Thursday, 1 May 2014

What are the key questions for you?

I was delighted to see BDA Scotland hosting a debate in Edinburgh earlier this year. These types of events are fantastic because it allows as many people as possible to take part in the referendum. Sign for Scotland had a few friends in the audience that day who all said that they had enjoyed themselves and I managed to watch a bit of the live stream of the event. It was a great contribution and one we wholeheartedly thank the BDA for.

So earlier this week I was excited to read the article that BDA Scotland had written about the event. The article focused on 5 'key' questions:
  1. Will the BSL Bill slip down the priority order with the Scottish Parliament if Scotland becomes independent?
  2. Will current provision provided to Deaf people in the UK be continued in an independent Scotland? Example DSA (Disabled Students Award): ATW (Access to Work) and BBC?
  3. Some policy areas that affect Deaf people such as education and health have already been devolved to Scotland. How will independence affect Deaf people in a way that is meaningful to raise Deaf awareness and improve wellbeing of Deaf people?
  4. With recent events in Ukraine which went independent from Russia - are we stronger together or weaker?
  5. SNP want Scotland to become an independent state but keep the pound. It shows they could not run on their own and rely on Westminster for economy and stability.
This blog is going to look at each question in turn, provide some responses and then pose 5 more which are key questions for me.

Importance of BSL
The first question is specifically in regards to the BSL Bill that is going through the Scottish Parliament. I personally don't see why independence would affect the passing of this bill. We know that there are numerous MSPs who take an interest in Sign Language, including Humza Yousaf (minister for external affairs and international development), John Finnie (independent MSP) and Nicola Sturgeon (Deputy First Minister), each of whom were kind enough to feature in our 'I'm voting Yes' video earlier this year.

The further point I would make is in regards to the treatment of languages by Westminster and Holyrood. At Westminster, every oath of allegiance must be made in English with only Welsh, Gaelic and Cornish allowed in the form of additions. Compare this to the Scottish Parliament, where in this term alone we have seen swearing in ceremonies in English, Gaelic, Doric, Urdu, Italian and French with no restrictions made.
In 2011, as part of the Scottish Government's national conversation, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon addressed a room of BSL users and the Scottish Green Party produced the first party election videos aimed at the Deaf and hard of hearing. All of this suggests that BSL will be better promoted through governments we control than at distant, archaic Westminster.
Disabled Students Award, Access to Work and the BBC
The White Paper produced by the Scottish Government (a BSL version of which can be viewed here) looks at the different options available to an independent Scotland in regards to social welfare. We don't need to accept unfair policies such as the bedroom tax because social welfare expenditure is a much lower percentage of our income than it is in the rest of the UK.
"In 2011/12, the most recent year for which statistics are available, 38 per cent of Scottish tax revenues were spent on social protection[173], compared with 42 per cent for the UK as a whole" White Paper, Chapter 4 'Health, Wellbeing and Social Protection'
The BBC currently shows programmes in over 100 countries, with over 75 nations tuning in at the same time to watch the Dr Who 50th anniversary special. To suggest that Scotland cannot afford the £20 million that Irish television pays for most BBC channels when we currently hand over £193 million every year (which will instead be added to a Scottish broadcaster) is disingenuous at best. The only reason we wouldn't have BBC channels is if we didn't want them.

How will independence affect Deaf people in a way that is meaningful to raise Deaf awareness and improve wellbeing of Deaf people?
The best way to respond to this question is to look at the examples of our neighbours. The following is from a report by The Aspiring Polyglot which analysed Deaf Communities throughout history:
Deaf Swedes During the Late 20th and Early 21st Century
More recently, with a progressive, socialist government committed to a quality lifestyle for all its citizens, Deaf Swedes were able to enjoy a superior lifestyle (Wallin, 194, 1996).  Schools for the deaf were noted for their exceptional success in the instruction of deaf children.  These positive outcomes could be attributed to the bilingual philosophy that had been adopted by the Swedish deaf educational system.  A key part of this program involved members of the Deaf community, who taught Swedish sign language to families with deaf children (Andersson, 1994; Mahsie, 1995).

