Theo Forbes shares his thoughts on independence, the election, and the lack of any compelling argument for the Union being made by the unionist parties.
We are in the midst of a difficult time for Scotland, and for our movement, but, as always, we have the choice of seeing where we stand with open eyes, looking forward with hope and vision; or closing our eyes, blind to where we stand, looking backwards, yearning for a glamorised image of a distant past.
It has been interesting watching the Holyrood election campaign unfold – Douglas Ross has outed himself as the charlatan that he is and folk have quickly realised that it is not just Douglas Ross or Boris Johnson who are bad apples, but that they are two bad apples from a rotten orchard.
The 2014 independence referendum inspired thousands of young people to get involved in politics. Before 2014, I was a wee kid who thought politics was this boring thing that happens where folk in suits dress up and shout at each other. But 2014 highlighted to me that politics is everywhere, it made me realise how truly important the democratic process is, and it is the sole reason I went to university to study Politics and International Relations. That is why I find it deeply insulting that Unionist parties see the ‘divisive referendum’ argument as their vote winner.
Unionist parties are too busy telling us how divisive wanting Scottish independence is, to actually tell us why we are wrong to support it. I was too young to vote for independence in 2014, but 15 year old me supported independence with my every fibre, but with an understanding and acceptance of people’s reasoning for voting against it.
In 2014 independence was an option. In 2021 Scotland, it’s more of a necessity. Since 2014, Unionist parties have failed to take their opportunity to tell us why Scotland was right to reject independence. Why? Because since 2014 they have illustrated the main arguments for an independent Scotland rather than confirm Scotland made the right decision to stay. They have made inroads in eroding our devolved powers, they have delivered a Brexit that Scotland didn’t vote for, they’ve inflicted more austerity, undemocratically elected Theresa May which was shortly followed by Boris Johnson, a man who allowed this statement to be put in the Spectator when he was editor:
“The Scotch – what a venomous race!… It’s time Hadrian’s wall was refortified, to pen them in a ghetto on the other side… The Nation deserves not merely isolation, but comprehensive extermination”.
Unionist parties would rather tell us that another referendum is divisive and that Scotland shouldn’t have a referendum, even when the SNP win every election, than tell us why independence is a bad idea.
In 2017 we were offered a dismal choice between the doomed policies of Corbyn and the damning policies of May, whilst neither provided an honest appraisal of the Brexit settlement for Scotland. What was important about that election was that the choices Scotland was given were entirely emblematic of how Scotland is regarded in Westminster: bright with potential but neglected without respect.
And now, we are told that independence should be dead in the mud as we work towards a Covid recovery. Ruth Davidson, soon to be Baroness Davidson taking her seat in the unelected House of Lords, speaking for the Tories in an election broadcast said that Scotland doesn’t want any more division and that we should focus on what actually matters. What is it that actually matters Ruth? Is it the £350 million refurbishment of the Buckingham Palace, the new royal yacht or your frankly senseless obsession with nuclear warheads? Clearly Ruth’s Union Jack rose-tinted glasses fail to see that the party causing the division is the Conservative party.
When it comes down to it, I support independence, not for some absurd idea of Scottish exceptionalism but because I believe our country should be a place where we can all flourish. When I compare this vision to the harsh realities of Brexit Britain and Boris Johnson as PM, we are offered a stark comparison. From the rampant xenophobia in our media and on our streets, to the punitive, and frankly senseless, austerity pursued by the Tories, it is clear that many in the corridors of Westminster do not wish the UK to be a place where we can all flourish.
Independence is about creating a better country, it’s about social justice, it’s about welcoming anyone who wants to call Scotland their home with open arms, it’s about creating an economy that is stable and will help create the best life for future generations. It’s about putting Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands. What is it that makes it so hard for Unionist parties to grasp that concept? They see the division card as a vote winner but fail to talk about their own parties’ plans for a Covid recovery, or indeed Brexit Britain’s plans for an economic recovery. They fail to tell us why the majority of Scotland are wrong to think we can go down a better, brighter path.
The Tories delivered Brexit, something which pushed xenophobic and racist rhetoric to the forefront of debate, but label the majority of Scotland as divisive for wanting to go down a different path? That is the reality of Broken Britain, a country’s self-determination is so threatening to the Tories that they use their own division as a tool to argue against independence.
This means that it is not surprising to see the Scottish Tories go down a Trumpian path of politics. This ‘fake news’ type politics has poisoned Scottish politics for a while, and the Tories and Douglas Ross are the main reason for this. The Tories, since 2014 have used ‘notoindyref2’ soundbites at each election to try and gather more Unionist votes and to give credit to them, it has worked, to an extent.
This campaign has seen a total fixation of ‘notoindyref2’ soundbites without any weight behind them whilst in the process directly assaulting the Scottish parliament and uncovering a Tory vision that has no real place for devolution. They are doing this because they know Scotland doesn’t vote Tory. The Scottish electorate don’t align with the policies that Tories want to put forward. Voting Tory isn’t voting against independence, it’s voting for a leader whose first policy if elected would be to ‘enforce tougher restrictions on gypsy/traveller communities’ (the most discriminated against group in the UK). It is voting to increase the UK’s nuclear arsenal which just so happens to be placed next to Scotland’s most populated area. It’s a vote for University fees, it’s a vote for privatising the NHS (something which is already being secretly done in London), it’s a vote for pretending to support free school meals but bowing down when Boris says no. Its voting for cruel and inhumane policies such as the rape clause, the bedroom tax and austerity. Its voting for a party that wasted billions of pounds of the taxpayers’ money during a pandemic to hand tory donors PPE contracts. Its voting for the party that delivered a Brexit during a pandemic that Scotland never voted for.
If Douglas Ross and his cronies want to continue to talk about division, then let’s talk about it. It might just uncover how truly dysfunctional the United Kingdom really is. I don’t support independence because of exceptionalism, I support it because it is the right thing to do. Independence supporting parties aren’t putting independence before the pandemic, you just need to look at how it’s been handled by Nicola Sturgeon every single day and compare it to Boris Johnson – a stark comparison.
We need to recover from this pandemic, and the pandemic is at the forefront of each independence supporting parties manifesto commitments, but the question we need to be asking is who is best fit to lead an economic recovery from Covid? Is it Boris Johnson, a man whose party is responsible for eviscerating Scotland’s industries – or should it be placed with the people that the people of Scotland elect to serve them?
Scotland’s future is independent, Ruth and Douglas are both right when they say we need to ‘end division’ – Tomorrow may well be the biggest election since devolution, and delivering a pro-independence majority is crucial in working towards the progressive, internationalist and forward looking nation I want to see.