WHY should Scotland be independent? Perhaps the question should be turned on its head – why on Earth is Scotland not yet an independent country? Or more accurately – why is Scotland not yet again an independent country? What is holding us back? Ask yourself this question: “What other country in the world would be offered its independence and decline?”

But Scotland did just that in 2014 and we need to examine why. It is worth noting that many Commonwealth countries have gained their independence from the UK and not one as yet has asked to return. Small nations such as Norway, New Zealand, Iceland, Malta or Ireland thrive and seem at ease with their place in the world. Why would an independent Scotland be any different?

Were we too feart, too set in our ways, too comfortable with the status quo? When push came to shove, did we prefer to believe the propaganda of the “Better Together” campaign – the supposed Armageddon of financial meltdown and economic oblivion? Scotland is a proud and capable nation of natural beauty, with an abundance of natural resources and an innovative and diverse population. But we also have a tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot.

The time, however, for excuses and self-doubt is over. Many people cling to the outdated view of “Rule Britannia” and colonialism – but a modern-day Scotland has moved forward and is capable of so much more. There is a palpable lack of trust between Scotland and Westminster. Let’s take the opportunity to build a fairer and more just nation, especially in the aftermath of a global pandemic, when we have the unprecedented chance to do things differently.

The people of Scotland are educated and Scotland has four top universities among the best in the world – alongside other things, we have given the world television, the telephone, penicillin, the steam engine and golf – as well as Dolly the sheep, deep-fried Mars Bars and Irn-Bru! So, we can do it – we need to be ambitious for Scotland, we need to invest in Scotland and we need to believe in Scotland.

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For make no mistake, Scotland and England are two very different countries, heading in two very different directions. That’s not to say we don’t have common aims and emotional ties with our neighbours. We share an island, after all, and there is no reason whatsoever why we can’t function and prosper together as equal nations, respecting our individual differences and celebrating what we have in common.

The key, of course, is equality and respect. The larger neighbour shouldn’t get to dismiss or disregard the concerns of its smaller nation partner, just because it has the larger population share, unbridled control of the media and the weight of the establishment behind it.

Many argue that we are stronger together and that Scotland has benefited from the UK’s broad shoulders, especially financially during Covid. Are they really saying a Scottish Government would have been unable to emulate the UK’s ability to borrow or print money?

And the last time I checked, Scottish workers were paying taxes, just like every other nation in the Union. Let’s spend those taxes in Scotland, on Scottish projects, instead of sending them to Westminster to determine how much will come back our way. And let’s be responsible for our own national debt and not a share of the spiralling debt of a UK government – a debt neither condoned nor accrued by Scotland.

Being part of the UK economy is not necessarily advantageous to Scotland, in fact I would argue the UK economy does not perform well and is hampering Scotland’s growth and economic performance. Scotland is not yet an independent country and therefore its economy is measured as a province of the UK – which brings us to the infamous GERS figures, trotted out year after year to underline Scotland’s good fortune in having a UK Government subsidise and insulate us from the perils of going it alone. The GERS figures fail to tell us how Scotland’s finances would look as an independent nation. In fact, interest payments on debt that Scotland didn’t accrue is a wily bit of creative accounting.

Devolution has been good for Scotland enabling us to take key decisions on certain matters and giving us partial control over our own affairs. But partial control is messy and Scotland needs, and is indeed entitled to have, further powers to enable us to take different and better decisions tailored to our own needs.

This has been made abundantly clear during the Covid pandemic. Scotland’s response has been curtailed by its limited ability to borrow and by the cavalier attitude of a UK Government hell-bent on sound-bites and lining the pockets of those in the old boys’ network.

By contrast, we in Scotland are privileged to have a coherent, measured First Minister who is on top of her brief and who speaks out unequivocally for the people of Scotland. I dread to think what our fate might have been if health had not been devolved to the Scottish Parliament – undoubtedly consigned to an afterthought by a remote, indifferent Westminster cabal.

The National: Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, during First Minster's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Thursday December 9, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Fraser Bremner/Daily Mail/PA Wire.

But devolution itself is under threat, with a power grab imminent from a Tory Government determined to implement the Internal Market Bill, thus enabling Boris Johnson to overrule the Scottish Parliament’s decisions. Remember, this from the man who has called devolution a “disaster”.

Let’s harness our natural resources, let’s control our whisky and food exports and our fishing waters. One of Scotland’s key strengths is its ability to export specialist goods – Scottish beef, salmon and seafood, and of course whisky. Whether or not you voted for Brexit, let us decide whether we want to be part of the EU or not.

Let not these things be decided by a disinterested, unelected, undemocratic government 400 miles away. And let’s put an end to the ludicrous “democratic” process of consistently voting for socialist, left-of-centre parties and having Tory governments forced upon us. That is the biggest insult of all.

