I READ with much interest this week reports that voters in California will be presented with an opportunity to decide whether the state should be split up. The vote will take place in November, during the US mid-term elections.

The idea belongs to a certain “billionaire venture capitalist” named Tim Draper, who collected almost 403,000 signatures in order for the proposal to be granted a referendum.

Voters will be asked to agree, or not, to California being split into three parts, thus creating two new US states. This has happened before in US history, when West Virginia was created out of Virginia in 1863, so it is possible that it could actually happen to California.

The reasoning behind the proposal (nicknamed Cal-3) is simple. Draper believes California is simply too big, the state legislature in Sacramento cannot govern such a huge land area efficiently and the federal government in Washington DC is too remote and far removed for it to have any real handle on what the needs of Californians actually are. He is of the opinion that three smaller states would be more accountable, democratically viable and efficient in the delivery of public services. Sounds familiar to us Scots, doesn’t it? There are interesting pointers for Scotland in this scenario.

Firstly, it is refreshing to know we are not the only ones who believe the people best placed to make decisions for a particular geographical entity are those who live, work, raise families and pay their taxes in that place – in our case, Scotland. Being part of a Union that is dominated by the largest of the constituent nations is resulting in Scotland being stifled, subdued and overlooked: economically, socially and politically. In order for us to reach our true potential, we have to be self-determinant and to be in control of all the levers of our economy and all aspects of our civic and societal framework.

Secondly, smaller countries, like an independent Scotland, can keep their politicians on a tighter rein. They are not so remote, not so removed, we can see the whites of their eyes and hold them to account much more readily. No longer would we have to suffer living under UK legislation created by governments that we did not elect, supported by a second chamber that is totally unelected. We could say goodbye to the aberration that is the “first past the post” voting system and say hello to introducing a voting system that substantially increases the proportionality of the Scottish Parliament, maybe the single transferable vote. Who knows, we could even become a republic and actually elect our head of state, as opposed to having one foisted upon us purely by mere quirk of birth.

Finally, our relationship with the rest of the UK, Europe and the wider world would be for Scots and Scots alone to determine. Trident, Nato, EU, EEA, Efta etc would be discussed, considered, analysed and decided upon by the people of Scotland. Sometimes after electing parties whose manifestos bring electoral support, or maybe sometimes through the vehicle of referendums. No matter how these decisions are made, we can be happy in the knowledge that they were made by the people of Scotland. Unlike now.

Independence is the greatest opportunity for empowerment that the people of Scotland will ever have. We must grasp it, or be content to live in a Union in which we are undervalued and treated with disdain. As David Mundell said on June 14 in the House of Commons, “Scotland is not a PARTNER in the UK, it is a PART of the UK”.

So, “small is beautiful”, or it certainly it has the potential to be. Ask Iceland, Denmark, Norway etc. They cope, why can’t we? Scotland wants to decide on whether to stay or not. Let’s hope we decide to choose our own path, and then enjoy a future of determining for ourselves how we navigate our journey.

Alan Carroll