Sunday, 6 April 2014
Sea of troubles
Ok, or not ok, that is the referendum question according to the 'no' campaign.
If you aren't heading to a food bank yet, if you haven't yet been affected by the endless wars we pay for in tax and in lives, if you can still afford to underwrite HS2, Crossrail and all the other 'UK expenditure' that seems to be almost exclusively for the benefit of the swing seats in the south east of England, then they say that you should be content with your lot. They reason that it is greedy for you to want better and that the problems of those around you are not your problems, because your life is still 'ok'. You don't need to aspire to more, because things are 'ok'.
Well today I’m going to say that the way things are, the way they have been, and the way they will be under a Westminster system, are not ok. They are deeply and profoundly wrong. And I’ll go one step further and say how and why an independent Scotland will be better. But first, how is the UK not ok.
According to Unisef 19.8% of people under Westminster live in poverty. We spend 30 times as much into researching arms and weapons than renewable energy, despite the latter being 8 times more significant to our economy, and we have an unelected second chamber, where 150 of its members have financial interests in the private healthcare industry, scrutinising and amending our laws. This is appalling.
Arrangements such as those in the House of Lords sow the seeds of corruption. Why do those who are paid £300 per day, plus expenses, for a few hours or in some instances a few minutes attendance need to have outside interests at all? Does Westminster find it difficult to attract people to such a role that only those on the payrolls of special interest groups are able to scrutinise our laws?
And why, when we are a wealthy nation, are our pensions amongst the lowest in value in Europe? Why do our pensioners receive less than a third of those in Sweden, a small independent country with no significant oil or gas reserves? Why do we receive this lower amount so much later than nearly all of our European friends? Why?
Imagine that we can start over. Imagine that we, the people of Scotland, had a rule book in place for how our country is run which we all took a part in writing. Imagine that we, the people of Scotland, have the last and most important say over the decisions facing us, instead of the few who make up parliament. Imagine that we, the people of Scotland, decided our own priorities, and had a wider choice beyond simply the british elite who wear red ties or the british elite who blue ones.
You don’t have to imagine. This is the future with independence. We will write a constitution following a Yes vote which will safeguard our rights. We will be sovereign and it is our views that are final. And we will have a proportional electoral system, which means that everyone’s vote counts.
Under First Past The Post, the system entrenched at Westminster, the only two parties who can ever form the government are discouraged from debate. They know that to get in they don’t need to prove that they are intelligent, thoughtful, representative or even competent. All they need to do is make the other side seem unelectable, and wait for their turn to govern.
Their policies aren’t decided by principle, but by polling, and that is why there is so little difference between the two wings of Westminster. Tell me, who do you vote for if you are against war? The side which brought us the 1990 gulf war or the one who brought us the 2003 version? Who do you vote for if you support the freedom of the press? The side which smashed up computers in the Guardian newspaper’s head office under anti-terror laws, or the side which introduced and abused those very same laws?
If believe that employers national insurance should be scrapped, or that Trident should be removed, or that we shouldn’t be paying to station military personnel in 80 countries around the world, or the monarchy, or fracking, or the use of depleted uranium in weapons testing on our coast, who do you vote for?
A proportional system is different because it encourages diversity. It is not good enough to say why we shouldn’t vote for so-and-so, you need to say why we should vote for you. You have to show that you are competent, you have to inspire us with a change we want to see, you need to act in the best interests of the people because if you don’t we’ll kick you out and won’t let you waltz back in 8 years later. We can have a Labour Party that represents the interests of the working class. We can have a Tory Party that represents the interests of entrepreneurs and small business owners. We can have a Liberal Democrat Party that can guarantee civil liberties and local democracy and we can have a whole host of new parties which ally with our values.
To the Westminster duo who are guaranteed to share power no matter what they do, poverty is ‘ok’, Trident is ‘ok’, and the UK is ‘ok’ because they’re ‘ok’. Well that isn’t good enough for me. Westminster won’t be ok as long as we have children growing up in poverty within a few miles of a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction, or as long as we have elderly people being cold in their homes in sight of north sea platforms, or as long as we have unfair and unjust policies imposed on us from governments we didn’t elect.
To me Westminster won’t be ok as long as members of the armed services continue to receive P45s as we waste money on aircraft carriers. They won’t be ok as long as they can enter the offices of newspaper editors and smash up computers, as they did with the Guardian last year, and they won’t be ok as long as they test and dump depleted uranium into our coastline.
This is far from ‘ok’, it is abhorrent. To vote ‘no’ is to support and entrench this perverse and immoral system of government. It is to give up hope of a better future and to leave our children powerless to the whims of Westminster. We are the first, and possibly the only, generation that has the chance to bring the power back to Scotland and to right the wrongs that exist in our country. We can’t leave the thinking to Westminster and hope that they somehow slow the decline of Britain or act in the manner we want them to; we have the take responsibility for ourselves and be the change we want to see.
Let us ingrain in the minds of our children that they shouldn’t settle for governments that can ignore them. Let us show in deed and in spirit that they should take responsibility for their actions and have the courage to stand by their convictions, and let us place no limits to their ambitions, or say to them ‘we decided this far for you and no further’.
Is it nobler to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous Westminster, or to vote ‘Yes’ against their Sea of troubles?
I want to take part in writing a codified constitution. I want to know that my vote has value and that we can’t be ignored. And I want the wealth of Scotland to be used for the benefit of her people. The things I want can only be achieved with independence, and that is why I want you all to vote ‘Yes’.