Jalal Abukhater (Writer): Scottish Independence Is About Empowering The People

As I left Palestine to study in Scotland, I felt that I have left one of the most politically interesting regions in the world to arrive at yet another. In less than 18 months, people in Scotland will be heading to polling stations to decide on the future of their country – whether to stay in the union or become an independent entity that determines the future of its own people. As I arrived here I had a shallow idea of what the question of Scottish independence meant for the people of Scotland, but today I find myself in a position fully supporting the notion of Scotland becoming an independent nation. I have been lucky enough to visit many places and meet many great people who have helped me learn and understand; today I decided to share with you my perspective as a Palestinian and an internationalist who wasn’t born in Scotland, but supports a ‘Yes’ vote during the Independence referendum in September 2014.

Scotland has been a place that I’ve been quite fond of for a while before I even arrived: it is one of the most beautiful and scenic countries in the whole Northern Hemisphere, its historic and cultural richness attracts tourists from all over the world, it still holds on to impressive traditions that have been preserved for centuries. A personal favourite is when Israeli Ambassador to the UK and other Israeli diplomats described Scotland as “Enemy territory” – that is due to great efforts by Palestine solidarity groups like the Scottish PSC, Scottish Jews for Just Peace, We Are All Hannah Shalabi student network, and many others who refuse to be silent and brand injustice as normal. Being too fond of Scotland is not the reason that makes me support independence, it is a reason that makes me care more for Scotland and strive for what people here see brings a better future for their country. It is important to highlight as well that support for independence here doesn’t stem at all from an ethno-centric form of isolationist nationalism. It has nothing to do with a Braveheart themed nationalism, it is a form of social contemporary nationalism which spurs from a desire to create a fairer country that embraces everyone, and looks towards the world as a partner in this already globalized world.

When I first shared my views on Scottish Independence with my dad, he asked “Why are you not pro-unity? Isn’t there strength in unity?” This sentiment is what I’ve heard from many who see weakness in an independent Scottish State. But this is not what independence is about; an independent Scotland is an idea that offers a real hope for a better future for Scotland; a smaller country that cares for its people, as well as being a better citizen of the world. Today, the Scottish voice is often marginalized by a centralized government based in London. Scotland has laws and welfare reforms being imposed upon them from Westminster: an example is the Bedroom Tax being imposed upon Scotland even though 91% of Scottish MPs opposed it. For 35 years of the past 50 years, the Scots have had a Conservative government even though they haven’t voted for it.  An independent Scotland would have a fairer representation of people, and it would give the Scottish a voice to determine their own policies on the domestic and international arena. It is about empowering the people to make the decisions which determine their fate.

Many argue that Scotland wouldn’t be economically viable on its own, which is a big myth that is often used as a scaremongering tactic to push the Scots away from the idea of independence. Sarah Glynn, my fellow campaigner for Radical Independence (RIC) in Dundee and a member of Scottish Jews for Just Peace said in a speech she made during RIC campaign launch: “You have probably heard that we receive more than our share of government spending – 9.3% when we have 8.4% of the population – but what you hear less often is that we contribute 9.9% of UK taxation.” Sarah continued on highlighting how the UK today is dragging Scotland back economically and hindering its potential for growth, saying: “Scotland also has a much smaller budget deficit than the rest of the UK. We also have huge natural resources in oil reserves and potential for green energy. If Scotland was able to invest in developing things like council housing, sustainable energy and public transport, then our economy would be a lot healthier.” Sarah’s vision is shared by many who hope to see a better future through independence.

On a global scale, I tend to see Scottish independence to be a positive force affecting the whole world. Big change always starts with considerably smaller steps. Other important aspects of Scottish independence are better foreign policy, Weapons of Mass Destruction disarmament, and hindering efforts to wage illegal wars like the invasion of Iraq in 2003. We can’t strictly say that Scottish independence is a continuation of the 20th century fight against Western imperialism, as Scotland historically has been a major benefiting partner in the British Empire; but we can say Scottish independence provides a window to counter forms of neo-imperialism and gives Scotland a chance to become a positive citizen of the world. Independence provides Scots with a chance to make their government’s foreign policy live up to what they want and see as acceptable, rather than being dragged around by a Westminster foreign policy which has largely been influenced by the US and is deemed unacceptable by most Scots.

