I was told the other day that Scottish independence is solely down to pride; told that we didn’t need independence, only wanted it because of some sort of psychological urge, the so called ‘Braveheart nationalism’ that is often a brush that we, as supporters of an independent Scottish state, are tarred with.
Having thought about it, it can be argued that yes, pride plays a significant part. But not the sort of pride that people often say that we are seeking. For me, it is the fact that I find it very difficult to take pride in the United Kingdom’s increasingly dysfunctional and unequal state.
This is a view that is being increasingly taken on board by many ‘unionists’. We have seen this recently in the press, notably through Kevin McKenna and Joyce McMillan, and with the increasing numbers in the Labour for Independence movement.
Even during a year when ‘Britishness’ was celebrated as being inclusive and modern, chiefly through the Olympics, it is not a feeling that is easy to obtain when the reality is remembered. The UK can have days in the sun every now and again – Mo Farah’s Olympic triumphs for example. He represented in himself all that Britain should be, but sadly all that it is not.
Behind this facade of unity and progression, 2012 brought us reminders of exactly why Scotland must gain its independence. We saw Johann Lamont tell us that Scotland is the only ‘something for nothing’ country in the world, and question the viability of universalism. We saw pledges from the Coalition Government to renew Trident. We’ve seen an exponential rise in the use of food banks, threats of a triple-dip recession, potential loss of the AAA credit rating, and have been left with an impossible choice between a neoliberal Labour or conservative Coalition as to who governs us from the out of touch Westminster parliament. This choice has brought with it entrenched and widening social divisions, as well as serving a very real threat to our membership of the EU. How can we find pride in a Disunited Kingdom facing rising inequality, being furthered by our political class through benefit changes and a 5% cut in the top rate of income tax.
Issues of social justice are ignored by Conservatives based on ideology, and ignored by Labour in attempts to regain ‘Middle England’. The growing consensus at Westminster against universalism has brought threats to the NHS and education. Without these, a society based on equality is impossible. And Scotland’s already independent public services cannot be protected forever, with every cut at Westminster impacting on the Scottish Government’s own budget.
Pride can play a part in the independence debate. If your belief in independence is dismissed by a reference to Braveheart, or being simply about ‘national pride’, ask the question ‘Are you proud of the United Kingdom?’. Remind them of the weapons of mass destruction being held less than thirty miles from our largest city, the illegal wars in far off lands, rising inequality, economic decline, and neoliberalism reigning supreme. Remind them of the food banks, bankers bonuses, benefit cuts and tuition fees.
Better Together have their slogan ‘UK OK’, but what independence can offer is so much more than just OK. Independence is the first step in building a nation that can truly respect and take pride in itself.
Do you want to be proud of a democratic, fair independent nation that we can build, or a mere region in a dying neoliberal empire that besieges the most vulnerable?