Ten (other) good reasons to vote yes to independence

1.  Poverty.  Child poverty in particular, is a stain on our society: it cannot be right that 1 in 5 children grow up with poverty pervading their childhoods, following them into adulthood and old age.   And that we live with an economic and social framework which not only reinforces conditions for poverty but enables them.  With independence, we can prioritise the need to tackle poverty and put our wealth as a nation to its best use.

2.  Inequality.  Despite being 50% of the population (slightly more actually), women are still under-represented in all spheres, especially at the top of those spheres. Worst of all, women in Scotland still earn nearly 12% less than men.  Yes, things are changing but the pace is too slow. We could address some of the inherent inequalities in our society through a written constitution and create the conditions in which equality for all might be achievable.

3.  Economy.  We are failing to harness all of our natural resources and skills to our best advantage.  We are over-reliant on several key industries and while the re-industrialisation of Scotland by investing in renewables is welcome, we can do much more by thinking radically differently about how to power our economy.  We are still not investing in future-proofing our economy;  we don’t spend enough on children’s earliest years and consequently, are spending too much on young people’s tertiary education;  we don’t spend nearly enough of our GDP on research and development.  Independence can offer a climate and culture in which we turn prevailing economic and investment wisdoms upside down.  Finland managed it – so can we.

4.  Fuel poverty.  More than 1 in 3 households in Scotland are considered to be in fuel poverty, yet we are an energy rich nation with the resources available to make us much more energy-efficient than we are.  People in this country die every winter from living in damp, cold homes.  We could change this by a better-regulated energy market, raising the standards of new-build projects and focusing on improving energy-efficiency.

5. Housing.  There are over 50,000 households who are homeless, containing 22,000 children;  3% of households live in overcrowded conditions;  there are 298,000 houses affected by dampness or condensation and 62% of houses do not meet the current quality standard.  Having somewhere adequate to live is a right, not a privilege:  what kind of a society are we when we cannot adequately house our population?  And how hard can it be to provide people with decent homes to live in?

6.  Tax.  Despite efforts to simplify income tax in the UK, it is still cumbersome and complex.  And that complexity creates loopholes enabling avoidance.  The core characteristic of the UK approach to tax is unfairness – the greater your wealth from a greater number of sources, the less you pay.  With independence, we can create a fair and progressive tax system which ensures that as a country we gather what we need to pay for services we want to receive, from all our and our people’s resources and wealth.

7.  Mortality.  In Scotland today, thousands of men and women die before they reach pensionable age.  They do not get the chance to grow old, either gracefully or disgracefully.  Each year, we spend billions on our health service and on care provision, yet the gains made in improved health and lower incidence of killer diseases and conditions are incremental.  Privatisation and marketisation are not the answer but surely there is a better way, which allows more people to enjoy better health and live longer.  We can take a long, hard look at all that we spend currently and determine to do things differently from now.

8.  Infrastructure.  We do not have the infrastructure to support the needs of our nation nor its aspirations.  Our transport network regularly grinds to a halt, no matter which form you use and the roll-out of fast broadband has been painfully slow – whether you are doing it virtually or for real, getting from A to B can be gruelling.  Yet, efficient and effective infrastructure is vital to our wealth and well-being as a nation and individuals.  A different mindset which embraces our rurality and sparsity, rather than trying to pretend they do not exist, would revolutionise our approach to investing in our infrastructure.

9.  Resources. Our culture, heritage and environment make us uniquely admired and envied all over the world.  Yet, we are careless with it all.   Many leave, never to return;  much is razed and lost, never to be replaced;  most is taken for granted and treated disrespectfully.  Valuing resources like these through proper tax, policy and investment approaches would maximise the benefit and enjoyment for everyone in Scotland and elsewhere.

10.  Welfare state.  The UK Government is in the process of dismantling the welfare state as we know it, demonstrating that this is indeed an administration – which enjoys considerable support in other parts of the UK but not here – which knows the cost of everything and the value for nothing.  Yet, there is no doubt that the welfare system was creaking under its own weight of bureaucracy and broken in many places.  The system we would inherit on independence will be a mess but independence will give us the opportunity to start again and create the kind of welfare state we want and which meets our population;s needs.

The astute among you will have noticed that much of what I reckon are good reasons for independence are largely things and areas we could influence now.  We have at least some of the powers over some of these matters.  And yes, we could make some of this happen.

