Two years from today Scotland could be an independent country. Recent polling has shown the Yes campaign to be tantalisingly close to victory, with only single figure swing required to clinch it. One of the key referendum battlegrounds is, of course, the economy and Scotland’s finances. Although I do not deny the importance of these issues, I do despair of the fact that so many of us appear to be prepared to decide our future based solely on them. Whichever way we vote, Scotland will remain a wealthy, prosperous country. No one on either side should be afraid of the financial implications of this vote.
Crucially, we need to remember to approach this referendum not with a view to the short term effects that things like changing our currency or tax regime will have, but instead to the long term effects – which, since we cannot predict every minute detail of them, come down to the fundamental question of “Do you think Scotland would be governed better by itself, or as part of a larger unit?”
In answering that question, we must think beyond the constraints of Scotland’s current budget deficit or what self-interested businessmen assure us is best for the economy. When we consider what we mean by “better”, it cannot simply be couched in financial terms. I don’t want to live in a country that is considered to be “better” simply because I have a few quid more in my pocket or my bank.
I want to live in a country that is better because the people who live there feel empowered and believe that they have a genuine say in the issues that affect their families, their communities and their country. A country where every vote counts and where government truly is “of the people, by the people and for the people”. A country where the institutions of government are local, transparent and responsive. A country that works for the benefit of all who live there, not for the interests of a wealthy elite.
I want to live in a country that is better because everyone is treated fairly and accorded the dignity they deserve regardless of things like ethnicity, gender, sexuality or disability. A country that celebrates diversity and appreciates the contribution made to it by each and every one of the people who live there. A country where all of us are equal citizens, not subjects.
I want to live in a country that is better because it cares for its people. A country where essential services like healthcare, education and social security are available freely to those who need them, funded from general taxation with the greatest contribution made by those who can most afford it. A country where we recognise that people’s lives are often shaped by events beyond their control and where, when things go wrong, we give support rather than dismiss them as a drain on the state and leave them to fend for themselves.
I want to live in a country that is better because it reaches out and engages with the rest of the world in a positive and ethical manner. A country that is welcoming to those who come here from beyond our shores. A country where we measure our influence on the rest of the world not in terms of GDP or the size of our military, but by what we do to uphold human rights, to support the development of less wealthy nations and to make the world a less dangerous place.
I want to live in a country that is better because we do things in a sustainable way. A country where we understand that sustainability has many strands – environmental sustainability, to preserve the planet for future generations. Economic sustainability, to ensure we never again have an economic crisis where those with no responsibility for causing it bear the brunt of the ill effects. Cultural sustainability, encouraging all of our languages and supporting the unique ways of life in our rural and island communities.
Over the next six months, we all need to be thinking about the kind of country we want to live in, what “better” means to us, and whether that country would be more likely to exist with independence or as part of the United Kingdom. As a Green, that is what the independence debate comes down to for me. It’s not about national identity, be that Scottish, British or some combination of both, nor is it about our precise financial situation now or in five years. It’s about what form of governance gives us the means to achieve the kind of Scotland we wish to see for decades to come.
I believe that the Scotland I wish to see, the Scotland I’ve outlined above, is most likely to be realised with independence. I understand, however, that simply voting Yes does not guarantee such an outcome and that is why, more than anything else, we need to bring an end to the fear. When we go to the polls on September the 18th, as we put our crosses on our ballot papers, we should do so with confidence, a determination to create a “better” nation, and the intention to do all in our power to bring it into being regardless of which way the vote goes.
Allan Faulds, Scottish Young Greens Co-Convenor