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.


Add Your Comment
  • John Tulloch

    • September 11th, 2014 8:54

    Dear Santa, I forgot to ask above for six automatic weapons and twenty rolls of caps, and……..

    I see your fantasy is based on Shetland’s wealth.

    What do you say to Shetlanders who worry that leaving the UK and its EU Common Fisheries Policy quota derogation will destroy Shetland’s £300+million pa fishing industry?

  • Johan Adamson

    • September 11th, 2014 9:52

    I would like to add that companies such as Standard Life, John Lewis and RBS belong to members, staff and us respectively. It is inconceivable that they would no longer want to trade in an independent Scotland where they can make huge profits, and even if they did, there would be others willing to take their place. They wouldn’t leave oil rich Dubai, so why leave here? Another attempt at scare-mongering.

    • John Tulloch

      • September 11th, 2014 14:35

      I’m sure the companies you list won’t leave Scotland. But those companies that have Scottish head offices, may well shift them south, with thousands of jobs, unless the government cuts corporation tax.

      Of course, cutting corporation tax could hardly be considered a left wing, wealth re-distributive policy?

      • Johan Adamson

        • September 11th, 2014 15:48

        Yes there is an international problem with companies moving profits to the best tax regime, but this is not a new thing or a consequence of independence

      • John Tulloch

        • September 11th, 2014 21:38

        Whether or not companies moving profits to the best tax regime is a consequence of independence would surely depend on the tax regime adopted by the new, independent government?

        A left wing government wouLd be highly likely to raise/maintain corporation tax to/at a higher level than that in the right wing-governed rUK, would they not?

        And we are insisting we don’t want any more Tory governments or policies, are we not?

        And anyone who has a choice i.e. corporations and the rich, will likely arrange to pay their taxes in the country where they will pay the least?

        So there will be a lower tax take from corporations and the rich, therefore, all the additional, much-vaunted, social policies will be paid for from additional taxes on the population, will they not?

      • Johan Adamson

        • September 12th, 2014 11:34

        I believe that the tax paid will bear a relationship to ecomomic activity by the company here. So if they trade here, they will pay tax here. And it will be up to other companies world wide to not start a competition with this lest they lose all their businesses.

    • Paul Forester

      • September 16th, 2014 7:53

      I”m an owner of Standard Life and live in England…….it belongs to all of its policy holders and shareholders. NOT Scots alone. Grow up, get real and more importantly wake up to the lunacy of making yourselves, bankrupt, defenceless and facing a bigger ‘highland clearing’ than ever seen before!

  • Ali Inkster

    • September 11th, 2014 13:07

    Johan the vast majority of those customers are in rUK so they will as the saying goes follow the money, not by choice but by EU statute. Not scaremongering as Eck would have you believe but a plain statement of fact.

    • Johan Adamson

      • September 11th, 2014 15:47

      I am sure companies trade in Norway too? It’s got oil money and is non EU. If they are going to follow the money then they will stay.

  • Kevin Learmonth

    • September 12th, 2014 17:22

    In the event of a YES vote, the next Scottish government – whoever that may be – will have a mandate to join or leave the EU.
    If we vote NO the decision on the EU will be ultimately be decided by English voters, regardless of the needs of Shetland or Scotland, and regardless of voters in Shetland or Scotland.


    • September 17th, 2014 21:03

    Norway again, I’m sure most, if not all Shetlands Know that Norway is 5 times bigger that Scotland and over twice the size of the entire UK and has the 5 times the resources, but also some of the highest taxes in Europe.

  • David Spence

    • September 18th, 2014 0:45

    Yes Robert, but Norway also has £880 billion in its coffers, where we in Britain (due to a capitalist short term thinking mentality) are £1.6 trillion in debt. and before you hark on about the previous Labour Government borrowing too much, which we have been spoon-fed by this vile Tory Government, which has, allegedly, caused the crisis (71% of the crisis was caused by the greedy banks themselves) this vile Tory Government has borrowed more than the previous Labour Government (I believe around £360 billion, where the Labour Government was around £270 billion).

    Another thing Robert to take into consideration, is people salaries/wages are also in proportion to their taxes and other expenditure…………….oh, and by the way Robert, Norway as well as the other Scandinavian countries, have the highest standard of living in Europe than any other country……………strange eh? It is amazing what paying taxes can do if everybody is better off as a consequence………unlike the USA, where greed, profits and selfishness are the main priorities………….and their infrastructure(s) are well behind Europe in every category, due to investing in your own industry bites into your profits………as said……capitalists are short term thinkers, and their vision is very, very narrow and detrimental to society as a whole.

