I GREW up in Scotland in the 1950s and 1960s as the beneficiary of something I always regarded as quintessentially British – the post-war settlement.

Some of its principles could be broadly characterised as: that there should be a National Health Service freely available to all from cradle to grave; that educational opportunities at all levels should be available to all regardless of their means; that a Welfare State is necessary to protect society’s most needy and vulnerable; that the state should be able to intervene to prevent the gap between wealthy and poor becoming so great as to cause unnecessary division in society. To this I would add that it was in those decades that we started at last to learn to live in peace with our European neighbours and become closer to them through mutual trade and cooperation. 

Sadly, for the last 40 years or more these principles have become largely eroded by successive Conservative and New Labour governments at Westminster, governments most of which Scotland played no part in electing. Devolution has helped Scotland to protect the NHS to an extent. Scottish governments have resisted the temptation to introduce tuition fees for university undergraduates. However, Scotland has still been dragged down a political road not of its choosing. And we now have a UK government which is not only hostile to the idea of Scottish independence, but to the current devolution settlement itself. Boris Johnson was being deadly serious, by his standards, when he expressed the belief that devolution was a disaster. Westminster governments don’t like it at all when Scotland tries to go its own way via the devolved powers it currently has. The current UK government will do everything in its considerable power to limit devolution in the future.

The National: Prime Minister Boris Johnson

The NHS at a UK level is being privatised by stealth through the introduction of a market economy. Covid showed how hollowed out public health services in England had become. That was part of the reason that Test and Trace was such a disaster, because the infrastructure at a local level had been destroyed through austerity. We saw how easy it was for companies to make large amounts of money from supplying the NHS with PPE, particularly if they happened to be on this government’s VIP list of contacts, cronies and Tory Party donors. There is absolutely no guarantee that the NHS will indeed be off the table in any future trade talks with the United States. The vultures are circling and there is lots more money to be made from health.

As a result of tuition fees, students in England have to graduate with eye-watering amounts of debt. The social mobility that was once associated with education has now all but disappeared. The poor and those in need of social support in this country have become demonised. The welfare system is dehumanising. We have created a class of working poor in a gig economy on zero-hours contracts who have to rely on food banks. We have allowed employment rights to be sacrificed in the name of increasing company profits. The UK has one of the worst divisions between rich and poor in Europe. Such societies tend not to be happy ones. One of New Labour’s chief architects, Peter Mandelson, was famously relaxed about how rich people might get. Perhaps he should have worried more.

And of course now we are experiencing the effects of Brexit. Totally predictable shortages of labour in hospitality and food production. Problems in the haulage industry. Massive drops in exports to Europe. All of this was foreseen. Scotland voted by 62% to 38% to stay in Europe. At no point has this ever been taken into account. Brexit was supported by media moguls and wealthy Tory party donors who hated Brussels and the EU because they were unable to influence its decisions. These same people have immense influence within the Westminster bubble. That was the real meaning behind Dominic Cumming’s Vote Leave slogan, “Take back control”. You can be certain that they will be using that that control for their own benefit and not for the benefit of the people of the UK.

The National: Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson's former chief advisor, is said to have promoted chaos in order to keep control

Much of the impetus behind support for Scottish independence simply comes from a desire to turn a lot of this around and return to some of the values that characterised the original post-war British settlement. In that sense it is quite a “conservative” movement with a very small “c”.  It isn’t radical at all. It merely seeks to use constitutional change as the only available means by which much-needed societal and political change can be achieved within Scotland. Westminster has gone too far down that other road. Its direction of travel has been all too clear for many years. An independent Scotland, however, has the chance to create a cohesive, progressive, caring, just, outward-looking and forward-looking society, not one that has fallen victim to its own belief in British or English exceptionalism.

With each passing year the democratic deficit in Scotland just gets longer and wider. How long and wide does it have to become before we collectively say that enough is enough? What else needs to happen to convince more of the Scottish electorate of the need for Scottish independence? I cannot believe that there are that many Tory voters in Scotland who actually approve of the current UK government or indeed the make-up of the current Conservative party in Britain. Brexit has hastened the departure of the last remaining moderate and One Nation Tories from government and from the party hierarchy in general. I have some sympathy with Labour Party supporters who feel that to vote for Scottish independence is to betray their fellow Labour voters and supporters in England, but at some point that stance has to become self-defeating, particularly when so many of their brothers in England are actually starting to vote Tory and the red wall has crumbled. At some point, Tory and Labour voters in Scotland must see that the writing is indeed on the wall.