And to the elephant in the room – Scotland’s currency! We were told in 2014 we would not be “allowed” to use the pound. Within a nation of equals, one might have thought the pound belonged to all citizens of the UK, but apparently not. But Scotland will have its own currency and its own central bank – why wouldn’t it?

The Bank of England is the UK’s clearing bank (why isn’t it called the Bank of the UK, by the way?) and Scotland’s own clearing bank will do its job for Scotland with the Scottish pound eventually taking its place in the international money markets.

Pensions in the UK are the worst in Europe, so there is only room for improvement in an independent Scotland. Those who receive their state pension will continue to do so – they have paid their dues – just as those Scots who live in Spain for example continue to receive their UK state pension.

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We are fortunate in Scotland to already have a functioning Parliament building, Scottish civil servants and government departments good to go – we don’t have to start from scratch as an independent country, we are already halfway there.

The border is always portrayed as a thorny issue, but the border between Scotland and England doesn’t need to be a hard border, and even if it was, it’s not beyond us surely to carry and present our passports – it already happens on domestic flights as a form of identification.

I don’t think it will be necessary to reinforce Hadrian’s Wall any time soon. The notion that somehow we will be incapable of negotiating and implementing border control is somewhat insulting – the transportation of goods and services will continue in whatever form is negotiated between two reasonable and willing partners.

For those who say an independent Scotland would be unable to defend itself, I say an Independent Scottish Defence Force, inheriting its fair share of UK defence and military assets, would be more than able to protect Scotland, collaborating and co-operating with our near neighbours when appropriate and necessary. Scotland has a proud military history and the kilted regiments of Scotland, “the ladies from hell”, during the First World War were a force to be reckoned with. The Germans used this term as an insult but Scots took it as a compliment – we can be thrawn when our backs are against the wall, so we will defend ourselves just fine! (Although we will reserve the right to send Trident back to the Thames to think again!) Meantime, on a temporary basis, we have the option to charge Westminster rent for the presence of their submarine fleet on the Clyde.

And what of our beloved NHS – how will it fare in an independent Scotland? The Scottish Parliament has been able to resist NHS privatisation, and Boris Johnson says he won’t open up the NHS to private companies or US private health firms. But his Brexit bus promise also pledged £350 million a week for the NHS, which of course didn’t materialise.

We need to protect the NHS from these trade deals and from austerity policies coming down the line from Westminster. We need an integrated health and social care system fit for purpose in a post-Covid era.

And while we all clapped for the NHS, Boris could only offer nurses a 1% pay rise. A National Care Service is the way forward – we need to fix a broken care system and place value on those in society who deliver our essential services, whether that be in our care sector, our supermarkets, our public transport system or in our National Health Service.

The NHS was struggling and under pressure long before Covid – let’s think outside the box, free of austerity restrictions, and free of privatisation threats creeping in by the back door. Make no mistake, austerity measures translate into cuts in Scotland’s budget allocation. An independent Scotland will have a totally independent health and social care system – one tailored to suit the particular needs of Scotland’s demographics.

So, how has the Scottish Government fared so far in its quest to serve the Scottish people? On quality of life issues a few things spring to mind – free university tuition fees; free prescriptions; free personal and nursing care; free bus travel for under-19s, over-60s and people with disabilities; parking charges at all NHS hospitals scrapped; free school meals for P1 to P3 children; 100,000 new homes built; bedroom tax abolished.

Progressive policies change lives, and it’s worth remembering that because something has been done in a particular way for a long time, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done better or differently. Could we be radical enough in Scotland to consider implementing a Guaranteed Minimum Income Scheme – a social-welfare system that guarantees all citizens or families an income sufficient to live on?

We can only decide such things for the future if we take control of our own affairs. An independent Scotland where a general election will decide which political party takes control of Scotland’s future – decided in Scotland, by the people of Scotland.

It has always puzzled me that we are constantly told how dependent we are for our very survival on being part of the UK and how grateful we should be for the crumbs thrown from Westminster, yet if we have become such a liability, why is it that the rest of the UK is so keen to keep us on board?

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If we are such a financial liability let us go, but, if you are keen for us to remain in the Union, please put forward a coherent and persuasive argument for us doing so – the constant negativity and scaremongering rings pretty hollow. And we’re not buying it any more.

England would be a much-diminished country on the world stage should Scotland choose to go it alone. And, indeed, if we are four equal nations in an equal union, why would Scotland need Westminster’s “permission” to secede? The people of Scotland demonstrated unequivocally in the election of May 2021 that they were in favour of indyref2 – that is their democratic right and it must be respected.

Should the people of Scotland vote in favour of an independent Scotland, our Independence Day celebrations will resonate around the world. These changes will not happen overnight and of course quite a lengthy transition period would ensue, but let’s take one step at a time – let’s get over that finishing line, and take our rightful

place on the world stage as an independent, proud and free nation once again.

Let’s borrow and fine-tune Barack Obama’s catchphrase from his election campaign – let’s shout it loud and clear, c’mon Scotland: “Aye, we can!”