Why Yes is the Right Thing To Do.

4 Sep

“There is only one argument for doing something; the rest are arguments for doing nothing. The argument for doing something is that it is the right thing to do. But then, of course, comes the difficulty of making sure that it is right.” F.M Cornford, Microcosmographia Academia, 1908.

Although written over 100 years ago, this observation about the motivation that lies behind a particular course of action is of ever increasing relevance to the debate on Scottish independence as the campaign enters its final 100 days.

At present, large sections of the British population are living in truly appalling circumstances. By any measure, things are not just bad in Britain today; they are a disgrace to a civilized country.

The following facts – and it is important to remember that these are facts – serve as an adequate illustration:

“The richest people in Britain have had an astonishing year.”

  • The 5 richest UK households have more money than the poorest 12.6 million people in Britain. (Oxfam UK)
  • Britain has 3 times the amount of millionaires working in finance than the rest of Europe combined. (European Banking Authority)
  • Tax fraud costs the UK treasury 70 Billion pounds per year. The entire NHS budget is just less than 110 Billion pounds per year.
  • In the past year, Britain’s richest 1000 people saw their wealth collectively increase by 15.4%, meaning that they now own 519 Billion Pounds. This prompted Philip Beresford, who compiled the rankings, to say “I’ve never seen such a phenomenal rise in personal wealth as the growth in the fortunes of Britain’s 1,000 richest people over the past year. The richest people in Britain have had an astonishing year.”

“Last year charities handed out over 20 million meals to people living in Britain.”

  •  As a consequence of government cuts to welfare, 3 million children will be living in poverty in Britain by 2015. (Children’s Commissioner for England)
  • Britain’s death rate for children under 5 is 4.9 out of every 1,000 children born. This means that Britain is second only to Malta in the number of child deaths in Western Europe. The figure for Britain is 50 percent higher than in Iceland. Experts believe this staggering rate of child mortality is a direct consequence of the growing intensity of poverty. (The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), published in the Lancet Medical Journal.)
  • For the first time ever, the majority of people in poverty in the UK are working. 1 in every 5 workers in Britain is paid less than they need to maintain a basic, but socially acceptable standard of living. Working families increasingly have to turn to food banks and credit to make ends meet. (The Living Wage Commission.)
  • Brittish workers work the 3rd longest hours in Europe and receive the 2nd lowest levels of pay. (Office for National Statistics and the OECD.)
  • Last year charities handed out over 20 million meals to people living in Britain who were unable to scrape together the means to feed themselves. (Oxfam UK)

Evidently, then, there is absolutely no way that a campaign entitled Better Together can possibly base its argument on the belief that life in Britain is wonderful and we should all be glad that we are a part of it. Endorsing the current state of Britain is quite clearly not the right thing to do.

What people might buy, though, is that an independent Scotland would be even worse.

And this is exactly what they have set out to do.

Whether its pointing out the uncertainty over currency, highlighting that businesses might pull out of an independent Scotland, warning about a possible downturn in investment, questioning the viability of pensions or stating that an independent Scotland would need to increase taxes, every attempt has been made by those seeking a No vote to shift scrutiny away from the state that Britain is in TODAY and focus it onto what a prospective Scotland might look like TOMORROW.

At no point has there been a serious discussion about how Britain intends to tackle the scourge of rampant inequality and decimating poverty if Scotland votes No this September. Briefly put, there hasn’t even been a half-arsed attempt at setting out why staying in the UK will make life better for Britain as a whole.

The consequence, as many have pointed out, is that the Scottish people have been told we are Better Together by people who cannot agree on what we are Better Together for.

Remember, the Scottish people voted overwhelmingly in 2011 to elect an SNP government that had promised to offer a referendum if they won. This means that the Scottish people have democratically expressed their desire to be asked about the future governance of their country. What this does not mean, though, contrary to the near unanimous consensus in the mainstream media, is that the Yes side alone must bear the burden of proof here.

In my opinion, representatives and supporters of the British state have just as much work to do in convincing Scots that they should stay as those who are seeking to garner support for leaving. As I’ve said before, if the status quo in Britain was acceptable, or perhaps even just a tad unbearable, this referendum would not be taking place. Those statistics about child poverty happened on Britain’s watch. Those urging us to stay within that system should at least explain how they intend to fix it.

You see, the truth is, nobody can answer the questions surrounding independence definitively and there is no way of knowing FOR SURE whether life would get worse for the poorest people in society in an independent Scotland. One can only weigh up the arguments and hope to reach a well informed conclusion.

