Sunday, 6 October 2013

Why Lib Dems should support Independence

In 2010 the Liberal Democrats created a manifesto which was popular enough to earn 23% of the vote in that year’s UK general election.
It contained many ideas which resonated with voters.  A mansion tax for properties worth over £2 million pounds, protecting civil liberties, preventing the renewal of Trident, breaking up the banks, setting the minimum wage to the same level for all workers over 16, replacing council tax with a local form of income tax, voting rights for 16 year olds, a fully elected second chamber, a written, codified constitution and the phasing out of taxes on learning (also known as tuition fees).

You just can't win at Westminster if you aren't New Labour or Tory
Unfortunately, despite holding the balance of power at Westminster, the vast majority of these reforms were neutered or lost.  Tuition fees trebled where they were in place.  VAT was increased despite liberal MPs campaigning for it to remain low.  The mansion tax was replaced by a tax cut for millionaires.  Average wages plummeted as the promised equalisation of the minimum wage was quietly forgotten.  Support for the party diminished.
So why did so many of these policies fail to materialise?
The system at Westminster is extremely resistant to change.

The powers that be who are in charge of the two major parties made sure that the status quo was protected.  Trident was going to be renewed.  The ‘too big to fail’ banks were going to maintain their influence.  Funding local authorities with a tax based upon ability to pay was going to be blocked.  Measures enhancing workers rights were going to be denied.  The unelected House of Lords was going to be protected.  Higher education was going to be taxed and a written constitution that would hold those in power to account was never going to be created.
We think this is a dramatisation...
Some blame Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, for limiting his party’s ambitions and thus dulling the popular support necessary to enact change.  I feel that he is simply a realist.  He knew that wholesale change of Westminster wasn’t possible and thus aimed to enact all the reforms that he could.  But at Westminster that isn’t a lot.
So what does this have to do with Scottish Independence?  In Scotland we have a more proportional alternative.  Since our parliament was reconvened in 1999, we have seen Labour, the SNP, the Conservatives, the Liberals and even the Green Party hold the balance of power in various votes at different times.  The frequency and significance of these events have coincided with the support each party has held, meaning that greater popular support has translated to greater ability to enact change.
Is this really the union want you want to protect?
Look again at the list featured at the top of this blog.  Would any of them be impossible in an independent Scotland?  Could we not have tax reform?  Could we not guarantee civil liberties with a codified constitution?  Is it impossible for us to reform the banking sector, or ensure that an honest day’s work receives and honest day’s pay, or have a fully elected parliamentary system?  Would we be paying for military bases in over 80 countries, taking part in illegal wars or funding weapons of mass destruction?  Would any of these policies make a party unelectable in Scotland?
Westminster needs a jolt if it is ever to reform and Scottish Independence can provide that.  We can lead by example and prove that the ‘good cop, bad cop’ routine that New Labour and the Conservatives engage in doesn’t have to be the only way.  We can inspire more people to get involved in how their country is run and ensure that special interest groups and party donors don’t dictate policy.
The Liberal Democrat manifesto of 2010 had no chance of winning Westminster, no matter how many people voted for it.  But it could win in Scotland…if we’re independent.
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1 comment:

  1. I think you are correct in your analysis Drew. The prospects of ever seeing "Liberal" politics gaining long term traction at Westminster are next door to none. The recent coalition interlude shows the fragility of cross party cooperation under a FPTP system of election.

    The prospects for the Liberals being able to influence the reform of tax and welfare, environment, defence and foreign policy etc is immeasurably greater with independence. Why the current leadership of the Lib-Dems in Scotland have set themselves upon such a negative and destructive "unionist" path only they can explain. I trust that Liberal minded voters will take a more open-minded and inquisitive approach to deciding how to vote in the referendum next year.