We have lived through bewildering times recently as we have all had to cope with the pandemic. Perhaps that has disguised the fact that politics in the UK and Scotland is in an alarming state of paralysis. The Conservative Party has long been the natural party of power in the UK and that shows no signs of changing in the years to come, quite the opposite. The Conservatives will elect a new leader every so often who will then become the new prime minister by default. This is deeply unhealthy. It is the very definition of oligarchy – government of the many, by the few for the few. The current UK government has given up on even any pretence of integrity. They can’t even be bothered to hide either their incompetence or their corruption. Why should they? They know they’re going to be re-elected regardless.

In Scotland there is now a similar kind of paralysis. As long as the constitutional question goes unresolved the SNP will be voted back into power in a devolved Scotland regardless of its actual record in government. It’s not healthy for a democracy that there is no effective opposition and that even a devolved government knows it has nothing to fear from its electorate. That is why voters from all political parties should at least support the idea of another referendum regardless of their views on independence. And Brexit constitutes enough of a material change to justify one.

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The SNP and Yes movement in general need to renew their prospectus for an independent Scotland in preparation for another independence campaign, including providing answers to questions over currency and post-Brexit borders. I expect the Unionist side to try a bit of love-bombing. Remember the “vow”, anyone? Even the slogan “Better Together” has a hollow ring to it now. I also expect a big re-run of Project Fear since it worked so well last time. So let’s try and put some of this into perspective. There are almost 200 independent countries in the world. Is Scotland somehow uniquely ill-prepared to run its own affairs and its own economy? Lithuania has, for example, adopted five different currencies in the 30 years since its independence from the Soviet Union without doing any significant damage to its economy. A recent analysis from Westminster itself showed how prosperous an independent Scotland could become. The article was rapidly removed from the website in case the truth became more widely known. Why wouldn’t Scotland have a prosperous future, given the huge wealth of its natural resources? So try not to be too easily seduced or unnecessarily alarmed by false scaremongering in any future Unionist campaign. You know what they say. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

And if you still want to vote against an independent Scotland, the question has to be asked: What are you voting for? Boris’s Britain? We can already see the shape that a post-Brexit United Kingdom is taking and it is not a pretty sight. Inhumane legislation aimed at asylum seekers, attempts to outlaw even peaceful protest, absurd immigration rules, trade deals that offer no safeguards as to the quality of the food we buy or how it has been produced, legislation on voter ID that will deliberately disenfranchise large sections of the population. Is this really the kind of country you want to live in? Brexit represents the triumph of a form of English nationalism and the whole of the UK is now being shaped along these lines.

I understand those who are wary of any kind of nationalism and for very good reasons. But the sad fact for citizens of Scotland now is that we only have a choice of two nationalisms in front of us. A vote against Scottish independence has now become a vote to acquiesce in allowing Scotland to remain part of a United Kingdom that looks increasingly alien. You might want to vote to remain in Britain, but what kind of Britain do you want to remain in? Surely not this one. And where does the power lie to change its course? Not in your hands. Not in Scotland’s hands. The Britain of the post-war settlement has gone. It is in the past. A vote against Scottish independence has now become by default a vote for an English nationalism that swathes itself in Union Jacks or the St George’s Cross depending on the whim of the Prime Minster. I suspect he sees them as pretty interchangeable. This is a nationalism as expressed by this UK government that appears arrogant, xenophobic, triumphalist and authoritarian in nature. Why on earth would anyone living in Scotland reject independence and want to continue to be ruled instead by English nationalists? It makes no sense to me at all.

By contrast, those who seek independence for Scotland aspire to create an inclusive, cohesive, open, progressive, internationalist, outward-looking civic society, a democracy that might seek to borrow some of the values and principles from the past of Britain’s post-war settlement in order to produce a new and better future for Scotland and for all the people who choose to come and live here. I know which nationalism I would vote for.

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