution was established in the first place, with all parties campaigning together to deliver a Yes, Yes in 1997. We can achieve the same again in 2014, with a Yes vote bringing Scotland’s home rule journey to a fitting conclusion.
If you want to join the campaign to build on the success of devolution click here.
This article is published in Newsnet Scotland courtesy of Stephen Noon, and also appears on the author’s blog site.