We do not live in a nanny state

Contrary to what might be taken from the words of [usually] Labour unionists, Scotland is not a nanny state.

I’m not talking about the concept of the ‘nanny state’ in the same way as the Tories often do. I for one am not offended when the government tells us when things are bad for us. The role of government is partly, as I see it, to protect and nurture those who it represents. I see nothing wrong with that at all.

Unfortunately, most Tories seem to see the role of government as being a means to dismantle the state for personal profit. But I digress…

The ‘nanny state’ I’m referring to is, specifically, Scotland. Or rather, the image that Labour unionists would have us believe is our role – that of the conscience of the UK.

I doubt very much that Labour politicians go to Yorkshire or Cardiff and tell the people there that Scotland is the moral saviour of the UK. I’m quite sure they give them just as many meaningless platitudes as they do us.

But that’s what they’ve been doing here, during this referendum campaign.

“Don’t go, lest the remaining UK be lost to the Tory hounds for eternity!”

“They know not know what they do! Please, don’t dessert them!”

Forgive me, but I hadn’t realised we’d even applied for the position of ‘National Jiminy Cricket’ to rUK’s Pinocchio. I didn’t even know that such a position was either required or advertised.

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By Jiminy!

But the rhetoric from many unionist Labourites has been that it is somehow our (Scotland’s) DUTY to make sure that rUK don’t vote themselves into decades of selfish, right-wing government, be that through the Tories, UKIP, a coalition of the two, or some as yet unknown party.

Apart from being grossly insulting to people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland – who, believe it or not, are quite capable of making their own decisions – it’s as big a pile of equine excretion as we’ve heard in this whole debate.

We, as a nation, do not exist to keep tabs on our nearest neighbours. Such a notion is preposterous, and to suggest that it’s a reason at all, never mind a good one, to stay in the union is nothing short of absurd.

Don’t get me wrong – I would really rather not see rUK vote for more years of right-wing governments, whose primary motivation is ‘ME, ME, ME!’, the dismantling of the [supportive bits of the] state, the acquisition of personal wealth and the scapegoating of minorities.

But if the people of rUK want to do that, that is their choice – just as we are trying to win the right to have our choices matter.

The unionists will often point to the number of Labour MPs in Scotland too, citing that as evidence that those in rUK will never vote-in a Labour government again. Thankfully, most of us know that this is also to be filed somewhere in between ‘br’ and ‘bt’:

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graphic from Wings Over Scotland

If rUK does vote for increasingly right-wing governments for a while, they’ll soon enough see them for what they are, and the left will regroup. Perhaps Labour will even rejoin them, once they’re over ditching their principles to chase the votes of the gutter press readers.

But that will be up to them. And it will be down to them to change it.

Scotland is not a set of stabilisers for the UK’s first bike. We have a right to choose how best to run our country and care for our society, and the rest of the UK is perfectly capable of cycling along on the road without us to stop them falling off. And so are we. Let’s join them and ride alongside, on our own terms.

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Opportunity Knocks

For me, independence is all about opportunity.

Opportunity to raise the quality of our own democratic rights, making every future national election vote we personally cast significantly more important.

Opportunity to help create a modern, vibrant and inclusive nation, with fairness, equality and respect at the heart of its ambition.

Opportunity, not to blame anyone else or forget our neighbours or our joint past together, but to build better relationships with friends and colleagues in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Opportunity to step out into the wider world too, as a friendly, welcoming and internationalist nation, and to play our part and take on responsibility for the often difficult challenges the world faces together. Not through force and bravado, but through dialogue, debate and the building up and maintaining of trust.

Opportunity to help shape our wee bit of the world into something we can truly be proud of – not a flag or a national anthem, but a happier, fairer and more inclusive society.

Grand words, perhaps. But this is a chance – and a very rare or unique one at that – to start to achieve grand things. And it can, and must, be only the start of a process which sees all of the people who live in Scotland take part and use this democratic right we all have. A democratic right that we’re fortunate enough to enjoy, and we must always remember that.

Democracy and the right to vote were key themes in the last century. People gave their very lives for those rights, all over the world, and in some parts of the world, people in less fortunate positions than ourselves still do today.

We have other, more fundamental and inalienable rights of course, but democracy and the right to vote is, in my opinion, one of our greatest achievements as a species, possibly even the most precious human accomplishment to date.

But having the right to vote isn’t the end of the story, not by any means. As with independence itself, it’s merely the start, and can always be improved upon.

Take our right to vote in the context of this independence campaign, and the possibility of having an independent Scotland.

On a personal level, each and every person living in Scotland, who is eligible to vote, will automatically see their vote mean more with independence. That’s not an unfounded assertion or a distant fantasy, that’s fact.

Your vote, rather than being 1-in-46 million, becomes 1-in-4 million. Overnight.

Now, that may seem a rather vague and slightly irrelevant vague concept – such high numbers don’t mean much at the level of the individual, even if one is only a small fraction of the other. But it is an eleven-fold increase in the importance of your one vote. For every future general election. You make your vote mean that much more, simply by putting an ‘x’ next to Yes.

Similarly, the importance of your vote is also increased by the fact that, instead of electing one of 650 MPs to Westminster, you’ll be voting for one of only 129 at Holyrood. That’s another five-fold improvement in your personal right to vote.

Who did you vote for in the last House of Lords election? Oh that’s right, none of us did. It’s an unelected house, with no real accountability to us, the electorate. For people living in Scotland, that will be gone, overnight.

