By Derek Bateman
The First Minister says we won’t be foreigners if we are independent. Speak for yourself, Mr Salmond. Who wants to be part of a country that deliberately legislates for poverty, wrecks lives, campaigns for the wealthy and closes its doors to Scotland?
If it means severing our links with the austerity merchants of London, I demand to be foreign. If it means no more illegal wars, I scream that I am from a foreign land. And if it brings social justice instead of embedded inequality, then call me Johnny Foreigner. I will be foreign to the Little Englanders and proud of it too.
While I’m at it, I am also a separatist. I would be delighted to share our wealth and natural resources with our English neighbours including a share of their debt, but so long as there are governments in Westminster which despise the poor, humiliate immigrants and restrict social mobility – Labour and Tory – I want to live in a different country with a different culture. If that’s a separatist, then count me in.
Did you see today’s advert for the Union? Hundreds of thousands of our fellow Scots are being battered by welfare reforms, low wages, high power bills, cost-of-living increases and job insecurity, with many being forced to get their staples from charity – real living Scottish families in “the greatest Union in the history of the world”, taking home a plastic bag of essentials from a food bank.
This is a direct result of the Westminster government’s welfare attack on low-paid families. According to evidence presented at Holyrood, they often walk for miles as they cannot afford to pay for transport, and many are given items that can be eaten cold because they are unable to pay for electricity in order to cook.
I stopped to speak to a young woman begging outside the subway, sitting uncovered in the rain. She said she was in care, living in a hostel but they didn’t provide food so she needed money to eat. It’s hard to tell how much of this is the chaos of a troubled life and I said there are always agencies, starting with the local authority, who can help. Her answer was that this was the help she was entitled to. It just didn’t come with enough to eat.
This latest outbreak of outrage at social injustice is run by Scotland’s Outlook which finds more than 870,000 living in poverty – presumably the reason the Tories were looking recently at reclassifying the definition – 23,000 using food banks and 20 per cent of our children officially classed as poor. Do I hear a round of applause from our Unionist champions? “The best of both worlds” is the latest catchphrase from the spin machine but I can only think these people are either blind, imbecilic or delusional.
I took a drive today to escape the city and meandered through Bearsden – a new Waitrose is underway, brand new houses at £422,000 to £585,000 – past bungalows and hedges and cars in the driveway, through the hills to Drymen, had a coffee among relaxing locals and then through Killearn with a stop-off to visit the Dumgoyne distillery in the Campsies. This is comfortable private-ownership Scotland, hardly a council house in sight let alone a scheme. It is No territory.
By the time I drove into Tesco Maryhill my vista had changed just a bit. Even on the faces of the people and in the clothes they wear is woven the mark of shrinkage – of health, wealth and opportunity. Two communities miles apart but divided by half a world. Independence can’t solve every problem and, while I shouldn’t say this, it isn’t actually needed at all to solve Scotland’s social problems. At least, it shouldn’t be needed.
But we all know without it, this theatre of inequality will play and play through the next Labour government and the one after that. You need political will to transform society and that evaporated as soon as Labour tacitly abandoned socialism under Blair/Brown/Darling. To really affect change you need to make it a cause, not a programme. Having a policy is just a start. You need belief, drive and utter conviction to carry it through and Labour doesn’t know what it believes in any more, let alone how deeply.
To watch them cavort with the Tories demanding with synthetic indignation what currency will be used when they deliberately worked with Osborne to close off the option that works best for Britain, is a bewildering experience for anyone brought up on the idea that Labour’s mission was social reform. I watched an MP I hadn’t heard of before, Ian Murray of Labour, on television and marveled at his quick-fire stream of Tory-inspired invective delivered at such speed that as the half-truths and assertions flowed by, the interviewer could barely correct one.
It occurred to me that I haven’t actually heard a Labour person speak about low pay, diminishing benefits and a broken society in relation to the referendum. They DO talk about it when it’s time to turn against the Tories as at PMQs and suddenly all their anti-Scottish collaboration disappears, but it is never part of their narrative about Scotland. I wonder why…
At the heart of the Yes campaign is the demand that we use our new powers to readjust our society and do what all smart small countries do – bring everybody up to the same standard. (Part of the object of the EU, by the way). The evidence is clear that ending poverty and bringing equality doesn’t threaten the bungalow dwellers of Bearsden. On the contrary, it reduces ill-health, crime, squalor and benefits bills and creates a happier, more rounded society for all. Why is that too much to ask for the Unionists? Or are they saying we currently have that in Scotland – a Scotland suffering what the Outlook people describe as a humanitarian crisis?
Incidentally, its worth remembering that Scotland does have some powers to bring into play through housing, industrial, environment and education and the Joseph Rowntree findings are that over the last 10 years alone, child poverty in Scotland has fallen at twice the rate in England.
We need to stay focused on the real prize of the referendum, the power to change Scotland. Just as it isn’t about waving a flag, neither is it about EU membership or currency – they will take care of themselves because the mandate will insist it is so. Currency is a Better Together red herring. That’s why they never talk about breadline Scotland – they are guilty of creating and perpetuating poverty and have no solution.
Just as I’m happy to be a foreigner and a separatist, so I’m unmoved about currency union, sterling-shadowing or Scots pound. The only currency that we will need is called Care…Care for each other and Care for our country. That has more value than the Bank of England and it is what has gone missing from the Unionists’ Britain. When the Britnats ask what is our Plan B, the answer is: Our Currency is Care…
Courtesy of Derek Bateman