Thursday, April 26, 2007

Blast From The Past

Looking back through my recent blog posts, I've noticed to my discomfort that while I'm quick to criticise others for fighting a negative election campaign, I've not exactly been adding a huge amount here myself that's particularly positive.

All I can say in my defence is that it's a busy time just now. I've never made any bones about where my allegiances lie politically and there are some things which just shouldn't be allowed to pass unremarked. However, with any similar long-held allegiance comes the danger that you begin to obsess about the 'game', losing sight in the process of what it was that led to you holding these views in the first place.

To try and remedy this, at least in part, here's an article I wrote back in 2004 for 'The Flag In The Wind', the online offshoot of the 'Scots Independent' newspaper, explaining why I joined the SNP. The last paragraph, I think, still remains relevant, even though it does refer to an earlier set of elections. Fortunately, it looks like the SNP might be on course to do a little bit better this time round!

Why I joined the SNP - Flag In The Wind, May 2004

Anybody who joins the SNP does so for one reason above all others – to secure Independence for Scotland. But I think we can all point to different reasons why we decide to support Scottish Independence.

For me, I suppose it was a number of factors which just came together. I was the first in my family to go to University. When I went to study, it was a period just after the industrial turmoil of the Thatcher Years and the Poll Tax. The Iron Curtain had collapsed and all over Europe, historic nations had reunified or were emerging from the stifling power politics of the Cold War era. Amidst this, it was hard for me not to think, if Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia could do it, then why not Scotland?

At the previous election in 1992, Scottish voters had rejected Tory policies overwhelmingly, yet Tory Ian Lang was still returned as Secretary of State off the back of the Conservative victory in England. Not unreasonably, but against my developing beliefs, Labour increasingly saw moving to the right as the best way of beating the Tories in their heartlands. I saw how Labour’s George Robertson tried to play down the significance of the 20,000 who marched in Edinburgh in 1992 in favour of home rule at the European summit in December that year. I was also disgusted at how these dignified and respectable people were smeared by Mr Lang, as he accused them of disgracing themselves in front of the European leaders who had arrived for the summit.

Watching Scottish Questions at Westminster made me realise just how much of an old-boys club it really was. It didn’t really matter which of the 2 UK parties Scotland had voted for, because by and large that would be decided by the votes of our much larger neighbour to the south. It also didn’t matter who the Secretary of State was – with Scottish Ministers coming under scrutiny once every five weeks whenever Westminster happened to be sitting, the Scottish Office could obscure far more than was healthy – certainly more than was healthy for a department spending around £20bn of taxpayers money each year.

It seemed self-evident to me that Scotland was a prosperous country – yet all around there was ample evidence that not everybody shared in this. We were told by Conservatives and Labour that Scotland prospered under the Union – yet they argued simultaneously that somehow we were too poor, too small or too stupid to manage for ourselves. What was worse was the sheer number of fellow Scots who without a moment’s consideration were happy to accept this as gospel and parrot it endlessly to their fellow countrymen. In contrast, I found the belief of those who mounted the vigil for a Scottish Parliament on Calton Hill vigil inspiring and would often take detours in the car on my way home from work so I could ‘toot’ for Scotland and show my support.

For me, all of this made for a potent combination. It gave me a cast-iron belief that the best people to govern Scotland were those who had chosen to make their lives here. But what really hit home was that whatever we tried to achieve in Scotland for our people counted for nothing, unless we first had the power to do something about it. John Major and Malcolm Rifkind could talk all they liked about Scotland punching above her weight in the world as part of the UK. It counted for nothing if we weren’t even in the ring in the first place.

Recent figures show that Scotland is the 8th richest country in the industrialised world, yet it is a country where 1 in 3 Scottish children are growing up in poverty. A country where 600,000 adults have difficulty reading. A country where hundreds still sleep rough every night. A country where we still have fuel poverty amidst energy plenty. A country where has one of the lowest life expectancies in the western world. To my mind, the economic, social and moral imperative for Independence has never been greater.

Nearly 15 years on from the political revolutions in Eastern Europe which woke my interest in politics, many of those countries have just joined the European Union as member states in their own right. After all this time, I still find it hard to reconcile the way the Labour party rolls out the red carpet for these nations, nearly all smaller than Scotland, yet still tries to slam the door in the face of demands for Scotland to enjoy the same status.

Yes, we have a parliament now. But it’s only a job half done. Our politicians and civil servants are now much more accountable. But when it counts, as it does over the common fisheries policy, the war in Iraq or running the Scottish economy in our interests, we’re still the invisible nation.

On June 10th, we have another chance to start to change this when we vote in the European elections. These elections, of course, will include the new entrants to the European Union. A vote for the SNP can help to ensure we join those dining at the top table. A vote for any other party will continue to leave Scotland a bit like Banquo’s ghost – the phantom at the feast.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"The Obama Election"

Found this article interesting.... I hope the SNP isn't at risk of being left behind in the arms race :)