The one certainty that we DO HAVE, though, is that a No vote in September means continuing down a path in which the abovementioned statistics will continue to apply.

It’s either Labour or its Tory after a No. It’s either another 12 billion pounds worth of cuts already announced by Osborne, or a similar level of cuts by Balls. Either way, Government policy will be conducted in adherence with the Tory welfare spending cap, even if, as Labour have already announced, Labour win. (By the way, that spending cap is likely to push an extra 345,000 more children into poverty. (Save the Children))

Billions of pounds will continue to be spent keeping nuclear weapons close to the city of Glasgow where around 35% of children live in poverty. Brits will still work some of the longest hours in Europe and be paid some of the lowest wages. Immigrants will continue to be blamed for the economic misery of some of the poorest people in society. All parties will promise to clamp down on immigration. Energy bills will continue to rise as essential public services continue to be run for private profit and not public need. Bankers bonuses will continue to increase as benefits continue to be cut, thus further entrenching the belief that the rich will not work unless they are paid and the poor should not be paid unless they work (or, perhaps more accurately in contemporary Britain, the poor should not be paid even if they work.) The budget for the Scottish Parliament will still be decided at Westminster where it will be subject to cuts just like everything else. Britain will remain one of only two countries in the world that has unelected religious clerics sitting in its legislature, the other being Iran. Prince Charles will become the head of the state, the head of the official church and the head of the armed forces all by virtue of simply having had the good fortune of being born. He will continue to talk to plants and trees, continue to influence government policy in private and continue to make ludicrous foreign policy statements in public. Britain’s place in the EU will become increasingly vulnerable. Britain’s commitment to renewable energies will remain woefully inadequate. Investment in Research and Development will continue its downward trajectory. Arms deals will continue to be made with third world dictators. 

Make no mistake, the idea that there might be a different way of doing things is not up for discussion in Britain after a No vote.

In Britain, we have not only tried a low wage, low tax, unbalanced and debt laden economic model, we are gearing up for much more of the same in the future – regardless of who wins the next general election. We are the champions of failed ideas.

In stark contrast, an independent Scotland, by its very nature, offers the possibility to do things differently. In an independent Scotland, anything is possible.

The diversity of ideas and policies – many of them economically viable and thoroughly researched – from a wide variety of Yes supporting groups that have nothing to do with the SNP or Alex Salmond is truly incredible. If nothing else, they have shown beyond all reasonable doubt that another way of doing things in Scotland is possible. (As a starter here I would highly recommend this talk from Robin McAlpine at the event “Imagine a Better Scotland”. If you like it, check out their website http://www.allofusfirst.org and request your free E-Book where a full menu for the transformation of Scotland is set out in a format that is very easy to read. I would also encourage anyone to watch this speech by Tommy Sheridan before the 18th September. It has over 130,000 views on YouTube and is, to the best of my knowledge, the most widely watched political video on Scottish Independence.)

Of course it might not work. And it could well fail. But for once we would be accountable for our failures.

No more blaming of Tory governments in London for the ills of the Scottish people. No more protesting at the injustice of having to send Scottish soldiers off to fight in illegal foreign wars. No more accusing Westminster of squandering Scotland’s oil wealth to such an extent that hundreds of thousands of pensioners live in fuel poverty. No more criticizing the imposition by Westminster of a welfare cap or a bedroom tax against the wishes of the Scottish people. No more lamenting the decision to privatise Royal Mail without public support.

After independence, the above decisions and many more like them will be taken only if the people of Scotland agree to them. There will be no more claiming that if we only had the power we could make things better.

“There is only one argument for doing something; the rest are arguments for doing nothing. The argument for doing something is that it is the right thing to do.”

The opportunity for the people of Scotland to seek an alternative to rampant inequality and destructive poverty, and to be accountable for their own decisions in the process, is the argument for doing something. It is the argument for voting Yes.

Voting Yes is the right thing to do.

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2 Responses to “Why Yes is the Right Thing To Do.”

  1. alihibberd June 12, 2014 at 5:32 pm #

    Well, well. You’ve travelled a long way to your conversion. Have to say that after reading the common weal I’m currently running hard to catch up with you.

    • Man Who Came To Stay June 16, 2014 at 1:54 pm #

      I know, I know. Ive spent a long time weighing it up and for the reasons above I think that on balance its the best course of action. I certainly dont want to paint Yes as some phenomenal cure for all of societies ills but it certainly seems like the only way that offers any hope. Common Weal is fantastic stuff and openly says Britain could be like they envisage too but there is absolutely no appetite for it.

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