TOMORROW. What will it bring and can you do anything about it? Will you hang on to your way of life, maybe even increase your standard of living? Or does the future fill you with trepidation, doubt, or – in these times especially – despair? Don’t worry, I’m not going to pile on the gloom, nor will I promise “pie in the sky”. Instead, let’s think about a few questions.

Fight or flight. Humans are hard-wired to find short-term solutions and we like instant results so it’s hard for us to face problems that don’t have easy answers. Our “standard of living” doesn’t just depend on the economy. (There’s a cartoon of Greta Thunberg crossing out the word “economy” and substituting the word “planet” somewhere.) We take a lot of things for granted; things that make life bearable/comfortable/splendid. Clean water, pure air and the bins getting emptied so that rats don’t run riot in our neighbourhood. Global things and local.

Think for a minute about what’s really important to you and it’s probably not just the amount of money in your pocket. Of course we all need enough to live on. Listen to politicians and the media, and ask why do they go on about it so much? Do they think that’s all people care about? What puts money in our pockets? Jobs, business, investment? Where do these things come from and who makes decisions about them? What skills are needed and where do the skills come from? Before long we’re thinking about education and research and those employees will need a decent place to stay so housing is important too. Who owns the land we need to build on and how did they get it? The whole web of society is interconnected in ways not always visible.

Over several centuries the United Kingdom has developed systems and policies to work as a modern country but is it meeting the needs of its citizens in the 21st century? Read Nicholas Shaxson’s book, The Finance Curse, for details of how global finance, and particularly the City of London, rig the system and make laws so that daylight robbery is legal. Vince Cable, when business secretary, said London was a giant suction machine draining life out of the rest of the country and since then has anything changed?


Taxpayers will have to fund the £80 billion HS2 rail link regardless of where they live. (According to Sky News, the Department for Transport’s latest estimate is between £65bn and £88bn, but Lord Berkeley, former deputy chair of an independent review, says it could be as much as £107bn.) Every nation is unique but Scotland is gifted with tech-savvy Silicon Glen and blessed with scenic island communities. What other nation makes satellites and spins world-class wool?

The website Business for Scotland produces two versions of Scotland the Brief giving details about Scotland’s resources, exports, industries and a lot more. A four-minute quiz on the website tests how much you know about what Scotland offers. If you’re looking for a bit more depth then Common Weal – All Of Us First have a wide selection of policy papers and an inspiring section called Big Ideas. More well-researched information than you can shake a stick at – so little point in reproducing it here. Neither of these websites – and there are quite a few others – are aligned to a political party.

One of the most energising aspects of 2014 was the electric charge of grassroots organisations. The people of Scotland wanted to get involved and they wanted to see a different country. Caring and creative, entrepreneurial and enterprising, encouraging the arts, industry and science to produce that which will make us thrive. We want to care for our citizens from baby boxes to travel passes. (Anyone cooped up this past year knows how important it is not to feel isolated or unable to travel!) We scoop up our vulnerable and try to offset the harm Westminster is doing. How much more could we do if we governed ourselves?

Westminster doesn’t really “get” Scotland and hasn’t paid much attention when views up north differed from what the “majority” down south wanted. That’s why federalism wouldn’t work even if the fudged promises ever came true. How often has Scotland got the government it voted for over the past few decades? First-past-the-post elections have added inequality to the mix.

Over 60 countries have left the UK and none seem to have regretted it, though few had our resources, which unfortunately include a perfect place to house weapons of mass destruction. That’s why it’s going to be difficult to shake off the shackles of this unequal “partnership”.

In this era of burgeoning food banks and increasing child poverty, CND estimates our weapons of mass destruction are likely to cost £205bn. A lot will go to the USA for leasing the warheads and some is allocated for decommissioning, though that’s a slow process. Visit the Navy Lookout website for fascinating photos and information and count the number of times that one decommissioning process has been replaced with a new, safer way of working. Draw your own conclusions. Ask yourself why we’re spending money painting defunct submarines while the health service is starved of resources. Ever wondered where they’re going to store all that radioactive scrap metal? I hope they’re not going to dump it in the sea because we’ve got depleted uranium shells in the Solway Firth, radioactive particles in Dalgety Bay and robots clearing up pollution beside Dounray.