I was lucky enough to have Dr John MacDonald, a political commentator and academic who is currently lecturing at the University of Glasgow, to be my politics lecturer during the first semester at the University of Dundee. Dr John provided me with insight on how he sees a potential independent Scottish state to influence positive energy beyond its borders. I have had the chance to have a few conversation s with John on Scottish independence and how it can be viewed as an international cause. He tells me about how Downing Street’s approach to international politics rubs abrasively against what many Scots want, or think is acceptable. We discussed the British nuclear submarine fleet, Trident, housed at naval bases near Scotland’s largest population centre, Glasgow. Trident, an unnecessary stockpile of WMD, is set to receive massive amounts of funds, estimated to be about £130 billion, to be renewed, while health, education, pensions, and disability benefits are being slashed by Westminster. Recent opinion polls suggest that up to 80% of Scots are opposed to their country’s hosting of nuclear weapons. John believes a Yes vote in next year’s referendum will not only be beneficial to scots who will eradicate those illegal WMD from their soil. But it also serves a far wider good. John said that there are grave questions over the UK government’s capability to store Trident missiles as there are no other suitable sites to host the weapons and the cost to build one could be prohibitively high, therefore pushing  the UK, however reluctantly, to give up the missiles. Dr John Macdonald concluded the conversation saying: “A Yes vote will cement Scotland’s status as a Nuclear-Weapons-Free-Zone and perhaps be the catalyst to dismantling the Anglo-American nuclear status quo.  Scotland’s willingness to say ‘Yes’ will have positive implications well beyond Scotland’s borders.”

An independent Scotland isn’t about dividing a nation; it is about empowering the people and seeking a better future for people on both sides of the borders. Political parties like the Labour Party have endorsed the “Better Together” pro-union campaign, against independence mostly out of concern that by losing Scotland, the Labour party will be doomed to deal with a dominant Conservative party in the rest of Britain, seeing as the Scottish haven’t voted for a Conservative government in decades. However, as statistics have shown, Scottish voters have had no impact on British General Elections for 62 of the last 67 years since World War II. So far, the Better Together pro-union campaign relies more on economic scaremongering propaganda rather than factual explanations of what a future Scotland would mean to those living in Scotland and elsewhere. Better Together glorifies the UK armed forces as “The Best in the World”  while many pro-independence campaigners call for pacifism, anti-military intervention, nuclear-free-zones, and against waging illegal wars in foreign territories.  Perhaps Scottish Independence could influence the rest of Britain to pursue a more moral foreign policy, and perhaps stop dealing weapons to despotic Arab Gulf states or Asian states (I.e. Sri Lanka) accused of extensive human rights violations.  For such thing to take place, the current status-quo must be broken, and a ‘Yes’ vote on the Independence Referendum is the most clear path to this.

Even though the current Scottish Government has been able to slightly lighten the damage Westminster governments have had on Scotland, an independent Scotland would mean a better future for everyone living in Scotland is possible, it even provides spark of hope for those living beyond its borders. Independence means better representation, it means giving the people a voice and the ability to act on the international field as they deem acceptable. People in Scotland don’t deserve to suffer the damages of a government they didn’t choose, and they don’t deserve to have their international political policies completely dominated by Westminster. An Independent Scotland is also better for the rest of the UK; it means more cooperation and trade on every important aspect, the two countries as partners are better than one centralized government having an unfair dominance over the other.   A smaller country, an empowered people, and larger connections with countries all over the world is certainly a future that could be possible with a ‘Yes’ vote on the 2014 referendum.

Jalal Abukhater
electronicintifada.net
@JalalAK_jojo

National Collective 

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About Jalal Abukhater

Jalal Abukhater is an 18-year old Palestinian from Jerusalem. Jalal is a first year student at the University of Dundee, Scotland; studying Politics and International Relations.

There are 10 comments

  1. Richard Cain

    Always good to hear from someone with a fresh view point.
    “Oh, wad some pooer the giftie gie us, tae see oorsels as ithers see us!”

  2. E K

    I give credit to the Scots for living peacefully with the English. On the other hand, it is important to remember that the Muslims currently living in Palestine are the descendants of those who invaded Jewish land. At the time, though it was many centuries ago, they were foreign invaders. Today Palestinians are considered indigenous to Israel for the simple fact that they were born there, despite the fact that the they carry this legacy. Jewish Israelis have also been born on that land. By that logic, they should be considered indigenous as well. Those who disagree, see it as preposterous ‘how can you say Jewish Israelis are indigenous when there parents and grandparents came from Europe?’ My answer is ‘how much time does it take to wipe away the legacy of being a descendant of a ‘foreign invader?’ A legitimate question that no one is asking. If the answer is ‘never’ than the Palestinians can use their last names to go find their original countries of origin. Are you an Al-Masri living in Gaza? Then go back to Egypt, etc. People of Scotland had a distinct identity and culture before the ‘union’ whereas Palestinian nationalism and identity was created to run counter to the influx of Jews. There was never any mention of ‘Palestinians’ beforehand, only by the Roman emperor who named the land many years before Hamas and other jihadists ruled it.

