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DEAR Citizens of Scotland,

On democracy. A sound​ economy and an egalitarian society are predicated on the foundation stones of democracy. Thus, it is our civic duty to bring Scotland out of the political shadowlands and into the clear light of day. We are not living in a fully-fledged democracy. Our democratic rights are as diminished as the stymied powers of the Scottish Parliament. The ignominy and risks related to this fact are disturbing. Our ancestors are birling in their graves. Poets, philosophers, warriors – the countless dead – would willingly rise up again if they could feel the light of dawn on their faces and, with deathless daring, lay the gift of freedom at our feet. As Burns put it: Wha sae base as be a slave? Let him turn and flee! Think twice, lest our own descendants hold us in contempt as we falter in the face of democratic suppression! What do we have, and what perils lie ahead, without the freedom to live, as other countries do, in an independent nation moulded by our collective democratic will?

Like political prisoners, we are as misled as the inhabitants trapped in Plato’s cave. Undoubtedly, the silhouettes cast by Westminster do artfully inculcate the dominant policies of the season. But mere shadows of truth are not the truth. The only glimmer of hope has been the rise of the Scottish Parliament. Even it, however, has been shackled to serfdom with restricted powers, and is not at liberty to bring the progress that is specific to Scotland in a post-pandemic, Brexit-beleaguered nation. The philosopher David Hume stated that we cannot base our future on the assumption that the future will resemble past experiences. The pandemic has proved that much. Scotland therefore requires a new vision and a constitution that meets its needs.

Like a somnolent bear, we are distracted by an economic system that is designed to work against us; by sound-bites that drone at our ears to deceive us; by television programmes that dumb us down; by the powers-that-be that tell us what to believe and derisively ask us: “Why should Scotland be independent? You think that you are too small, too stupid to run your own country and you know that your democratic rights equal our own.” This is a falsehood. Citizens of Scotland have voted in scores of Westminster elections (and got Conservative governments that many here abhor) or in the Brexit referendum (and got hauled out of Europe). Our voices are drowned out by England’s 41-million stalwart voting population and, logically, always will be. Further, not enough has changed in terms of political authority since the Treaty of Union, given that out of an original 45 in 1707, a mere 59 (cut from 72 in 2007) Scottish MPs are representing us, set against an overall total of 650 MPs at Westminster. There is nothing proportionate about having our political will drowned out by a majority from another nation.

This disparity has become even more prevalent since the sharp decline of the Labour Party across the UK in recent years. As England becomes more right-wing, there is an observable divergence in party-political theory, ethics and civic will between England and Scotland, and hence they have drifted so far apart that the differences are irreconcilable. This deception of democratic equality perpetuates an unequal society, secures an elite, creates a false constitution and thus breaks with the most fundamental pact, the social contract – the accord that allows for the existence of government and society at all, in exchange that all persons are born equal by covenant and by right. Whereas the likes of David Hume directed as much sovereignty as possible to the individual, that concept alone is at odds with the requirement of government and the avoidance of the Hobbesian portent of a life that is nasty, brutish and short. Political conflict arises where the many estimate that they are not benefitting from the government that is in power. Without a fair balance between the state and its citizens, there can only be inequality, crime and political apathy. When these incidents occur, the state deteriorates. For any nation to flourish, it must surely possess the powers to enable its own progressive future. Yet, vital powers are reserved to Westminster, such as the constitution, defence and foreign policy, immigration, employment, social security and energy. These reserved powers are key to Scotland’s future success, and in the hands of a high-handed government in Westminster have too much potential to damage Scotland. We should not be happy to have such powers kept from us. No other democratic nation would tolerate it.

An exponent of the Enlightenment, Kant emphasised that enlightenment provides us with an escape from the supervision or control of another and that tenacity is required to take control of our own fate. Failing a political carpe diem, we Citizens of Scotland can only expect to live in the political shadowlands. It is a dangerous game to leave the last word on key Scottish political, economic and defence matters to another nation state whose primary focus can only be the promotion of self. The only logical act is to bring accountability closer to home. The obligation for a Scottish Parliament that possesses all the powers of state has never been so critical for the delivery of a fully fledged democracy.

Principally, Scotland has a master. If it is the case that only Westminster may decide whether we hold an independence referendum, then Scotland is further hindered in the exercise of its democratic rights. To be made a subject when there is renewed political will for change is surely the opposite of liberty. The right to hold a referendum allows for the right to choose self-determination. By refusing Scotland the choice, Westminster denies Scotland any consent in the matter from 2014 onward and effectively becomes the jailer. Rationally then, we should not accept the argument that freedom of choice is a generational event, any more than we would accept half a century to pass before we voted in a general election. The timing of referendums should be based on any serious concerns for shifting political, ethical and economic circumstance that affect the nation, together with the political will of the citizens of Scotland.

