“I want to do so much more than lobby an unresponsive UK Government for a sane economic policy. I want to be in a Government with the power to make for ourselves the decisions we need to take to get our economy growing… I have believed for all of my adult life that Scotland should be an independent nation. For me it has never really been about flags or status symbols. It’s all about how we make this country of ours the best that it possibly can be. It is based on the fundamental belief that if we want a strong economy we must have access to all of Scotland’s resources, not just to that portion of Scotland’s resources that the UK Government chooses to give us. It is based on the inescapable reality that if we want to tackle, once and for all, the scandal of child poverty then we must be able to make our own decisions on tax and benefits and… we must be able to prioritise spending on the early years of our children’s lives over spending on weapons of mass destruction. And it’s based on the irrefutable logic that if it is right, and it is right, for this Parliament to take decisions on Health, Education, on Justice then how can it be anything other than right for this Parliament also to take decisions on the Economy, on Welfare and Defence?”
Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Deputy First Minister (Government strategy and the constitution) and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities. Scottish Parliament, 5th September 2012
Fine words from the Deputy First Minister just a fortnight ago, and words that mark a shift in the debate on Scotland’s constitutional future. Since then we have seen a quickening of the pace of the discussions between the two Governments and there is the expectation of an agreement being reached soon. Once agreement on the process issues can be reached then the proper debate can begin, a debate on what Independence would mean for every one of Scotland’s citizens.
Independence is not an idea that lives in a vacuum. If the case for Independence is to be won then the argument needs to be more than just constitutional. For the people of Scotland to vote for Independence then the case needs to be clearly made that Scotland, and its people, would be better off outside the Union than in it. Last night on the most recent of Professor Curtice’s many appearances on both Newsnight Scotland and Scotland Tonight he summed it up on economic grounds. If Yes Scotland and the SNP win the argument on the economics then Independence will be won. If they don’t then it will be lost. Now to an extent I agree with him but I don’t think it is simple enough to be boiled down to a purely economic argument. There are many other issues, political and social, that will play on people’s minds when they cast their vote – questions about the sort of compassionate society Scotland could become; questions about the foreign policy and external outlook an Independent Scotland is likely to have; questions about our place in the World.
Make no mistake, the Scottish Government are well aware of this and it was to this debate that the Deputy First Minister was referring in her speech. The latest British Social Attitudes survey has just been released and when asked 72% of respondents said that they wanted more powers for the Scottish Parliament with 43% saying they wanted all decisions to be made by the Scottish Parliament. This last figure may seem a surprise when you compare it to the figure of 32% who provided a positive answer when asked if Scotland should become Independent. In reality though it frames the debate ahead. When asked about any number of issues, from currently devolved matters like the NHS, education or housing or currently reserved matters like pensions and benefits the overwhelming response is that people want these matters decided here in Scotland. There remains, however, some trepidation about the perceived finality of “Independence”, an uncertainty about what would lie ahead, an uncertainty which those in the “Better Together” campaign will attempt to exploit. In reality though Independence is exactly what those 43% of respondents are looking for, whether they realise it yet or not.
If the Scottish people are presented with a positive and clear vision of what Independence means and the difference that it could make to all our lives then I have no doubt that a yes vote will be forthcoming. It is rare for me to quote Tommy Sheridan but he was right in his excellent speech at Glasgow University Union this Saturday past when he said we should:
“…stand up and be counted and not listen to those who would have you feart to be a country, feart to be independent, feart to take decisions that affect our everyday lives ourselves.”