Billions to pay for weapons that will never be fired, or if they are, they’ll kill and poison for decades … assuming we don’t launch a nuclear holocaust in the process. 123 countries have signed the treaty banning nuclear weapons. Oh, that an independent Scotland was one of them! The Guardian reported in 2017 that electricity consumers would subsidise the cost of Trident through the expensive Hinkley Point C project where they’re building a reactor on a flood plain. (Don’t worry, they’re building a sea wall and it will definitely stop any disaster from happening. A bigger concern is sea creatures getting into the cooling filters and shutting down production – happened in South Korea and France. Do you know how long it takes for those reactors to cool down and then start up again?) Meanwhile Scotland has 25% of Europe’s offshore wind and tidal power and 40% of the UK’s. (I know this thanks to the Business for Scotland quiz!) An independent country could invest in this and export not just the energy, but also the expertise we’d acquire by developing our natural resources.

But what about the ties that bind? Families stretch across four nations, speak the same language and share the same currency. The Czech Republic dissolved its relationship with Slovakia. The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania left Mother Russia without anguish although relationships in these countries spread across borders. Perhaps some might look at how the UK Government have negotiated with the EU and assume it won’t be easy to come to an agreement about the future relationship. If you had a dishonest partner who kept changing their mind about the divorce settlement, would you think it was too difficult to go through with the whole process or would it make you eager to get it done?

Keeping promises is not something the UK Government is good at. They promised a triple lock on pensions and there are rumblings that Covid will provide an excuse to abandon that.

UK pension provision is currently one of the lowest in Europe and the timing of raising state pension age for women, supposed to be phased over 10 years, was reduced without consultation or concern for the hardship it would cause. Not surprising as the “broad shoulders of the UK” are ignoring the views of Scotland, ignoring farmers and fishermen and ignoring 98 reasons given by to remain in the EU. Co-operative research, travel, work and security all rejected as well as seamless trade. Would a government housed in Edinburgh be any different or would it be more accountable? At least we could debate a citizens’ assembly instead of an unelected House of Lords for a second chamber. We wouldn’t be funding more than 800 people with a job for life, paid £323 per day if they cross the threshold (or £162 if they join online) and we wouldn’t be subsidising their catering to the tune of £1.9 million either.

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It’s not about the politicians. They come and go. Sadly, some linger on (especially in the House of Lords!) but at least Scotland’s voting system is better than the UK’s. The real power in the land is the ingenuity and enthusiasm of the people. We value fairness and equality, we’ll protest to protect refugees, and start up charities to give food and basic necessities to pregnant mothers refused help by the UK Government. We won’t force women to state their third child is conceived by rape before giving help.

We’re sensible enough to know that our communities need new blood, no matter their country of origin. Our farmers and hospitality industry welcome seasonal workers too. We love to share this beautiful, resource-filled country with visitors and immigrants. Our own history is filled with wanderers who link us to communities worldwide. Swathes of our land are empty – cleared by…?

Landowners, some of whom did not even live there, who thought they knew better, knew how to make it productive, educated people who saw no value in ordinary working folk or community. Is history repeating itself?

Every time I do my laundry, bits of my elderly wicker basket snap off, five or six centimetres at a time, as it gradually reduces in size and sturdiness. It requires a judgement call – when should I replace it? It’s served me well over the years but nothing lasts forever. Maybe it’s time for something new before it falls apart completely.

An independent Scotland would not be abandoning the UK. It would model a different way and, if successful, could inspire others to care for their planet and communities in new ways. And why wouldn’t it be successful when you look at what the people have already achieved (Thank you, Business for Scotland for the info.) in spite of the restraints imposed by Westminster?

History teaches us that no nation governs its people wisely and well all of the time. Mistakes are made but small, agile nations, who respond to the needs of their citizens, can correct their course more quickly, and shape their policies to suit their population. They can form alliances with other like-minded countries. Iceland, for example, a country that jailed its bankers after the 2008 crash instead of letting them off. There’s something to be learned there. The Scandinavian and Baltic states show that co-operation is possible in multiple ways.

What might we achieve with our own broadcasting and a media not dominated by Unionist views? How might our universities thrive when we already have three in the top 100 in the world? A universal basic income and a four-day working week are only two ideas that have been suggested. What else might a citizens’ assembly suggest? Infrastructure that helps island communities and crofters? A constitution that confers dignity to all? The only limit is imagination and Scotland’s people have that in abundance.

This essay was published as part of our Yessay series – click here for more information. If you'd like to support The National in running more competitions like this, click here for information on how to support us with a digital subscription.