One of the reasons many Labour folk cite for not supporting independence is because they care as much about the child growing up in poverty in Camden as much as the one in Calton. They just about manage to stop themselves from breaking into song on how children are our future. I jest, but I do accept they make a serious point. We should care about the fate of all the people on these islands – and I agree.
But I don’t like the opposite preposition – that you people don’t care about children in poverty anywhere other than in Scotland – being tossed carelessly as a jibe at SNP/independence supporters. Because it’s false.
It is hard to articulate but in some respects, my passion for changing things, for throwing out the old order and defining and re-imagining a new way for Scotland is absolutely linked to a wish to participate fully on the international stage and to be in a position to contribute more effectively to the lot of other communities. It’s something shared by many other supporters of independence.
Hence, I would like to think, that an independent Scotland would have a different approach to asylum-seekers and refugees, and a *door more open* attitude to economic migrants too. Scotland, as we all know, is far from full up.
I’d also like to think that we might commit to a decent sum towards international development activity, playing a full role in addressing absolute want in countries and enabling impoverished nations to grow and build their way to a better future.
Having a seat in the EU and the UN would enable Scotland to speak up and speak out on international issues: I’d even like to think that on occasion, our wee voice might be heard and listened to. Sometimes, too, we might act not only for our own common good, but for others too. Wee countries can and do make a difference.
The alternative is to stay as we are, largely as international pariahs, trading on a reputation long since burnished. We get involved too often in the wrong wars. We throw our weight around. We like to think we are military players: there is no shortage of belief in the right thing to do when it comes to tooling up.
But when it comes to leading on other matters, we’ve become, under this Conservative-led government, Pontius Pilate like. Old instincts die hard and this lot learned their craft from the Thatcher creed. Thus, a distrust of all things European, which often betrays itself as outright prejudice and disdain, is the tie that binds the Tory lot. Playing hardball with Europe has become the bone which Cameron throws to his dogs to satiate their appetites. It turns my stomach.
As does the idea that we in the UK can withdraw from what is going on over the water, as being nowt to do with us. When it is everything to do with us: some of our banks helped to cause it, after all.
We are so tied into the idea of the banks being too big to fail, that instead we are prepared to allow countries and peoples to fail instead. As long as the paper moneymakers remain unfettered to continue doing what they did, who cares who pays the price.
Well, I care and I know others do too. What is happening in Greece right now is desperate. There are real people – little people – hurting and I feel their pain. The country is being asked to deliver impossible levels of cuts, ones that will effectively destroy its economy and society, in order to meet its debt. I can see why the other members of the Eurozone have insisted on such a course of action, but frankly, I’m toiling to understand it.
Yes they had to attempt to keep Greece in the Euro, to avoid total meltdown of the currency zone. Yes they could not allow one country to default on its debts for fear of a domino effect. And yes they had to try and keep all economies inside the tent of the prevailing economic orthodoxy.
But not at any price surely. Some have pointed out, that this monster was not of Greek origin, yet Greece is being lined up as the first sacrificial lamb. The financial institutions now appear to be the arbiters of countries’ activities – they set the rules for nation states, while not accepting any brakes or rules to be applied to their own activities, of course.
At what point does someone – anyone – break cover and say enough. We are brothers and sisters and we cannot, will not enforce poverty and instability on our neighbours. Being in this together means exactly that. We cannot inflict financial torture on others, on innocent individuals, in the hope that doing so spares us, yet the behaviour of our UK Government suggests precisely this insouciance.
Today, I am not only feeling the Greeks’ pain, but also sharing their anger. I am angry that no politician or country is prepared to stand up and be counted on their behalf. To offer an alternative solution to the shocking fiscal requirements being imposed on Greece. To signal that it is does not have to be this way, that if we are to prevent this happening again in future, we must work together – as a family of nations to find a different way of financing ourselves and our economies. One which does not involve a handful of untouchables dictating to the rest of us how to go about our business while taking no ethical responsibility for how they do theirs.
And I am utterly resolved that things in future must be different. That there is nothing to be gained from staying within the UK, from remaining part of a union of nations which is prepared to abandon its fellow men and women to their fate. Whether they live in Camden, Calton or Crete.