    • Ali Inkster

      • September 18th, 2014 9:13

      funny how the bastion of social justice Sweden has just elected the far right to 50 seats in its parliament. it would seem that even in Scandinavia folk are getting fed up with the political left,

  • Raymond Smith, Kirkwall

    • September 18th, 2014 2:03

    The only tax figure mentioned in the wish list was a reduction/pledge to undercut the rest of uk on business rates on a yes vote. Personal taxes will have to rise by a huge amont to cover this shortfall. Why vote for more personal tax???? Vote no and maintain the security that we have now.

  • John Tulloch

    • September 18th, 2014 9:12


    You wrote above: “…this vile Tory Government has borrowed more than the previous Labour Government (I believe around £360 billion, where the Labour Government was around £270 billion).”

    They haven’t been following Tory policies, then, if they’re spending and borrowing more than Labour did?

    What if they were enforcing genuine austerity and “balancing the books”, where would our social and welfare services be, then?

    Economic sails must be trimmed to suit the prevailing economic weather,

    Alex Salmond, disingenuously, boasted that John Swinney had consistently “balanced the books”while Osborne is piling up debt, knowing full well that Swinney is not allowed to borrow and that Osborne’s borrowing was funding the money received by Scotland.

    Vote No to protect Shetland’s interests/.

  • Clive Munro

    • September 18th, 2014 10:05

    Actually, Ali, Sweden has just, narrowly, rejected eight years of centre-right government in favour of a moderate centre-left one. According to the Guardian, “Sweden’s centre-left leader, Stefan Lofven, emerged as victor in Sunday’s general election after a voter backlash against tax cuts and trimmed welfare by a centre-right government, but he fell short of a parliamentary majority”. The anti-immigrant far right did make substantial gains but the overall result in no way suggests, as you do, that “even in Scandinavia folk are getting fed up with the political left”. As far as I can see the majority have tried a dose of austerity and decided they didn’t like it all that much.

    • John Tulloch

      • September 18th, 2014 10:31

      What do you mean by “austerity,” Clive, “balancing the books”?

      “Borrow, borrow, pay ageen is aa’ da sorrow!”

    • Ali Inkster

      • September 18th, 2014 12:10

      I would say it was more to do with the political rights vote being split by a swing to the far right.

  • Clive Munro

    • September 18th, 2014 11:36

    John, relax please, I was merely commenting on what I perceived to be a misleading interpretation, by Ali, of the Swedish general election results. I also merely used the word “austerity” because It cropped up regularly in the reports I’d read on the subject.

    • Brian Smith

      • September 18th, 2014 13:17

      It’s the UKIP line, Clive.

    • John Tulloch

      • September 18th, 2014 14:32

      Clive, Brian,

      “Money dusna grow on trees.”

      If you or I borrow money, we have to service the interest on it and preferably, pay it back, too.

      Unless somebody else pays it for us, we have less to spend until we’ve paid it back.

      i.e. We experience “austerity”.

      Nations and/or states are not exempt from this.

      It has nothing to do with UKIP, it’s just a basic law of economics.

      And not even the Yes campaign’s unbridled optimism will be able to relieve us from this thoroughly disagreeable fact of life.

  • Clive Munro

    • September 18th, 2014 15:13

    Ali, unless the total number of votes cast for parties to the right of Sweden’s political spectrum had increased, which it didn’t, then I don’t see how you can use the recent election results to claim that Swedes, never mind Scandinavians, are “getting fed up with the political left”. Did you mean that some Swedes, who were already a bit fed up with the political left, are now very fed up indeed?


Add Your Comment

Please note, it is the policy of The Shetland Times to publish comments and letters from named individuals only. Both forename and surname are required.

Comments are moderated. Contributors must observe normal standards of decency and tolerance for the opinions of others.

The views expressed are those of contributors and not of The Shetland Times.

The Shetland Times reserves the right to decline or remove any contribution without notice or stating reason.

Comments are limited to 200 words but please email longer articles or letters to editorial@shetlandtimes.co.uk for consideration and include a daytime telephone number and your address. If emailing information in confidence please put "Not for publication" in both the subject line and at the top of the main message.

200 words left

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Get Latest News in Your Inbox

Join the The Shetland Times mailing list to get one daily email update at midday on what's happening in Shetland.