Walking down Lord Arthur James Balfour Street in Tel Aviv, Israel, has never been a pleasant experience for me. However having recently taken up two days’ work a week in the city with a workers rights organisation, it is now become a weekly occurrence. Yet as someone who is primarily based in the West Bank, Palestine, and who has worked in the field as a journalist in the West Bank previously, I am well versed in the ins and outs of the Palestine/Israel conflict; which includes the pivotal role the United Kingdom, and Lord Balfour, played in creating one of the greatest injustices to exist in the 20th and 21st century.
I can admit I am driven by emotion regarding my citizenship, yet as a socially constructed phenomenon we must all be; however for me, I feel this emotion is forever at the forefront when faced daily with the military occupation of a whole nation in which the UK has had such a prominent historical role. As such my passport is rarely wielded, kept hidden away as much as possible, taken out only briefly when a soldier carrying a MK-14 beckons me to show my ID.
There are many reasons why I support an independent Scotland; the democratic deficit; no nuclear weapons on Scottish soil; I am also convinced by the economic arguments, albeit I do not pretend that going it alone will be easy. Yet there exists one primary reason for my advocation of independence, and I will admit that it is driven by emotion rather than spread-sheets and predictions for economic growth in a post-independence state.
On a personal level I have always hated the history of Great Britain. The ‘Great’ doesn’t quite befit a state that became (although certainly is not now) a world power through some rather brutal forms of colonialism and imperialism. An independent Scotland however, could partially slip away from this dodgy historical legacy. And, as much as I should be making graphs of my economic predictions for the future of an independent Scotland, truthfully I am more interested in shedding the word ‘Great’ from my passport, and replacing ‘Britain’ with ‘Scotland’.
Independence would give Scotland a clean slate, and the chance to become a nation that approaches the world anew, with a humanistic and ethical lens firmly screwed on. Let’s not allow such a wonderful opportunity to pass us by.
I feel embarrassed when carrying out my work here in Palestine, when the passport that is lodged in my pocket declares a connection to Great Britain; a country that, more than any, created the mess I see every day. A country that continues to show apathy towards an on-going stagnating injustice that does nothing but tread on the internationally recognised human rights of a whole nation of people.
An independent Scotland and its people would have a real opportunity to show the world that we, as a nation, do not agree with many aspects of British foreign policy, but rather, that we value human rights, self-determination aspirations, and human dignity. This is a golden opportunity to show the world what we already know; that we are a compassionate, moral-driven nation.
We already have a great basis for this. Whenever I am asked where I am from, and I reply Scotland, the response is always so positive, and I am sure many Scots have witnessed such a reaction; in recent weeks American friends have lamented their nationality, declaring their wish that one day they will get the same response I receive. Yet, although my nationality elicits a positive response, my citizenship does not, and with good reason; and can I really be truly proud of being from Scotland when we are still so intrinsically tied to the foreign policy decisions of Westminster.
Independence will not separate Scotland from UK foreign policy that has gone before, yet it does set a path for us, as a nation to make up for it, by becoming a shining light in foreign diplomacy, a bastion for the advancement of human rights throughout the globe, and an advocate of the right to self-determination for all peoples if wished.
We can only truly be proud of our nation when collectively we stand up and show that Scotland is proud to rise against injustice throughout the world. The constraints of 21st century politics allows this to be easier said than done, yet while we are bound by the foreign policy of the UK, then we are missing the chance to at least try, as a nation, to make amends for the past while building a path towards a more just form of interaction between other nations and states around the globe.
Independence is not just a golden opportunity for Scotland, but also the most moral and ethical choice for the people of Scotland. Let’s build a better Scotland, and consequently, a better world.