The Real Stories Of Scotland’s Referendum

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It’s easy to be wound into the intellectual badminton that the Independence Referendum has thrown up. Facts are batted back and forth like shuttlecocks, and all too often for observers outside of the political spectrum bubble, all that can be seen is petty debates over minutiae. It’s hard to be inspired to vote yes based on the fact that Scotland contributes 9.9% of tax revenue but only receives about 9.3% as a percentage of Government expenditure. So what? What does that mean? What impact does this have on the street-sweeper, doctor, nurse or secretary?

What both sides of the debate seem to completely miss is the fact that this debate is not just about the abstract notion of “further powers” for Holyrood or fiscal injustices. It’s hard to get people to vote Yes if we allow the narrative to be about the idea of separation and Scottish self-interest.

As a socialist I believe wholeheartedly in the idea of people coming together under a common cause. Shared prosperity in good times, and shared sacrifice during lean times is a cornerstone of what I believe. This idea is not mutually exclusive with independence and we in the Yes camp cannot allow this idea to take root. I do not want independence at the expense of the North of England, or anywhere else in the United Kingdom. If we believe that Scotland contributes more to the UK as it receives, then we have to be careful that this is not conflated with the idea that we selfishly want to take back our money at the expense of the Yorkshireman, Londoner or Ulsterman.

Independence is, at its core, simply about taking power from London and giving it back to the people of Scotland. It has nothing to do with not wanting to pay to help fund a hospital in Cardiff or Londonderry. It is the people of Scotland being governed by the governments the people of Scotland choose. I share no less compassion with those in England than I do people in Oslo, Sydney or Dublin. Shared values do not end at the cliffs of Dover. Globalisation of the economy means that no country in the world is on its own. Even if we no longer share a central government with the RUK, we are no less connected to them. A vibrant, successful Scotland on the border with England would be no less helpful or compassionate than one which shared a central government. Money moves more easily than people do and a prosperous Scotland would no less see its gold trickle into England than it would the rest of the world – it would simply be the case that our wealth no longer poured straight into the economic black hole of London.

How, then, can we communicate this to people? These are ideas which seem completely esoteric from day-to-day life. What the debate needs is to be brought down to a human level. The debate needs to address issues that affect people in their everyday life – it needs human faces and real stories.

And so now I will speak a little of one of the reasons I, myself, will be voting Yes. This is not based on numbers, flag-waving or party-politics, it is about issues in my life which are profoundly affected by politics and which affect thousands of other people like myself.

My grandfather recently had a terrible fall, which resulted in a pretty severe head injury. Without divulging too much information, which I am not at liberty to do so, he now requires 24 hour care from professionals, because he is no longer capable of looking after himself due to dementia any physical ill health. I do not come from a wealthy family. We could never afford to pay for a private care home or private carers. We could never afford private healthcare to look after my grandfather and treat him when he fell. We could never afford to support him financially after he retired. Yet, when he fell, the NHS was there to treat him. When his dementia set in and he could no longer look after himself, thanks to the Scottish Government’s introduction of free personal care for the elderly, my grandfather was cared for. When he retired, the state helped support him so he could retire with dignity.

When people speak of government cuts, NHS cuts and pension cuts, these do not happen to faeries. They happen to people like my grandfather. People who have worked all their lives and deserve to be treated with dignity in their old age. People who are hurt and vulnerable, and in need of care and treatment.

It is easy to ignore statistics but we need to remember there are always victims behind these numbers, people like my grandfather. We in Scotland completely rejected austerity, and thanks to devolution we have been able to mitigate the suffering of our most vulnerable. However, with Westminster’s continuing privatisation, the Barnett formula will be directly affected and our block grant, with which we pay for all of the wonderful services we offer in Scotland, will have to be slashed in line with Westminster’s brutal austerity. This means people like my grandfather being kept in hospital beds because there aren’t available carers to treat him at home, or waiting in A&E for hours because there aren’t enough nurses or doctors. It means people having to choose between eating and heating in the winter because of cuts to pensions. It means our brightest minds being burdened with debt to pay for tertiary education which, in turn, will almost certainly mean people from backgrounds like mine will be put off chasing their dreams for fear of fiscal chains in later life. More often than not, this will mean people abandoning the arts in favour of more profitable ventures. To quote Sören Faika, president of the Asta student union at Hamburg , “if Germany cannot afford to let its students study Egyptology or Hungarian literature – then where can?” The  street-sweeper, nurse and state-employed secretary will face redundancy as councils make cutbacks. The unemployed man will have to stretch his meagre allowance even further and the disabled will continue to be stigmatised and bled dry.

