Why are we not better off now?
Robbie McGregor is a pharmacist who has retired to Shetland to be with his family. Until recently he was managing director of a chain of pharmacies in the Lothian area.
If we are “better together” why are we not better now? Why is it in a rich country we have families and pensioners dependant on food banks or having to choose between heating their homes or putting food on the table?
An end of term report on the no campaign is that it has failed miserably to deliver any kind of positive argument and not enough to turn down the opportunity of being an independent country.
Apparently we are to be offered a “timetable” for any new powers coming to Holyrood after a no vote. It is telling that when pressed the leaders of the Liberal Democrat, Tory and Labour parties have failed to spell out any one power.
It is also telling that this timetable is announced within a week of polling day, after hundreds of thousands of people have already voted by post and only months since we were first told of the limited powers after a no vote. The offer lacks credibility and smacks of total desperation.
The latest scare story that Tesco will put up its prices in the event of a yes vote has provoked a furious reply from Tesco, absolutely refuting this story. People in Shetland have more sense than to listen to story after story which is fundamentally flawed.
The Labour leader has announced that he will put armed guards on the border and some no campaigners are advising Polish residents in Scotland that they will have to leave in the event of a yes vote. What absolute nonsense.
In reply to the piece in last week’s paper on European history, the historical happenings of mainland Europe in the 20th century have no relevance to the inclusive society we will have in an independent Scotland.
I have always been a passionate advocate of the press in this country but have read the nonsense published in the national newspapers over recent months with a mixture of amusement and, sometimes, anger. The fact that only one paper has supported independence is to say the least strange. The national newspapers on Monday all went with the line “10 days to save the union” – no mention of what would be best for Shetland or Scotland.
I wish to remain positive and offer readers an alternative to what was said last week.
The three main reasons why people should vote yes on the 18th are to make Scotland a fairer and more prosperous country; protect the Scottish National Health Service from privatisation; and to ensure that we elect the government we voted for.
Scotland is a wealthy country and would be one of the richest in the world after independence. We have at least 60 per cent of all the oil reserves in Europe, before the scale of the new field off the west of Shetland is considered; massive potential in renewable energy, five of the top 200 universities in the world and we pay our way in the world, unlike the rest of the UK which has not had a trade surplus in over 30 years.
Too many people living in Scotland don’t benefit from that wealth. Over 200,000 children, 16 per cent of our pensioners, 15 per cent of the people in work and most of our disabled community are living on the breadline. This is because of low wages, having the lowest pensions in Europe and welfare reforms/cuts being imposed from London.
Scotland does not have to be like this – with independence we can change all that. With control over all our own purse strings we could significantly increase employment in Scotland and generate greater wealth for our society.
For example we could use the vast new oil discoveries off our west coast to create thousands of new well-paid engineering jobs. We could redesign our tax system to help grow local small and medium-sized businesses. We could dramatically increase our exports overseas, which alone would create up to another 100,000 jobs in Scotland.
We can’t do any of this if stay as we are, with the purse strings still controlled from London. If we vote no then Scotland’s health service will also be under threat.
The huge new cuts being promised by both Labour and the Tories after the next UK election will devastate the health service. The privatisation of the English health service will lead to even more cuts in Scotland, as our health budget is calculated as a percentage of the English health budget.
In England they are now considering charges for patients for visiting your GP or for attending a hospital outpatient appointment. Thousands of people marched from the north of England to London last week to protest against NHS cuts. The Scottish Parliament can only protect our NHS for so long as it only has operational control but control of the budget.
The rise of Ukip south of the border and the in/out referendum on Europe in a few years time is a huge risk to our fishermen and our farmers. We cannot risk being part of a UK where Ukip is on the march and could form a coalition with the Tories in London next year.
We are already being let down by poor Westminster representation of our interests in Europe. At present our MSPs in Holyrood have to ask permission of Westminster just to attend European negotiations, and we are reliant on them to get a fair deal for us.
Our farmers currently receive the lowest single farm payment rates in Europe at €128 per hectare, compared to €403 in Holland, €363 in Italy, €298 in Germany and €261 in Ireland. After independence we will have our own seat at the negotiating table and we can get a better deal for our farmers and fishermen.
What is the alternative to the union? All the scare stories have now reaped the fruits of their inaccuracies and every day more and more people are seeing the logic behind independence.
We will have a government elected by the people of Scotland which will look after all sections of society and not just the narrow interests of the current UK government.
We are potentially the 14th richest country in the world – in fact other sources suggest that we may even rank higher – and yet we still have poverty. The prophets of gloom suggest that the oil will run out soon. Derek Blackwood, former president of the Wood Group in America, has highlighted a report that says there are at least 21 billion barrels of oil under the North Sea. This figure has the effect of doubling Scotland’s reserves.
Major concerns have been expressed by the no campaign that we will not be able to get into Europe, but it may be the only way to guarantee continuing membership. Ukip pressure will make David Cameron hold an in/out referendum to take the country out of Europe.
There has been much speculation surrounding three vital areas in an independent Scotland. These areas are the pound, Trident and EU membership.
As we speak the Bank of England and the Treasury will no doubt be in discussion to find a solution to the currency situation despite UK politicians assertions to the contrary. It will be in no-one’s interest not to find a mutually advantageous solution allowing Scotland to continue using the pound. If they do not an independent Scotland can and will use the pound anyway as there is precedent for this course of action in many other countries.
The presence of weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde can no longer be tolerated. There is no place for such weapons in an independent Scotland.
The EU will not refuse us entry as we are already members. It is again inconceivable that a working solution will not be found for this issue. If not Norway seems to manage well without being a member. It is also worthy of note that Norway has a huge oil fund which will support services in Norway long after or if the oil runs out.
Scotland will be an inclusive society which actively seeks people of different cultures and race to come to this country.
We all have a big decision to make on the 18th. This is a referendum, it is not a vote for a party, leader or ideology. This vote is about competing visions for our country and our people. We have to contrast the competing visions on offer before we vote. On that basis, it is clear to me that the only way to protect the public services that matter, to get the government we vote for and to utilise our resources for the benefit of the people is to vote yes.