A guest blog post from Kevin Rinchey explaining that while we have much to be proud of from the devolved era, we must also remember that we could do so much more with independence.
Recently, triggered by the so-called Salmond enquiry, some journalists & politicians have questioned the status and effectiveness of the Scottish Parliament and the country’s readiness to take the next step to independence. However, when you look at the short 22-year history of Holyrood, it has a proud record of innovative, progressive legislation which has won accolades around the world. Many argue it would do even better if it had the control and responsibility that an independent Scotland would bring.
The initial Labour/ Lib Dem coalition government introduced free personal care for the elderly and a smoking ban in indoor public places. The minority and majority SNP administrations that came after saw over the introduction of universal free tuition for higher education and free prescriptions, the extension of free childcare and the popular baby box. Scotland was quicker in legislating for same-sex marriage, minimum pricing for alcohol and the previously mentioned smoking ban than the rest of the UK and further afield. Although seen by some as controversial the recent Hate Crime bill and the much needed update of the definition of “deformation” in Scots law showed, that at its best, the parliament can come together to scrutinise. amend and finally pass excellent robust legislation.
But what if the Scottish Parliament didn’t have one hand tied its back? What if Scotland had full control under independence? Imagine what changes could be made with more than the 30% of tax-raising powers and 20% of welfare powers currently held? What if we could have the ability to borrow? Surely this would allow more policies such as the game-changing extra child payment just introduced, or more than just the limited ability to mitigate unpopular Westminster policies such as the bedroom tax. Who do you trust more to decide our recovery pathway out of the Covid pandemic? A progressive independent Scotland or an ever more increasingly right-wing, Brexit driven Westminster?
Choose independence and the introduction and evolution of a National Investment Bank and a proper positive discussion about a new currency could take place. We could give our older folk the state pension they deserve, not one of the lowest in the developed world as we have now. Finally, vested interests could be put aside, and long overdue land reform could happen. A proper and coherent green energy policy, that is supportive and sensitive to the needs of oil & gas as well as looking forward to developing carbon capture & renewables technologies, could have a bespoke razor-sharp Scottish focus, something close to my heart as an Aberdonian.
Finally, we could fully take responsibility for tackling the long-standing issues of social and economic inequalities. Re-joining the European Union and developing a new industrial strategy fit for the 21st Century would help in achieving this. Scotland’s electorate overwhelmingly voted in favour of remaining in the single market and customs union. We have different needs as far as immigration is concerned to help our economy grow. We can already see, after only a few months, how disastrous leaving will be for Scotland’s economy. There has already been a large fall in trade with our continental neighbours and we can see the serious devastating effect Brexit is having on our fishing industry since January. Taking away the freedom to live, work and educate ourselves in the other 27 EU countries is so unfair to all of us but in particular to the younger generation of Scots who have had this right taken away from them. A right older generations have enjoyed since 1992. The loss of the Erasmus exchange scheme is a particular blow.
The current Scottish Parliament is not perfect, and a future independent Scotland would not be without tough challenges, however, we need to be proud of what we have achieved since 1999, and most importantly I would ask you to look forward to what a fully in control, responsible, inclusive, progressive independent Scottish Parliament could achieve in the future? What an opportunity. Shall we take it?