The punishment for denying ourselves full political participation is that we have ended up being governed by self-serving vassals in London. We have allowed ourselves to be subordinates to inferior legislators. Inferiority in this case stems from sufficient evidence of unethical political and economic theory and its inevitable covetous pursuits both at home and abroad – detrimental to a majority and beneficial to a capitalist minority. We are each a living witness to it all. At home in Scotland, given the pandemic, Brexit and the recent history of governmental discriminatory economic measures targeting vulnerable sectors of the population, there is an intensifying urgency to ask ourselves: What kind of country do we wish to live in? Rousseau asserted in The Social Contract that the state is only beneficial to its citizens when all possess something and none too much. The list of complaints is endless: moral bankruptcy and corruption at Westminster, an increase in the gap between the rich and poor, high crime rates, food banks, attempts to abolish the Human Rights Act, higher living costs set against low wages and the inevitable increase in mass debt – they all tell us that the state is failing vast swathes of the population that it is supposed to represent. A recent example of discriminatory actions has been the austerity measures imposed by the Conservative government from 2010 – deemed unnecessary for a rich country and associated with the restitution of a digitalised Dickensian workhouse and a blatant breach of human rights in a report by a prominent United Nations poverty expert (Mr Philip Alston). And we are expected to follow blindly?

On the matter of foreign policy, an independent Scotland would require its own armed forces and could mirror itself on how other nations of its size defend themselves, such as Ireland and Denmark. The forming of global alliances that have peace-keeping aims would not only be a safer option for Scotland but would be less expensive than the policies of a post-imperialist Britain intent on gratifying the ambitions of more powerful nations and tied up with the exploitation of other nations, flying in the face of international law. The billions saved – our taxpayers’ money – could then be spent for the benefit of all, rather than the few, and in this way give rise to a more egalitarian society.

On the economy. Plato stated that a good decision is based on knowledge and not numbers. In turn, Burns was right that Scotland should never be for sale: Bought and sold for English gold – Such a parcel of rogues in a nation. Economically, however, there will of course have to be adjustment to secure a sound future in an independent Scotland. But there is so much of that going on anyway at the present time, and it is not necessarily the case that Scotland would fare any worse than any other country coming out of the pandemic.

It seems economically naive and untenable to be governed by another nation and expect that other nation to put us first and foremost. Recent decades alone have shown us that bad economic policy from Westminster has impacted Scotland’s economy in the most unethical and ruthless of ways. Thatcherism, the flattening of industry, Blairite foreign policy, austerity and at least one recession per decade tell us that the current economic model does not work for Scotland. We require a new economic model that is not hostile to the citizens of this nation. There was thus never more a case for independence to protect the economic viability of Scotland. Brexit alone has compromised scores of trading partners and billions in the economy. The Conservatives gamble with the economy in all-or-nothing stakes against the perfect storm of Brexit and a pandemic. Also, given shifting global markets and outside pressures, no other country can prioritise or guarantee Scotland’s economic stability. By becoming independent, the economic downturn could quickly transform into a positive by our re-joining the EU, widening our trading partners, attracting investment and gaining control of immigration to attract workers. There are plenty of successful small countries in the world who adhere to similar policies.

The pandemic has shown that three million citizens in the UK were left to the mercies of the world with no economic support. And if others were lucky enough to get government support during the pandemic, then it was not out of generosity. It was out of fear of mass revolt. Westminster merely returned our taxes to us. Even the pandemic-related debt need not have been so great but for misalignment of billion-pound funds to defence contracts, cronyism and Covid contracts-for-the-boys. Those grasping the economic levers must be held to account. Scottish independence provides an opportunity to reassess the political, economic and environmental issues that matter to us all, and to aim high, rather than settle for the doctrine of unprincipled governance by another nation state.

On culture and identity. Scotland has long been defined as a nation with territory and a border. There have of course been different phases of identity and different feudal rivals, but Scotland has settled down to be a kingdom in its own right. It still looks upon itself as different from the other parts of the UK. Despite significant periods of oppression, Scotland has maintained a distinct identity, history, culture, language(s), law, education system and political outlook. Independence is merely a natural expression of its nationhood and would allow Scotland to map its own constitution in accordance with its principles and needs, to regain its potential and truly represent its character. Not to be confused with populism, Scottish nationalism is merely self-determination with a democratic aim. The days of political apathy are behind us, and there have been record numbers of voters registering in recent elections and referendums. These days we ask ourselves: What will we do with our freedom?

If, according to the Human Rights Act, “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, and no distinction shall be made on the basis of the country to which a person belongs,” then Scotland has been failed. Citizens, it is a deluded supposition that Scotland is a proper democracy. As Rousseau avowed, there is no subjection so perfect as that which keeps the appearance of freedom. We can tell a caged falcon that it is free, but if it is never liberated to soar then in its heart it knows that it is not free. No one understands more than the Scots the Platonic analysis of the worst kind of ruse: of all the deceptions is self-deception. We may quote the Bard, down the whisky, ceilidh-dance and run headlong toward the horizon of our freedom, but for now the political and economic fetters still cling at our ankles. We allow ourselves to be hauled back, dragging our faces in the dust and, as the poet Hugh MacDiarmid aptly put it, impale us on a thistle.