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THINK back. Think back to all those Hogmanay celebrations of many years gone by and remember the cheery toast:

                        “Here’s tae us, wha’s like us?

                         Damned few – and they’re a’ deid!”

Though I used to join in with the sentimental swagger of those words, I used to feel a wee prickle of unease. We were a great folk once, it seemed to imply, but perhaps not anymore, if we were the last of them. I don’t know if younger Scots share the same maudlin outlook, and if they do, whether they would say the same sort of thing. Possibly they don’t but – at the drop of a tartan bunnet – they will slip into:

                        “Those days are gone now

                         And in the past they must remain…”

So the problem, for me, still remains (along with “those days” in the past). This, I think, is central to the whole notion of Scotland taking back its right to be an independent country. I sometimes feel that indy supporters dwell in the past: Bannockburn and the ’45 and all that. Scotland has a fascinating history, with stirring stories, but I do wonder if – though it is part of what makes us – when it comes to thoughts of independence, some of us are dwelling too much on the past. Independence is all about the future.

What kind of future would that be?

It was this question which ultimately prevented many undecided voters from saying yes to independence in 2014. Perhaps they just could not imagine it. Or perhaps they had been frightened away from that vision by the constant and cynical lies of the Better Together campaign.

What then would an independent Scotland be like? Well, let us first deal with what it would not be. It would not be “anti-English”. Our families and friends in England will not become strangers to us, any more than families and friends in other countries are. Indeed, our relationship with England will be better when we are friendly and co-operative neighbours rather than – as we are at present – resentful and chafing under the all too obvious contempt and disregard we experience coming from Westminster. Another thing an independent Scotland will not be, is a land overflowing with milk and honey. It will have its problems and challenges, its dark days and fair, but it will have the powers and ability to meet those challenges and tailor its responses and strategies to meet the needs of our population and steer us through those stormier times into calmer waters.

In short, we will be a normal country.                      

If you believe the output from the BBC and the billionaire-owned British press, you could be forgiven for thinking that Scotland, having cut itself loose from its benign ties with the rest of the UK, would be an economic basket case, finding itself languishing among the poorest nations of the earth. The mainstream media, to this day, peddles the narrative that we could not manage on our own, that we are economically too weak. Take GERS. Every year, Unionist politicians and the media gloat over Scotland’s supposed deficit, conveniently glossing over the fact that the figures show Scotland’s fiscal state as part of the Union and in no way reflect the way our finances would be as an independent country. It is quite simple. The UK Government decides what the UK – including Scotland – is going to have and buys a whole lot of stuff we neither want nor need, such as the shiny new HS2 railway (which will go nowhere near Scotland!) or the refurbishment of the Palace of Westminster, or nuclear weapons, which time and again a large majority of the people of Scotland have said they do not want. Their spending spree done, for the moment, the UK Government then presents us with what they deem to be our share of the bill. I have heard GERS compared to lending your neighbour your credit card: your neighbour buys a flashy new kitchen for his house, maybe some nice garden furniture for his patio (perhaps getting a wee rustic-style bench for your garden) and then when the credit card bill arrives, he castigates you for being profligate! It is important to remember that GERS was designed as a political exercise by Tory Secretary of State Ian Lang in 1992, to undermine other parties and help the Tories make the case against any possible establishment of a Scottish Parliament. It is not often that the Tories make a good job of anything, but they have been successfully undermining the confidence of Scots for the last 30 years! I’ll put it more strongly yet. I would say that the UK Government is economically incompetent and focusing as it does on drawing all wealth, talent, power and opportunities to London and the South East of England, where its power base lies, it is deliberately acting against Scotland’s interests. Scotland cannot afford to stay in this union. Only independence will restore us to proper economic health.

Ah – I hear the cry – but what currency will Scotland use? At present, there are a number of opinions among independence supporters about what is the best route to a strong Scottish currency. The SNP’s growth commission envisages using the pound until Scotland can transition to a new currency: the Scottish pound. For some, that is too slow, too cautious and they want a new currency from the outset. The point is this: the decision will be ours to make. And do not let anyone tell you that, if that is what we decide, we cannot use the pound. It is our currency, just as much as the rest of the UK’s and, in addition, remember that countries other than the UK use the pound, just as countries other than the US use the dollar. Currency is flexible. It has to be.

So currency is not the stumbling block Unionists would have you believe. And while on the subject of Scotland’s economy, it is important to remember that whatever Unionists try to impress upon you, Scotland is not a poor country. In fact, we have an embarrassment of riches. Scotland is already a major producer of renewable energy. There is oil and gas; the world-class food and drink industry; farming and fishing; the financial sector; life sciences, chemical sciences, digital industries; creative industries; Scotland’s university sector; construction, tourism and – yes, really! – Scotland’s space industry (Glasgow is a centre for world-leading satellite construction, while Dundee and Edinburgh specialise in auxiliary services. In fact, Scotland, with 8.4% of the UK population, employs 18% of the UK’s space sector.) Given our economic potential then, we are more than capable of meeting the challenges of being an independent country. Indeed, for our economy to thrive and prosper, we really do need independence.

Economic prosperity is not, however, an end in itself. It goes hand in hand with creating the new and better Scotland we know can be ours. We have already seen, through using the limited powers we possess, that Scotland has a different outlook when it comes to what constitutes a good and healthy society. A start has been made on establishing a fairer system of taxation and a social security system that treats its clients with dignity and respect. The principles of fairness and equality have already been established in Scotland: from all new-born babies getting the same welcome and start in life through the baby-box scheme, to free school meals for all primary school children, free university tuition for students, free prescriptions, free bus passes for the over-60s and free personal care for the elderly. “Why do the Scots get all this free stuff?” some of our neighbours ask enviously. It is not “free stuff”. We in Scotland pay for them through our taxes because we have a government which prioritises the health and wellbeing of our citizens, ensuring that such benefits are not means-tested, but available to all who need them. We think differently in Scotland. We do things differently here. The idea of dignity and equality for all is already established – how much more could we achieve as an independent country!

I look forward to Scotland becoming a country which is inclusive and welcoming to families and individuals who have honoured us by choosing to make their lives here, so that they feel safe and welcome and in a position to plan their futures and contribute towards a flourishing Scotland. I look forward to seeing Scotland respected and welcomed in its turn, by the rest of the world. The EU is already well-disposed towards us and has publicly stated on numerous occasions that we would be welcomed back to Europe. The Nordic countries are similarly friendly and encouraging: shortly after the 2021 Holyrood election, Mikko Kärnä, a Finnish politician, announced his intention of recommending to the Nordic Council that Scotland should join it as an observer. Who knows what direction Scotland will take? But once again it will be Scotland’s choice in deciding its future and where our best interests lie. Possibly most of all I am looking forward to living in an independent Scotland which is peaceful, where there is no prospect of dubious military adventures that we have seen all too often in the past. No more illegal wars for us! We will have a small defensive army, navy and air force to protect our borders and – most wonderful of all – we will no longer be home to the weapons of mass destruction currently parked in our waters. There will be no nuclear weapons in an independent Scotland!

Perhaps I was a tiny bit unfair to “O Flower of Scotland”, bearing in mind that there is that stirring line:

          “For we can still rise now, and be a nation again”

Scotland is on the rise – though not in any arrogant, overweening way. We are ready to take our place – a small, prosperous, generous, outward-looking, co-operative country – alongside the other independent countries of the world.

I have heard it said on a number of occasions, by various people, that the morning after the day we vote to become independent, nothing will seem to have changed, except everything will have changed – because we will have the power to transform everything.

We can become the better Scotland we know we can be.