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Why Independence Will Be Heaven for Scotland

The case for casting off the English and becoming a socialist paradise of green energy and endless cash.

Earlier today, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond announced that the country's independence referendum vote will be held on Thursday the 18th of September, 2014. Exactly which way the public will vote is by no means clear at this stage, but we decided to weigh up the pros and cons of Scotland leaving the UK anyway. This is the optimist's view – click here if you'd rather read about why independence would be the worst thing that ever happened to Scotland.



Picture a small European nation of 5.3 million people. It has its own culture, its own traditions, its own legal system, its own football team. Three hundred years ago, when not having an empire was the geopolitical equivalent of owning a BlackBerry instead of an iPhone, it made the terrible mistake of pouring a third of its wealth into establishing the Worst Small Colony in the World in a malarial swamp in Panama. To avoid imminent financial ruin, it entered into a union with a bigger, richer, flashier neighbour that won’t shut up about David Beckham, even though it’s been ages since he was any good.

For a long time, that union thrived – they exploited a lot of foreigners, won a few wars, made a shit-tonne of money. But recently, things have grown stale. Socially and politically, they’re pulling in different directions. It’s been emotional, it’s been historical, it’s even – in some ways – been educational. But now those 5.3 million people are preparing to draft an "It’s not you, it's me (but it's kind of you as well)" letter and strike out on their own. Can you really argue with their logic?

It feels like we Scots have been talking about independence ever since we gave it up (and we did give it up, no one took it from us) in 1707. Only recently, however, has it seemed like a tangible or even halfway desirable reality. Former New Labour mandarin George Robertson once pompously declared that devolution would kill Scottish nationalism “stone dead”. Instead, 14 years of devolved government has given us a newfound confidence in our ability to manage our own affairs. In May 2011, when the SNP won an absolute majority at Holyrood, a referendum on Scottish independence became inevitable.


And in the event of a "yes" vote next November, Alex Salmond’s vision for an independent Scotland is pretty clear: we’ll keep the pound, because what lunatic would tether our fortunes to the Euro? Our re-entry into the EU will be automatic, as will the opt-outs and rebate deals we enjoy as part of the UK. We’ll stay in NATO, but the English can take their nukes elsewhere. For reasons no one quite understands, the Queen will remain as head of state. The national debt and national assets will be fairly and amicably divided, although we’ll keep around 90 percent of the North Sea oil revenues.

None of these things – with the predictable exception of the Queen – are cut-and-dried formalities, though they’re all more or less feasible. But with so much remaining the same, why change in the first place?

Alan Bissett is an author and playwright whose novels – like Boyracers and Death of a Ladies’ Man – are steeped in contemporary Scottish culture. He was a late convert to the cause, but through his blogs for and his poem, "Vote Britain" (as scathing a takedown of unionism as you’re ever likely to hear), he's become one of the pro-independence movement’s most passionate and eloquent advocates.

For him, independence is about “reversing the disadvantage that Scotland is often placed in, where we end up with governments that not only did we not vote for, but which are often hostile to us. I was always on the fence about independence until that day in May 2011, when the SNP won that substantial majority. The Conservatives had been voted in at Westminster and the Lib Dems had been discredited because the people who voted for them – including myself – were appalled to find them propping up a Tory government. So we were back in the shit again. But when the SNP won, it felt like the country was waking up. It felt like a vote against what was happening in Westminster, like the whole country was united for that one day. And that’s when independence started to make sense to me.”


The one stereotype we Scots are always happy to live up to is that we loathe Tories. Electorally excoriating them has become a national sport and, unlike football, it’s one we’re pretty good at – it’s the rest of the UK that lets the side down. It’s difficult to overstate what a powerful incentive for independence their banishment would be for many Scots, particularly in the wake of the Bedroom tax and the gamble they’re taking with Britain’s EU membership, all for the financial gain of London’s bastard-class and its reptilian-financial complex.

Eberhard "Paddy" Bort – a German-born politics lecturer at Edinburgh University who says he’s “strictly on the fence” about independence – agrees that, for many people, the main attraction is “to get rid of a very unloved government in London. But there’s also hope, with the Europhobic influence in England, that a more pragmatic and Euro-realistic relationship could evolve in Scotland. Some of the hangovers of post-imperial Britain would vanish, to a certain degree, and the chip on the shoulder – the inferiority complex that comes from being a smallish part of the UK that’s dominated by London – would also go.”

Initially, of course, an independent Scotland would be dominated by the SNP. But the SNP are not the Front National, and Alex Salmond is no Jean-Marie McPen: they’re a modern, inclusive, pro-European social democratic party who have outflanked Labour from the left and proved themselves more than capable of governing. They espouse no dodgy bloodline ideologies and they are eager to participate in Europe. In many ways, they’re less blindly nationalistic than the Little Englanders in Westminster who are being edged ever-rightwards by the terrifying rise of UKIP.


Post-independence, it’s hoped that the Scottish political landscape would become a mirror image of Westminster’s, where, as Bissett explains, “what you have is a continual battle between the centre and the right, and the furthest left it goes is the Lib Dems, or certain strands of Labour ideology. In an independent Scotland, what you’ll get is a fight between the centre and the left. A lot of Scots right now feel very disengaged from the political process because – quite rightly – they don’t feel their vote makes any difference. But because an independent Scotland will take them on a political journey, there will be far more participation in democracy from ordinary Scots. It will transform people, politically.”

Underwriting this new equilibrium will be oil, and enough of it, says Alex Salmond, that Scotland would become the sixth-wealthiest nation in the OECD – wealthier even than the UK itself. The controversial McCrone report – commissioned by the outgoing Tory government in 1974, buried by the Labour one which followed and finally obtained by the SNP in 2005 – forecast that, were an independent Scotland to nationalise its oil industry, it would become one of the richest countries in Europe, “embarrassing” budget surpluses and all. That wouldn’t be the case today, but what’s left of the oil (and even conservative estimates give us at least another 30 years before it runs out) would provide a solid economic foundation for a newly-independent Scotland, assuming we used the profits wisely.


“There’s tens of billions of pounds’ worth of oil revenues that we could use to invest in green energy,” says Bissett, “which means we’ll have an energy source after the oil runs out, which means we can then export that technology to other countries. We’d nationalise the oil industry, because running vital industries like oil, energy, water and health for private profit doesn’t make sense at any level. We’d rebuild our manufacturing base, using the oil reserves to do that. We’ll have a smaller army to suit the shift in our foreign policy – we simply wouldn’t get involved in imperialist wars any more. We'd save billions in defence and we'd become a nation of nationalised industry again.”

You want to know what an independent Scotland would look like? Four little words: Like Thatcher never happened.

Want the other side of the argument? Click here if you'd rather read about why independence would be the worst thing that ever happened to Scotland.

Follow Barry on Twitter: @nicolsonbarry

Images by Krent Able.

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