Here's why we should back our youth's vision of independent Scotland – The National

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Let’s think of Scotland’s next generation
Sovereign people
I WANT to make Scotland ours. I want to make Scotland fairer. I want to make Scotland greener. I want to make Scotland … What would you want to make Scotland? Currently, we cannot make Scotland what we want it to be because we do not control our future.
In 2014, nearly four million of us had an equal say in Scotland’s future – regardless of age, gender, ability, race or country of origin. Since then, the UK Government has ignored and undermined our Scottish Parliament. Scotland needs independence to regain our people’s sovereignty.
Scotland’s wealth
Scotland is “the only place in the world which has discovered oil and become poorer”. Norway’s publicly owned Statoil gave Norway a Sovereign Wealth Fund worth £180,000 for every Norwegian. In the UK, Britoil was set up in the 1970s and sold off in the 1980s. The UK’s publicly owned gas, electricity and telecom companies were privatised and have made some individuals very rich, but not Scotland’s people. Over the same period Scotland lost its heavy industries – its shipbuilding, mining and steel works – while the UK Government failed to invest in technological manufacture such as wind turbines.
Since independence, the Celtic Tiger of Ireland has taken the Irish Republic’s wealth per person from 44% under to 43% over the overall UK level. Supported by our worldwide Scottish diaspora, we could do the same for an independent Celtic Lion of Scotland over the next 20 years. Others would also invest in our well-educated English-speaking people, our communication systems, our close access to the rUK (rest of UK), our European connections and our reputation for quality products.
Scotland did not vote for the UK Government asset-stripping our natural resources. However, an independent Scotland would have a future opportunity to establish a Scottish Wealth Fund through our wind, tidal and wave renewable energy potential, building on our own Scottish Water experience.
Trading nation
Scotland’s exports are worth £85 billion, including nearly £50bn to the rest of the UK. Under the economic management and regulation of trade by the UK Government, Scotland’s scientific and technical exports have suffered significant decline. An impact assessment concluded that by 2030 Brexit could reduce Scotland’s wealth (GDP) by 6%. Scotland didn’t vote for that.
The National:
An independent Scotland, with a government in control of our trading relationships within the UK and with other countries, would deliver the benefits of leadership totally focused on improving our trading position and maximising our natural and human resources. Scotland not only has 25% of Europe‘s offshore wind and tidal resources, we also have water – lots of water – both for hydropower and providing natural irrigation for our forests, agricultural land, industries and domestic consumption. We also have vast territorial fishing grounds. We have our great global reputation for the quality of our food and drink and huge potential to reform land ownership and deliver a substantial extension of food production.
Scotland continues to have solid foundations for export growth, building on its positive current performance in the provision of educational, financial and insurance services, and its history and continuing good relationship with Europe, the USA and Commonwealth countries. In 2017, Scotland’s international exports outside the UK rose 3.4% by £1.1bn, taking our external exports to £33.8bn. Through independence, Scotland has a chance to avoid the UK’s projected one-third reduction in exports to the EU over the next 10 years and an opportunity to establish direct routes for trade across the North Sea to continental markets.
The strength of Scotland’s scientific, engineering and technical capability, if matched with the manufacture of associated goods, would enhance our trading potential. Our UK market achievements can be grown within the UK and abroad for our high-quality seafoods and agricultural produce, and our landscape and hospitality continue to increasingly attract visitors from within the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.
A fairer Scotland
We have benefited from publicly provided NHS, care and education services for 75 years, but the welfare state has been undermined for the past 40 years. Hospitals in England and both care homes and care at home across the UK has been privatised, with care workers, mostly women, losing out in pay and conditions. Following the 2008 banking crash, we needed a new approach to financial services but the UK Government privatised our post offices and imposed austerity policies, which have left adults and children hungry. Following a tripling of need, food banks in Scotland gave out nearly a quarter of a million food parcels last year. We didn’t vote for that.
The National:
More than one in 10 people over the age of 65 in the UK live in relative poverty. The UK Government allocates a smaller proportion of the national wealth to national retirement pensions than other countries, with the UK coming 23rd out of 25 European nations in GDP spend on pensions. Within the OECD countries across the world, the UK also comes second last just above last-place Mexico in the level of pension guaranteed by compulsory schemes compared with previous earnings. We didn’t vote for that either.
Britain has the worst inequality in Western Europe, and a 2016 report by Oxfam showed that the wealth of Britain’s top 1% was worth 20 times the wealth of the poorest fifth. The ownership of UK land is also the most inequitable in the developed world with half of Scottish land owned by around 500 people, most of them from outside this country. Scottish independence should not just be about making Scotland fairer. It should also be about Scotland playing its part in creating a more equal world by gaining control of its own foreign aid. This would mean reversing the aid cuts proposed by the Westminster government. We did not vote to be part of a UK cutting £100 million from malnutrition programmes to reduce world hunger, cutting budgets of organisations fighting malaria, polio and Aids, and reducing funding for the school education of millions of girls.
An independent Scotland would have the choice and power to do things differently on all these issues.
Greener Country
While the UK Government claims to be a climate leader, many of its policies are taking us in the opposite direction. The Westminster Public Accounts Committee says UK Government ministers have “no plan” to meet climate change targets. By contrast, Scotland has some of the world’s most ambitious and legally binding climate targets and met 90.1% of its electricity consumption from renewables in 2019. The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) says that Scotland’s renewable energy potential is several times greater than its total domestic needs for electricity, heat, transport and everything else. Scotland needs independence to achieve its own Green New Deal to meet our climate change targets and sell green energy across the UK and Europe.