As soon as families with a deaf child were identified, they were referred to local Deaf-run organizations for support and were paired with Deaf adults who introduced them to Deaf culture’s ready-made solutions for effective living.  In this sense, Deaf adults served as linguistic and cultural role models by providing sign language and cultural lessons.

By being exposed to successful Deaf adults and the readily available solutions to problems of daily living from the Deaf community, the period of grief and frustrations associated with having a deaf baby was remarkably brief for these Swedish parents.  For example, with an early start in learning sign language for both parents and deaf children, communication difficulties were minimized, paving the way for a healthy family relationship right from the beginning.

For Deaf adults in Sweden, government-supported interpreting services were readily available, making it possible for them to participate fully in all aspects of society, including the workforce, social and cultural arenas, and social service (Wallin, 1994). The Aspiring Polyglot
Independence allows us to look at the example of our neighbours and to impliment policies tailored to our circumstances. We can take the best legislation not just from Westminster, but from all over Europe and the World and try new ideas of our own. Independence isn't a solution but the means to solutions. It gives options that voting 'no' just can't offer.

With recent events in Ukraine which went independent from Russia - are we stronger together or weaker?
The UK, despite it's vast military spending, has not been able to do anything to influence the situation in Crimea or Eastern Ukraine. In terms of influence and power, the UK is well below the United States, China, Russia and India and is struggling to keep up with Brazil, South Africa, France, Germany, Japan and Nigeria.
Westminster has held a veto in the UN security council yet has not used this in isolation for over 40 years, rending its role pointless.

Finally, we look at war. Scotland has been involved in 137 separate conflicts, in 171 different countries, since 1707. This this really the strength you want? Do you really want to have weapons of mass destruction parked a few miles away from our largest city whilst our coastal defences are dependent upon Twitter?

Independence means that we can tailor our defence, recruit more personnel, and stop uranium weapons testing in our soil. These are the features that define a strong country.

SNP want Scotland to become an independent state but keep the pound. It shows they could not run on their own and rely on Westminster for economy and stability.
Let's look at everything that wrong with this statement:
1 - Independence allows us to elect whoever we want. This means that no party is guaranteed to be in power (something that cannot be said about Westminster) and thus if we don't vote SNP in 2016 then we won't get SNP policies. A Yes vote is backed by many parties who want Scotland to have its own, independent currency, including the Scottish Green Party, the Scottish Socialist Party and the Scottish Democratic Alliance.
2 - The use of the word 'but' makes no sense. Many countries share currencies.
3 - 'It shows that they could not run on their own and rely on Westminster for economy and stability' is simply nonsense. It shows that they believe this is the best option (not only for Scotland, but for the rest of the UK whose financial stability is in our interests to maintain). Indeed the White Paper lists three other options which are more than capable of working.

And now for my top 5 key questions:
1 -20% of kids in Scotland grow up in poverty. This is more than double the rate of independent Denmark and independent Norway. Is this unnecessary poverty a price worth paying for keeping Westminster in power?

2 - Scotland is an energy exporter with vast resources, yet 1 in 3 households in our country suffers from fuel poverty. Why is it that under Westminster our winter death rate is twice that of independent Sweden and independent Norway even though they suffer harsher climates?

3 - Why has Scotland been involved in 137 separate conflicts in 171 different countries around the world. What guarantee do we have that Westminster won't drag us into more illegal wars in the future?

4 - Westminster has a history of lying to the people of Scotland, from luring us into illegal wars, to the infamous McCrone report which was hidden from the Scottish people for decades. What guarantee do we have that Westminster won't continue to lie to us in the future?

5 - Why has none of the over 50 countries in the world to have gained their independence from Westminster ever went back to London rule?

The Scottish BDA do a great deal of excellent work and I hope that they continue to improve access to the referendum debate for BSL users. I also hope that they will look at broadening the range of their key issues in future.
If you have 5 key questions, then tell us in the comments below. Our next scheduled blog will be on Sunday, the 11th May. In the meantime, you can watch our latest 'Why Yes' video!

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