    1. Jules Leaño-Gay

      Can a Palestinian person not write anything on the internet, be it about Palestine or not (like this article) and have someone in the comments section try and justify why Palestine shouldn’t exist, etc? I hardly think there’s any equation between the situation between Scotland/England and Israel/Palestine, and Jalal hasn’t tried to make one.

      Anyway, being Scottish isn’t about being an indigenous Scot. My dad is English born, my mother from the Philippines but I am a Scot and the only people that would argue otherwise are supporters of the BNP. Scotland is a country made up of many heritages. If I woke up tomorrow and my street was only made up of ethnic Scots, it wouldn’t be the same beautiful, vibrant country that I love. We had a distinct identity, but it’s changed over the years to have another, just as distinct identity. We’re not all descended from clans, but a myriad of people from different ethnicities, religions and backgrounds.

      1. E K

        ‘Can a Palestinian person not write anything on the internet, be it about Palestine or not (like this article) and have someone in the comments section try and justify why Palestine shouldn’t exist, etc?’

        I can only speak for myself and no other writers on the Internet. As far as this author tries to draw similarities, I can discuss both topics in one posting.

        ‘If I woke up tomorrow and my street was only made up of ethnic Scots, it wouldn’t be the same beautiful, vibrant country that I love. We had a distinct identity, but it’s changed over the years to have another, just as distinct identity. We’re not all descended from clans, but a myriad of people from different ethnicities, religions and backgrounds.”

        I agree with you on that point. Unfortunately the conflict in that area has to do with history, religion, and geo-politics. Palestinians are just as guilty of using these three points to drive their struggle as the Israelis.

        It’s an inescapable fact that Palestinians are trying to draw in the people of Scotland because they see a similarity between the two situations so don’t lie to yourself.

        1. Michael James Stevenson

          I don’t know if you’re a Scot or not. But how dare you isolate the Palestinian dream of independance with your colonial Westminster claptrap. All people thirsting for self determination immediately understand and know each other. Jalal expresses a gentle empathy for Scotland that warms the heart.

          Take your scripted rubbish and go back to London where you belong.

          Scotland/Palestine will be free.

          1. E K

            ‘But how dare you isolate the Palestinian dream of independance with your colonial Westminster claptrap.’

            I’m not sure what ‘isolating’ a dream means, but maybe you mean to say how dare I challenge it. I’m trying to start a discussion, and I’m using facts and argument. If you don’t have any points to challenge me with, then that’s fine. But nothing I said is ‘rubbish.’ To the extent that others have said it before, you will find that most arguments have been made by others in the past. The important thing to remember is that there isn’t always a middle ground, there is the truth. So if you have the truth on your side, and you have evidence and argument, put it forth for consideration. And making assumptions won’t get you very far. I’m not a Scot, nor am I British. However, I have lived in London and I loved it. From the pictures I’ve seen Scotland looks equally beautiful. Israel/Scotland will be free ;)

  3. elainesk

    What a wonderful blog and so refreshing to know our adopted Scots feel the same way and same passion for a fair and equal country as those of us born in it. Thank you Jalal, its views like yours that help cancel out that horrible “Braveheart” characteristic that the unionists of the UK attach to us who support an Independent Scotland. You get where we are coming from, you get us and you get what Independence means more than many who have not yet got the meaning of governing ourselves for the best of the people. We want a country fair to all and free of control of those politicians who are selfserving and do not work for the people but what they can get out of it themselves. Bless you!

  4. Martin Pratt

    But co-operation isn’t a given is it? The hostile attitude of the Holyrood administration to Westminster means that there will likely be less in common between Scotland, our norther neighbour, & than we will have with France, our southern neighbour. You can vote for independence for many reasons but not co-operation. No administration that denigrates the people of its neighbour as “Lord Snootys” is going to co-operate with that neighbour. You can’t insult someone and expect co-operation.

  5. Helena Torry

    Stunning article Jalal You have a real grasp of what a community means to itself.. We rightly believe in fairness and internationalism here.. I am not actively involved directly in the Palestinian cause in Scotland but many of my friends are (Including my cousin). I do however support your right to self determination without harassment.. Scotland has the potential to play a major part in the world.. My support for indepenence has been rather distorted by my dislike of the SNP.. I am

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    definitely

    shifting politically and your article has given me more hope that after the referendum we may have a caring & co-operative Socialist Scotland.. Much is being imposed on Scotland from Westminster without our consent.. The most recent being the ATOS Disability Assessments and Bedroom Tax.. Scottish people would never subject our most vulnerable citizens to these

    discriminatory acts..! I am still being convinced on independence – Your article has given me an extra concept to consider..

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