This is what the referendum debate needs to be addressing. We need to tell people that it affects each and every one of us in profound ways. We need human faces and stories just as much as we need the facts and figures to justify what we are all trying to achieve. We did not vote for this government but its actions threaten the well-being of every single person in this country – you, me and my grandfather – who in 50 years could be any one of us. Unless we have control over our own resources and complete power over our own affairs we cannot guarantee that money will not be spent building redundant nuclear weapons instead of hospitals and schools. Yes, independence might be difficult, and yes, things might go wrong. We can’t guarantee everything will turn out well – but we can guarantee that, whatever happens, it will be our choices that shape the future of our country, and nobody else’s.

Magnus Rory Jamieson
National Collective

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There are 18 comments

  1. Jim Monaghan

    But
    the NHS is devolved, but free personal care for the elderly is about
    personal care, not medical treatment, free nursing and healthcare is
    available to everyone in the UK, whatever their age. Whats Scotlands
    offers in addition to that is help with washing, cooking, cleaning etc.
    That was introduced under devoution, while part of the UK, and it was
    brought in by a coalition of 2 unionist parties, Labour and the Lib
    Dems, technically not the Scottish Govt, it was known as the Scottish “Executive”, although I think the author might be trying to suggest that it was introduced by the current SNP Govt. Not only that, it was always free for people who couldnt afford
    it, like the author’s relative. Thats not an argument for independence
    at all, and definely isnt what the author claims it to be – non party
    political. The fact is that we can have free personal care and free
    nursing care now. Voting yes or voting no wont change that, only
    poltical parties can change it. If the author is attempting to suggest that voting No means continual cuts, then its just another scare story, negative campaigning that favours one particular party.

    1. Juteman

      The money the Scottish NHS has to spend is given to Scotland as a percentage share of NHS spending in England. The NHS down south is receiving less public funding month by month. As the English NHS is slowly privatised, the percentage that travels north will reduce.
      So voting No means we will get a percentage of what is spent on the English NHS, voting Yes means we can decide our own priorities.

      1. Jim Monaghan

        But what if the first independent scottish govt cuts NHS spending and the next UK government increases it. Thats all just speculation, and the free personal care policy is not NHS, it is council run social services

        1. Juteman

          Did you really just say that Westminster might increase spending on health?
          I think the saying is, ‘and yir hat blew aff!’

          1. Jim Monaghan

            yes, they did throughout the last Labour Govt and current Labour policy is to reverse all Tory NHS cuts, so it is possible yes. It is also possible that a government in an independent Scotland will cuut health spending. But, I will repeat this again, Free Care for the Elderly, the subject of the above article, is NOT NHS spending, its is local authority care budget. And we all know that Local councils have had their budgets cut by the council tax freeze imposed by the SNP Govt. So, it is obvious that a yes vote (or no vote) will not determine these issues.

          2. Juteman

            Don’t make me laugh Jim. Is that the same Labour party that promised to cut deeper than the Tories?
            Do you have a link to the manifesto pledge that promises to reverse all the cuts, and re-nationalise everything they are busy privatising?

          3. Jim Monaghan

            again, you are speculating on parties,any party could do anything after a yes vote or a no vote, independence doesnt guarantee anything other than independence.And, I’ll try gain, the article is about free personal care for the elderly,which isnt an NHS issue

          4. Jim Monaghan

            No, I am suggesting that the free care for the elderly was introduced by two unionist parties and that it is not part of NHS budget, thats is fact, therefore the article above is flawed.

          5. Mark Harper

            The NHS in England is also being sold off piecemeal by the unionist parties and if we remain in the union we won’t have the budget to keep ours unless we start privatising also. Would that suit you Jim?

          6. Jim Monaghan

            er, no, why would I? And, once again, the above article doesnt relate to an NHS issue, its a social care issue. There is no reason to suggest that voting yes or no will make any difference to the experience of the author’s father. The care that he celebrates is a product of a devolved Scotland in the UK and it was implemented by two of the unionist parties when they were in power in Holyrood. We have to have better arguments than this and try to avoid slipping into negative campaigning filled with scare stories. If we attempt to try to persuade people to vote YES by suggesting that free personal care for the elderly is under threat if we vote no, then we will see our arguments shot down rather easily by the facts that i outlned above.

    2. Guest

      I see you in your true character Jim, a No voter who sneaks about on Yes Facebook pages and elsewhere pretending he is a Yes voter to insult or in your case try and trip Yes voters up. For anyone not knowing Jim his last wee trick was as cheating undercover trying to find out of Labour for Indy was indeed SNP front. Poor wee soul was so determined to try and twist and turn things I said..nasty wee man but I am Labour through in through no matter how her tried to insult me!! His kids must be so proud of the cheating piece of lying,sneaky unionist he really is! Beware of this man, like most Bettertogether folk, are pretty low!

