On Saturday, 20 October the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond gave an impeccably timed and well-coordinated speech to an animated crowd in Perth at the SNP’s annual party conference. His speech concerned (what else?) the full-fledged independence of Scotland and the importance of the ‘Yes’ campaign which is vying for the same outcome. Most importantly, however, he announced the 26th November publication of the ‘White Papers’ which are meant to put on paper the vision of Scottish independence and how Scotland would succeed under Holyrood’s economic, political and social control. But before the publication of the ‘Papers,’ we must genuinely consider the SNP and its vision for an independent Scotland.
If you didn’t know it by now, we are Scotland’s ‘independence generation,’ as Alex Salmond likes to call us. Yes, we chosen few, we are the generation that will end English oppression, stop direct-rule from Westminster and allow for William Wallace’s dream of independent Scottish governance. We, as a collective, we will be the piece of straw that has finally broken the camel’s back. It is easy to guffaw at Salmond’s nationalist and overly utopian vision of a Scotland where all the social and economic ills (and there are lots of them) are remedied by a healthy dose of national democratic socialism. But let’s face it; he would not be doing his job as the leader of a nationalist party if he didn’t call for the independence of a country he already semi-autonomously controls. More than that, why is Salmond’s vision of independence so crazy after all?
For a socialist, an independent Scotland could prove ideal. The SNP has pledged to raise the national minimum wage in accordance with the level of inflation, renationalise the Royal Mail, bring the age of retirement down one year and it even plans to scrap the bedroom tax. This is certainly a clear alternative to the vision Westminster would have for those north of the border and even below it, for that matter. Even a non-socialist might like the vision of an independent Scotland. If independent, Scotland plans to lower corporation tax to 3 per cent below that of the rest of the UK. This could prove lucrative for Edinburgh in providing financial institutions a true alternative to London and other European countries. Indeed, in an independent Scotland, the North Sea oil industry could also mean further profitability for Scottish people. In sum, there are genuinely good reasons for Scotland to move towards independence. However, it will never happen.
People like the status quo; and British people live by the status quo. That is what the ‘No’ campaign against independence provides: more of the same. The ‘No’ campaign seems more sensible because it is able to provide concrete numbers as to what an independent Scotland would look like and why this is a frightening prospect. The ‘No’ campaign argues that Scotland would lose the pound and, worse, lose the ability to have a say on interest rates. In effect, it would be handing London complete control of monetary policy. Moreover, the campaign uses the statistic that 66 per cent of Scottish goods are sold in the rest of the UK to argue that a genuine border between the two countries would needlessly complicate the procedure. The ‘No’ campaign has more numbers, which are all true, but it fear mongers in using the numbers to intimidate people away from independence.
The publication of the ‘White Papers’ may give the SNP all the statistics it needs in order to convince the Scottish people to secede. It won’t though, because the devil you know is better than the devil you do not. As crazy as the SNP can be at times, there is genuine reason to listen to their strategy for independence, even if you detest it completely. Though their vision for an independent Scotland is bold, verging on untenable, its challenge to the status quo is vitally necessary. They continually push Westminster on economic and social progress for the poorest among us and continue to provide free tertiary education for their citizens. Even though independence is highly unlikely, the SNP’s role in Scottish politics is essential for the progression of Scotland.
Image Credit: Scottish Government
Like this? Read our companion piece, ‘A Passage to Queensferry’