(Photo of Kinlochbervie)
Scotland’s Independence vote is garnering a lot of interesting writing and a lot of bollocks, with the majority of the latter gathering around the ‘No’ campaign like a bad smell wafting from a summer wheely-bin.
So far, the No campaign has consisted of a bunch of establishment ‘suits’ lining up to issue “Big Government” warnings – the tone adopted is very much like a stern teacher to a naughty child and each time a Tory opens his mouth there’s another vote for the Yes campaign. So, I’m English, but also a working-class Labour voter with a Scottish family. I don’t have a vote and you don’t have to listen to a word I say – even though your vote could have a profound and troubling effect on the country I care for and its people.
I’m from the North-West of England and like many parts of the country, it’s been beaten back time and time again by successive Tory governments: Thatcher ripped the heart out of its industries and created fractures in its communities that have never really healed, and in getting rid of the devolved strategic local governments such as Greater Manchester and Merseyside, she also moved the centre of power firmly back to London. The current incumbents have been even more ruthless in their determination to ensure that there is only one Capital and so they have removed money from northern counties and shoved it south. Some of the larger (and poorer) city and town councils are looking at losing a third of their budget: that level of cuts casts their future into doubt and bankruptcy is whispered in the darker corridors of council halls. That is local democracy Tory-style.
I have a Scottish husband and I’ve therefore been lucky enough to spend plenty of time in Scotland’s central belt. Sure, there are a few differences: some of the language, the pictures on the pound notes and the diet, but we’re all working class and we have all faced the same struggle. Getting a university education, getting a decent home, a decent job – a decent life, it’s all hard whichever side of the border you’re on…if you’re working class.
Up in the North of England, in Newcastle, in Barrow, in Leeds, in Halifax and in Manchester we’re seeing our lives and futures crushed under the diktat of a government that looks like is for London, by Londoners and all about being rich. The last Labour government gave the Welsh and the Scottish limited devolution and I thought that was great, but they failed to see that regional devolution was essential to the future of British democracy: they didn’t recreate the strategic authorities and left regional councils in England high and dry, so when the Tories got into power again, there was nothing and nobody between us and Westminster vandalism. In Scotland,you have the option of total independence – we do not.
And I think there is a greater struggle to be had than identifying common cultural headlines and calling for independent nation. Other than nationality, what does a Shetland Islander have in common with a working class family in Airdrie? Or the privately educated, titled owner of tracts of Scottish land with a heroin addict in city centre Glasgow? The vast majority of British people are united in the daily fight against poverty and inequality under a government that is seemingly comfortable with allowing both.
Nationalism is a catch-all: it relies on emotion and sentiment to glue disparate groups together under a flag, to put the cloak of invisibility over inequality and injustice while prioritising folklore and geography. If you win the Yes vote you’ll have your new nation, but without some politics you’ll still have the same old problems: Alex Salmond is an able leader, but he hasn’t shown himself to be a visionary: he’s a single issue politician with the gift of the gab and a pragmatic portfolio of policies.
As a united Kingdom, we should have a commitment to ending inequality, a better chance for those not gifted with inherited wealth and privilege, a future for those outside the South-east of England and devolution of power to the regions that better reflects the unique offers of those in the North, South, East and West. We need a Socialist government or at the very least a left of centre Labour government with a vision for a united, prosperous and egalitarian Britain. If you vote Yes to independence there is a small chance that you will condemn the non-London regions to a permanent Tory winter and that denies all our futures for your uncertain benefit.
I would ask you to vote No in September and then vote yes to the Labour party in May next year: unite behind a Labour government and give those who are being battered by this malign administration a chance for hope, whichever side of the border they live on. And then we can start having a proper conversation about devolution for all.