Caring Community
Scotland is a caring country where families, neighbours and communities mostly work hard to care for one another. Over recent decades, childcare services, replacement of long-stay hospitals by supported housing for disabled adults, and community care for older people have all developed substantially.
However, population changes are going to significantly impact the next period. Over the next 25 years, the number of people aged 75 to 84 is projected to rise by 61% and those aged 85 or over by 87%. During the same period, the population of working adults aged 16 to 64 is projected to fall by 3.9%, lowering tax income at a time when public services will need extra expenditure, and reducing the availability of people to staff the health and care workforce. We need Scottish independence to secure the additional staffing and the funding of around £5,750 bn. (£250 million each year) required to maintain health and social care services at their current levels to 2045.
Welcoming New Scots
During the past 50 years of Westminster management, the population of England has risen more than 30% but the Scottish population by only 5%. Scotland compensated for that by welcoming seasonal workers and permanent immigrants from Europe and elsewhere, together with people moving to live in Scotland from the rest of the UK, and the health of the Scottish economy has partly depended on these arrivals.
The UK Government is now closing Scottish doors to incomers, other than for restricted categories of workers or wealthy people. Following Brexit, the loss of free movement of Europeans is already causing damage in Scotland to our care, tourism and hospitality industry, and to food businesses, with vegetables and fruit unpicked and rotting in the fields and orchards. We didn’t vote for that.
The National:
In addition, against the projected reduction of 4% in the population aged 16 to 64, the rising number of very old people in Scotland will need an additional 50,000 full-time healthcare staff and 36,000 social care workers over the next 25 years. Scottish independence is needed to secure the additional 20,000 immigrants required annually to sustain our adult population of working and taxpaying age .
As an independent country, Scotland would benefit from choosing our own arrangements, not only for international trade, but also for immigration, free movement of labour within Europe and continuing the Common Travel Area across Britain and Ireland.
Bridges not Walls
The Scottish Parliament and Government has moved on from the Labour days of the “dodgy dossier” falsely claiming weapons of mass destruction and used to justify the war in Iraq and its death toll of perhaps around half a million adults and children. However, the UK Government is clearly struggling to understand that Britain is no longer a colonial power and to leave behind the 19th-century habit of sending gunboats out to threaten foreign foes, as the UK Government did recently in the Black Sea.
But Scotland continues to accommodate the UK’s weapons of mass destruction near neighbouring homes and one hour’s drive from Scotland’s biggest city, and we are making a huge tax contribution to the £10bn expenditure on Trident missile development by 2025. Becoming independent would provide an opportunity to save our part of the remaining £172bn UK Trident replacement costs . The two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War were each about 15 kilotons. The UK Government is now proposing to increase the UK’s nuclear firepower by 80 new warheads from 18,000 to 26,000 kilotons . We didn’t vote for that.
The National:
An independent Scotland could transform Faslane from its current role as the base for submarines carrying Trident nuclear missiles to become the home port of the Scottish Navy, with a role in fisheries protection perhaps alongside functions supporting offshore renewable resources. An independent Scotland could have a different place in the world.
UK Partnership
In both recent UK and Scottish elections, the majority vote was for parties proposing a review of the UK constitutional arrangements through an independence referendum. Any referendum agreement by the UK Government will include spoiling tactics, such as a “devo-max” option retaining Westminster powers over the UK’s constitutional arrangements, defence and foreign affairs.
But we have, over many years, witnessed UK governments disregarding the existing devolutionary arrangements, ignoring the Scottish Government and undermining the Scottish Parliament. Surely we want to avoid having our international trading, regulatory arrangements, immigration, border control and various economic matters classified as UK foreign affairs; to avoid the massive waste in UK defence procurement, including the £6bn expenditure on two aircraft carriers with no suitable aircraft to park on them , to avoid illegal foreign wars and our European neighbours increasingly antagonised; and to avoid all of the other Westminster mismanagement that has been apparent for decades. So, devo-max should not be agreed as a potential referendum option.
However, the other nations of the UK are Scotland’s nearest neighbours and our biggest trading partners. We all inhabit the British Isles and will continue to be British, with huge family, institutional and commercial ties. Therefore, whilst a federal system leaving Westminster with ultimate power and control over certain aspects of Scottish government would be inappropriate, a new kind of British Isles Federation will be desirable, with a British Council in which Scotland participates as an independent state, alongside any other European or global international partnerships that an independent Scotland may wish to join.
Winds of change
The aftermath of the Second World War brought in the welfare state and the 1950s brought the “winds of change” with the end of the British Empire and independence for many former colonies. The change winds are blowing again to bring about an independent Scotland within a new commonwealth of Britain, and within a post-pandemic Europe and world.
A recent OECD report praised Scottish school students for their tolerance and ability to act for general wellbeing and relate well to people from other countries. The report said they were among the top performers in the 21st-century abilities but have lower life satisfaction than pupils from elsewhere. The hopes and aspirations of younger people need supporting. Our young people will be the generation to take Scotland forward into the future. A large majority of them want their future to be created from an independent Scotland. We should support their vision and choose independence for Scotland.
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.
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