The most important political event that has taken place in these islands in my lifetime is just two days away. Unlike the pointless musical chairs that take place in a UK general election where three or is it now four?, neo liberal parties take turns in governing on behalf of the South East, The City and the Global corporations-a process which as Russell Brand so rightly points out is pretty pointless if you want to see real radical change. The Scottish referendum for once, offers the people a unique opportunity to prize London’s bony fingers from around their throats and build a prosperous future in their own free state.
A future free of the dead hand of Conservatism or New Labour. A Country with a built in centre left majority which can look to the more progressive Nordic states as role models rather than remain tied to-in George Monbiot’s words- ‘a corrupt and dysfunctional British state’.
I was watching a re-run of Jonathan Meades Off Kilter Series from a few years ago this week. In an episode entitled ‘The Football Pools Towns’ Meades travelled around those little outposts on the east coast of Scotland which most people south of the border only know from the football results. This was not the Scotland of mountains and glens or tartan and shortbread; it was a Scotland of empty factories, abandoned coal mines and boarded up shops. It was a Scotland where the working classes having served their economic purpose had been cast adrift. Surviving on brutal housing estates whose very existence is a damning indictment of the politicians, planners and architects who put them there. It was a part of Scotland which shows the highest rate of Heroin use in Europe; a Scotland of poor diets, high cancer deaths, heart disease and lowest life expectancy. It was a Scotland where 11% of the people claimed disability allowance and where suicide rates amongst the young is frequent and unquestioned.
This is the Scotland that London built. Particularly since 1979 when Thatcher’s neo liberal economic policies laid waste to great parts of the nation which depended for its life blood on industries like Shipbuilding, car manufacturing and coal mining. In the new ideologically driven age, The Westminster government now served international capital and traditional industries could be closed down and everything from cars to coal could be imported. The new Britain which New Labour now also embraces as enthusiastically as the Tories, saw an economic future where pushing numbers around in The City was to be at the prime heart of the new economy. An economy which Westminster was increasingly building as a sort of European China. An economy of long hours, low wages and zero hours contracts. An economy of workfare, austerity, tax breaks for the rich and all based on outrageous levels of state borrowing. A level which has continued to rise under this government and now stands at almost 90% of the UK’s GDP.
This is the Great Britain that the people of Scotland are being told they would be insane to leave. But what would they be leaving? A nation with an unelected head of state and where UK residents are subjects without a bill of rights.( In an independent Scotland they would be citizens with a BOR). A nation with an unelected second chamber and the only country in the world- apart from Iran- where religious leaders can automatically take a place in a state legislature. A state with an ingrained class system of Lords, Dukes, Earls and all manner of medieval titles, all backed up by a ludicrous honours system.
A state which has proportionally the 4th highest military spending in the world and in which Gordon Brown’s last Labour government commissioned the Trident weapons system which eventually will cost us £50 billion pounds! A weapons system based of course in Scotland...not the Thames Estuary! A Great Britain which has seen the gap between rich and poorer grow wider year on year. In fact the gap grew greater during the Blair/Brown New Labour era than during the Thatcher era.
As I write, the establishment are undergoing a collective nervous breakdown. Never before have I witnesses such a one sided propaganda blitz during what is supposed to be a democratic process. The UK has revealed itself as almost authoritarian in its manipulation of the media. It’s blitzkrieg of lies, scaremongering, smearing of independence supporters and threats, would do credit to a tin pot banana republic. The Mass Media, The Banks, The City, unelected EU bureaucrats, foreign leaders and the Westminster cabal, marching in train with the Far Right under a tatted Union Jack. The nauseous sight of the Duke of Westminster’s son in law, Dan Snow and the former picture editor of Tatler, Ben Fogle, rallying a contemptible band of has beens, tax exiles and millionaire celebrities under the union banner, is just one of the many vomit inducing stunts which Better Together have foisted upon a public which increasingly shows itself inured to ’Project Fear’.
But will the Scottish people finally cave in to this propaganda blitz? A campaign so outrageously based on lies and distortions that Joseph Goebbels would blush! It would be truly an amazing and wonderful thing if Scotland held its nerve and chose freedom over subservience. A progressive future over a stultifying and soul destroying attachment to a decaying right wing Ruritania. Scotland will be independent, of that be I am no doubt. It would be such a tragedy though, if a failure of nerve at the final moment, condemned the country to more of the same. More Centre Right governments of Bullingdon Boys or Labour Dinosaurs. More wars, more tax breaks for the rich, more austerity, more food banks and soup kitchens, a crippled NHS and education system and the continued dumbing down and Murdochisation of sport and culture.
If Scotland votes YES then I could not do better than recall those lines from Wordsworth, writing about The French Revolution ‘Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven’. For it is for the young that Scotland must build its brighter future. Not leaving the country in the hands of the grey emotionally dead, self serving undertakers of the old order. The Alistair Darlings and Gordon Browns of this world. Politicians so venal and incompetent during their own terms of office that the UK is still suffering the after-shocks of their City friendly policies. However, I would turn to a less lauded poet, to summarize why I feel Scotland should grasp this opportunity with both hands and cry freedom. In the words of John Lyndon aka Johnny Rotten... “ There is no future in England’s dreaming’. The UK began to break up nearly a hundred years ago with the Irish Easter rising. Centralized states where one dominant nation controls it's empire from its capital are doomed to fail. Be they The Soviet Union, China, Yugoslavia or Great Britain. The future is with small self governing nations, controlling their own destinies but in a spirit of international cooperation.
Scotland...I pray with all my heart that you break the chains that bind you to, in Edward Abbey's words..."that dear, tepid,vapid,insipid, stuffy little country'.