These are positive changes that aren’t reliant on what party wins the first independent Scottish general election, or post-referendum negotiations with the rest of the UK – they’re automatic, they will happen.

After our automatic gains with our domestic parliament, we then come to the EU.

Some people love the EU, others aren’t so keen. But that’s not the issue here, and it’s not the issue for this referendum. I’m not going to engage with scaremongering unionists on whether or not we’ll be in the EU – that’s been dealt with satisfactorily by plenty of experts already.

What is worth bearing in mind for this referendum though is the improvement in our say at the European level.

At the moment, Scotland has 6 MEPs, and the Scottish Government is very much secondary to the UK Government in dealing with and negotiating within Europe. They haven’t even been allowed to request clarification over our position as an independent member state, for example. And the UK Government refused to use its ability to seek that clarification.

An independent Scotland, with EU membership, is most likely to see the number of MEPs we elect more than double, to 13. Why? Because that’s the number that similarly sized states are allocated.

At the moment, the 5.3 million people of Scotland are represented by the same number of MEPs as the 450,000 citizens of Malta. That’s fewer people than live in Edinburgh.

Denmark, Finland and Slovakia – all of which have populations similar to that of Scotland – elect 13 MEPs each.

At the moment, we’re obviously considered part of the UK, and with the positive weighting system employed for European Parliament elections, larger national populations elect proportionately fewer representatives. That’s the way it must be, otherwise the whole system simply wouldn’t work at all.

But when you consider that most of our domestic legislation comes from the Scottish Parliament, it seems rather out of balance that we only elect 6 MEPs, and that the Scottish Parliament is effectively meaningless in Europe.

We can fix that with a Yes vote.

With all of these, we can redress the balance in favour of our democratic rights – in our favour, and for those that come after us.

Please don’t underestimate democracy, what has been done to achieve it and the improvements that we can make to it. Don’t waste this rare chance.

The Boy Who Cried ABUSE!

I’m a great fan of Aesop’s Fables, those tales of morality from the ancient Greek storyteller. Such simple yet colourful stories, each one with a valuable lesson woven into it. One of my favourites is The Boy Who Cried Wolf, and it’s almost scary how relevant that particular fable can still be today…

After liking and commenting on a friends ‘coming-out’ as an independence supporter yesterday, a friend of theirs ‘engaged’ in the thread by simply stating ‘Vote NO!’, before sharing the picture below. A well constructed and thorough argument, I’m sure you’ll agree.

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Ugh!

As I found the picture to be little more than a vessel for empty rhetoric, I looked up the website in the bottom corner: aforceforgood.org.uk

Not previously knowing the site, but vaguely recognising the name of its owner, Alistair McConnachie, I wondered why it sent little alarm bells ringing.

Mr McConnachie, as some will already remember, recently registered as an official campaigner in the referendum – in the same way as Yes Scotland and Better Together have had to do.

Mr McConnachie is also, for those who don’t know, a former UKIP candidate and, more importantly, a living, breathing holocaust denier:
“I don’t accept that gas chambers were used to execute Jews for the simple fact there is no direct physical evidence to show that such gas chambers ever existed… there are no photographs or film of execution gas chambers… Alleged eyewitness accounts are revealed as false or highly exaggerated.” (source: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2001/feb/27/uk.race)

Much has already been said about McConnachie’s self-involvement in the campaign, and this blog post isn’t about him or his clearly staggeringly vile opinions.

Anyway, I went back to my friend’s thread and very politely – and quite deliberately so – shared the above information. I even went so far as to include ‘Just a heads up’ to show that I wasn’t judging this person for sharing the picture – it could have very easily been a complete oversight, after all.

‘This is so typical of cybernat abuse!’, came his eventual response, or very similar at least – I can’t quote word for word as our mutual friend has since deleted the entire thread, most likely through shame.

He then shared his astonishment that I had attempted to label him personally as ‘a Nazi sympathiser’.

I’m sorry… what!?

I asked if he was aware of where the picture came from, shared the above quote, and said ‘Just a heads up’ – that was it. Polite and courteous, I thought.

But this, apparently, constituted ‘cybernat abuse’, and a serious and incorrect accusation from myself.

We’re all aware of the mass media coverage of the responses of a few independence supporters to the news that JK Rowling donated money to Better Together – mass media coverage that was oddly lacking when, for example, the Weirs were abused for donating to Yes Scotland.

But it’s clear that the unionists have merely switched from Project Fear to Project Poor Wee Victim. It’s the same fact-free diet of baseless assertions and claims, but now they’re defenceless wee lambs, cowering in their straw house from the Big Bad CyberNat.

I’m obviously not condoning any abusive tweets, and many, including Jim Sillars, have already made clear that such bullying is totally unacceptable. When people ARE abusive – and a few have been, on both sides – let’s rightly show them up for what they are. There is and can be no place in this debate for that kind of behaviour.

But this constant self-declared victimhood from the No camp is totally unacceptable. I’ve been on the end of it myself now a number of times – each incident blown out of all proportion, with ‘cybernat’ and ‘abuse’ thrown into the mix.

People read headlines, and they sink in, at some level. They very rarely look deeper, to discover what the actual facts are. When a unionist wrongly cries wolf, we should be saying ‘Hang on a minute…’, and calling them up on it. We shouldn’t be wasting hours over it, but we should make it clear that no abuse or bullying has actually occurred.

Remember that the boy who cried wolf did, in the end, lose all of his sheep…