But we don’t.  We haven’t.  Not in 300 years of Union, not in sixty plus post-war years, not in thirteen years of devolution.

And poverty, inequality and social injustice are growing.   Because we lack the will, determination and resolve to change things.

With independence, we could change Scotland, change how we are, how we think, what we do and prioritise, the ways we act, respond and engage.  As a nation and as families and individuals.  Or, of course, we could choose not to and largely continue with what we have now.  But why would we want to?  The liberation of standing on our two feet, of having to make all the choices and decisions for ourselves, will encourage us to be brave enough to change.

For, independence is about the art of the possible, about deconstructing the obstacles and barriers that hold us back, that prevent better and it’s about taking responsibility for who we are, what we do and how we might be.

I do not want my children to reach my age and be living in Scotland as it is now.  I want them to live in a different Scotland.

A Scotland which isn’t Norway, Finland, Denmark, Ireland nor Iceland.  Nor wants to be exactly the same as these other small nations.  While we can learn from what other countries do well and adapt their successes to suit our own needs, independence will afford us the opportunity to determine for ourselves what we want Scotland to be like.  Independence offers challenge, but above all, it offers opportunity.

With independence, we can be a nation which chooses to be better, which puts need before want, which works for the benefit of all rather than the gain of the few.  And which determines to become equitable, fair and socially just.

14 thoughts on “Ten (other) good reasons to vote yes to independence

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  4. The key to getting a yes vote will be if people think that they’ll be better off. Simple as that really.

  5. The Burd—rightly—has the reputation for having a heart the size of a small planet and her humanity—whether for choons or chiclet—is beyond question. But, as a salesperson, she’s mince. If this column is her idea of how you sell the prospect of what independence could mean for Scotland, then we might as well get the JCBs out in force at Gretna, dig their way to Lamberton Toll, sever the whole Northern third of this island and listen stoically to the Titanic’s string quartet as we all gurgle into oblivion beneath the waves. It would be a mercy.

    Even reason #9 ‘resources’, the most ‘positive’ of her reasons, bemoans emigration and loss of skills. If I were a Martian just landed with pockets stuffed with Martian gold and strong with hope to forge a new life in a dynamic new country far from my desiccated world, I’d plump for Costa Rica or Singapore or the Czech Republic, all of which vibrate with energy, hope and a determination to overcome whatever it is that stands between them and their future. I’d see Scotland (wrongly) as a nation aspiring to be Giro-junkies.

    No matter how important anyone may believe social issues are, cataloguing your massive shortcomings in that department is no pitch for a positive future. The Labour party shot itself in the foot over decades by putting the conscience cart before the economic enabler horse. People flooded to the States 100 years ago because of the hope and equality it offered—even though its migrant slums made our present poor areas look like palaces.

    Erasing poverty or inequality are splendid goals. But they are achieved indirectly by harnessing the people’s aspirations with a vision of what Scotland could be—a beacon for the future of small countries around the planet, a creative, dynamic, diverse place, full of character and of people who believe in what their mongrel mix can achieve together. If we combine our Celtic creativity with tough competence that was the Clyde and inspirational thought that was the Enlightenment, we’ll need the JCBs for crowd control at the border.

    But not if we use this list as our blueprint. Sorry.

  6. Burdy……………very disappointed here you have ignored Megrahi’s death. Why is that?

    On this post of your ten things I would list a clean justice system in Scotland.

    Salmond and MacAskill have, between them, assisted both Tory and Labour Westminster Governments in burying the truth about Lockerbie. I can only assume you are ok with that, but I would still ask why is a clean justice system not on your list? Why is it not on theirs?