      1. Jim Monaghan

        my views on LFI are as a Labour member who is pro-indy. I can see quite clearly that any deviation from the YES “truth” means I am going to be accused of not being pro-independence. You two shame the campaign for an independent Scotland with your insults. That you cant believe a Labour party member can support independence without supporting the deceitful sham that is LFI tells me all I need to know. Its posts like this that make it increasingly difficult for me to campign for YES, its impossible for an active, actual, Labour member to take part when this hostilyt is there. I would pint you to the page on this very site where I provlaim my support for Indy as part of NC. But I have asked for it to be removed as people like you have run me out of campaigning for YES. I will vote YES but cannot be part of a campaign thats is like a cult

    3. LisaR

      I see you in your true character Jim, a No voter who sneaks about on Yes Facebook pages and elsewhere pretending he is a Yes voter to insult or in your case try and trip Yes voters up. For anyone not knowing Jim his last wee trick was as cheating undercover trying to find out if Labour for Indy was indeed SNP front. Poor pathetic soul was so determined to try and twist and turn things the members said even though they have truth on their side and plenty proof theres no active SNP or any other party active members in the LFI movement. I saw him bully and harrass one woman who I know for sure to be a long long time member of Labour but when they turned to the Right she cancelled her membership,she never voted all her years to get a party that was no different from the Tories..that was until LFI started and she was with likeminded Labour folk wanting to see the return of grass roots Labour in an Indy Scotland.He accused her of not being Labour and was downright needling her, twisting her words! His kids must be so proud of the cheating piece of lying,sneaky unionist he really is! Beware of this man, like most Bettertogether folk, are pretty low! I suggest folk pass around this man’s name in case he fools you by saying he is pro Indy.
      Heres is the truth of what the dirty rotters of the bettertogether and their unionist media scum do to honest folk because they are running scared of Labour voters leaving party or at least standing up for a Yes vote within the Labour party.
      http://newsnetscotland.com/index.php/scottish-news/7823-labour-for-indy-treasurer-challenges-newspaper-claim-she-is-snp-agitator

      1. Jim Monaghan

        apart from the fact I am a YES voter, no-one on the left of Scottish Labour supports ‘Better Together’, thats those of us in the grass roots of the party who fight to change it, not those who pretend to Labour members and prefer a pat on the head from the YES campaign. LFI members wouldnt know that there is a significant left movement in the Labour Party or that they dont support BetterTogether. And please leave my kids out of this, although my son isn planning to vote no so maybe yopu should attack him too as “scum” “rotters” “bully” and the rest of the insults that you prefer to use instead of actual political points and adult debate.

  2. Magnus Jamieson

    You say “voting Yes or No won’t change that”. To some extent you you’re right. On the other hand, when comparing the Holyrood consensus and landscape versus its Westminster counterpart it’s fairly straightforward to identify how divergent our agendas are and the direction in which the two parliaments are heading in.

  3. Jim

    Of course all public services in Scotland, whether reserved to Westminster or not, receive a proportionate cut in their budget through the Barnett formula when Westminster choses to cut a budget south of the border.
    If Westminster cuts its Education budget, the Scottish government’s budget is also cut. If Westminster cuts its health budget then the Scottish governments budget is cut. If Westminster cuts its local government budget then the Scottish governments budget is cut. If Westminster cuts its legal aid budget, then the Scottish governments budget is cut and so on, right through every public service.
    If on the other hand, Westminster wants to maintain the fourth largest military budget on earth at £35 billion. then Scottish tax-payers must contribute 9.9% of the cost = £3.5 billion even though Defence spending in Scotland is actually only 1.5 billion.
    If Westminster wants to spend £30 billion capital spending on the renewal/upgrading of Trident, then Scottish taxpayers pay 9.9% of that also, as well as 9.9% of the £2 billion per year maintenance costs of Trident for the next 30-40 years. This equates to over £160 million per year in Trident maintenance costs alone to the Scottish tax-payer, or £500,000 per day!
    If Westminster wants to spend well over £40 billion on Highspeed Rail from London to Manchester and Leeds over the next 15 years, then Scotland’s contribution to that is over £4 billion even though it comes nowhere near Scotland.
    I dont think its wrong to constantly point out that Scotland contributes 9.9% of the UK tresury’s tax income while receiving only 9.3% of UK government expenditure when it is explained that it equates to £4.4 billion less per year for public expenditure in Scotland and, that, over and above this, Scotland is paying £billions more per year for things we don’t want and things in which we are, anyway, grossly short-changed.
    It is all the more galling when looking at ONS figures to see that Scotland wealth is not going to assist the poorer parts of England or the most vulnerable people in England but going instead to fund tax-cuts for the very rich and to help fund the aforementioned 4th largest military budget on the planet.

  4. Mark Harper

    It’s not contributing to Yorkshire hospitals I’m bothered about, it’s contributing to robbing bankers, Trident, illegal wars and the elite wealthy who get richer by the month while the poor get poorer… Get real!

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