    Salmond could have single handedly taken on Westminster and the Crown Office over that unsafe conviction. Instead his government, and MacAskill in particular, helped them to hide the truth. Hell, MacAskill even stripped our Scottish Criminal Justice Cases Commission of its powers to send a case back to the High Court last year. You ok with that too? Now a JUDGE will decide. Which kind of makes you wonder why we bother to have a Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission at all now that our JUSTICE MINISTER has decided that rather than function “without judicial or political interference” the SCCRC will do as the Justice Minister and a judge say. Kind of like all the judges who have ruled on the Lockerbie case so far eh? You ok with this Burdy? And if you are, why? Do you want a clean Justice System? And if so why are you ignoring the implications of Megrahi’s case? Why are you not shouting for Salmond to give Scotland justice over Lockerbie? Why are you not asking why he has worked hand in glove with the Westminster Government to run with the original lies of Thatcher in the framing of Libya and successive Labour Governments in protecting the same? Why are you not challenging Salmond to go for REAL justice over Lockerbie. It is NOT about Megrahi: it is about a clean justice system in Scotland. It is about nearly 300 dead people and the answers we need about that and the findings of the SCCRC that there were SIX grounds to question the conviction of one man for that atrocity and their questions about the safety of that conviction. Do you not care about that? On Lockerbie the Unionist Parties’ hands were dirty. Sadly the hands of the SNP Scottish Government are dirtier than all the Unionist Parties put together! In fact, they are toxic! Why have you not written a single word about it since Megrahi died and do you realise that there are people out here who will not vote SNP ever again because of their conduct over this because we expected better from the SNP on Lockerbie than we got from the Unionist Parties because we believed they would go after the truth, not for Megrahi, but for Scotland and our tainted Justice System which, over Lockerbie, had been accused, by a UN Observer at the original trial of indulging in conduct which was tantamount to the obstruction of justice. There are even people who are members of the SNP who are considering leaving because of it! Why are you silent on it? Does a clean justice system not matter in a future Scotland? Are you ok with a corrupt Criminal Justice System?

    As I said, disappointed here. If Salmond is to move on the Lockerbie business he needs blogs like this to challenge him. Your silence has been deafening. Shame on you.

  7. Sorry Burd, I really enjoy some of your op-ed pieces but this post is just bunkem.
    They are not “reasons” nor even logic based possibilities.

    Just an un-costed, idealistic wishlist.

  8. Kate, in response to 4 and 5

    The energy efficiency (quality) of new build is now extremely high and building regulations are set to improve this further. This does not come cheap and is one of the reasons that developers are no longer developing. Building houses to modern regulations is very expensive.

    The Scottish housing stock is generally stone and timber frame. Even if in good condition pre-2007 houses will generally be expensive to heat. These are difficult and uneconomical to properly retrofit with insulation. It is not like England where double skin brick can be filled with insulating balls. In many cases it would be better to replace these houses. But we are now building less houses than are being lost to the housing stock through dilapidation. Things will get much worse.

    So effectively the old private model for house building is broken unless another bubble comes along. An alternative has to be a new development model such as long term high quality lets (as in Germany). That is being piloted. But really, to solve the problem will take massive state and private sector intervention. That entails huge sums of money and the ability to borrow from various sources. It will take independence to access that money. I am talking about tens of billions.

    But to do this we need a vision. That vision has to be about the kind of built environment we want. It requires the vision of Edinburgh New Town or Inveraray. It is not just about warm houses but beautiful, vibrant communities with schools, shops, hospitals and businesses. Communities designed around walking rather than the car. This will require superb town planning and architecture. Why? because only by building to this standard will people cherish their environment and their houses. That is when it becomes very valuable real estate and that is when pension funds and investors will put up the money to effect that transformation (no longer can it be the Stewart Milne out of town, Nowhereville scheme, where the seller doesn’t care once the paint is dried and the house is sold and the profit made). This must be done in tandem with a new wave of council housing. These developments should be integrated and mixed where quality of build and design is a right for everyone – no matter what their income bracket.

    At the moment, as they say in Gaelic, we are bailing out the sea with a spoon. Independence will give the construction industry the tools to solve this problem. If led by politicians with vision.

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  11. “The astute among you will have noticed that much of what I reckon are good reasons for independence are largely things and areas we could influence now. We have at least some of the powers over some of these matters. And yes, we could make some of this happen.
    But we don’t. We haven’t. Not in 300 years of Union, not in sixty plus post-war years, not in thirteen years of devolution.”

    Quite right – coulda, woulda, shoulda. I can only speak about the appalling standards in private housing – a major and growing type of accommodation – where the current government and its predecessor is long on rhetoric and short on action.

    What practical difference would independence make when the financial movers and shakers are provided with a benign housing investment environment without any balancing social obligation to ensure decent housing standards? After all it will be the same shadowy figures behind the scenes unless we are prepared to be truly radical in our governance of Scotland

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