By Gearárd Mac Giolla Méirleach (aka The Bandit)
On March 21st the Scottish Government announced the date that the people of Scotland will be given a chance to vote for self-determination and independence. This is a historic opportunity and a once-in-a-life time chance that must be grasped by both hands. I have been both saddened and surprised at the number of Celtic fans that have changed their default opposition on independence since the introduction of the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Act.
Let me be quite clear on this issue; I am 100% opposed to the bill and I will proudly stand with Fans Against Criminalisation when they hold their demo on the 6th of April. Politics is a game of swings and roundabouts; it would be highly unlikely if you agreed with one particular political party on all its decisions.
I could be described as a left-of-centre socialist libertarian. In an independent Scotland it would be highly unlikely that I would vote for the SNP, but at the moment they are a vehicle for change. They are the one political party in this country capable of leading us to a Scotland that we can all be proud of.
People of Irish descent (including Irish republicans) and Scottish Catholics, who make up a large percentile of the Celtic support, have often struggled when it comes to self determination for Scotland. Traditionally these elements gave their support to the Scottish British Labour Party. This is the same Labour Party that has run much of Scotland for the last 50 years and which did not-a-lot to tackle anti-Irish racism, sectarianism or bigotry while in power, apart from resorting to the OSABATO line (one side’s as bad as the other) when under pressure.
In a British context, the Labour Party, which will be campaigning alongside the other Unionist parties for a NO vote, had its chance to make a difference when it was in government in the 1960’s, 1970’s and again in the late 1990’s and early ‘noughties’. During this time they did little to guarantee permanent improvements to the lives of working class people. What they gave with one hand they usually took away with the other.
The most recent Labour Governments under Blair and Brown presided over changes to the Social welfare system that were on a par with the governments of Margaret Thatcher. The very same Government oversaw the deregulation of the financial service industry that allowed the bankers to lead us into a double-dip recession and financial austerity.
I believe that an independent Scotland can be a prosperous, socially just, compassionate and inclusive society. These are the principles that Celtic was founded upon and which we can all get behind. It might seem far-fetched to say so, but I believe that if Brother Walfrid were with us today he would support such principles of justice and equality for the Scots and Irish-Scots in a democratic and independent nation.
I would urge all Celtic supporters to vote YES on September 18th 2014. Ask yourself what have we got to lose? Westminster Government is not working for the people of Scotland. Scotland would surely be suited better if it were governed by the people who care most about Scotland; those who live here, day-in and day-out.
When Scotland achieves her independence the first parliament will be elected in 2016. A year that will be particularly important to the Irish Republicans within our support. It’s the time when we will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising. This is more significant because if Scotland breaks away from the Union it opens up the way for the Irish people across all 32 Counties and 4 Provinces to choose self-determination, a unified state and independence from British interference in Irish political matters.
In the past few days, since our date with destiny was announced, the Pro-Union parties have gone into overdrive with the old negative campaigning. They have regurgitated the age old lie that Scotland gets more out of the Union than it puts in. As a country we contribute 9.6% to the UK government in the form of taxes, in return we receive 9.3% back. That’s the equivalent of us being better off to the tune of £500 better off per person per year. In real terms that is a free season ticket book for some.
Scotland has 25% of the EU’s offshore wind and tidal energy potential, which is estimated to be worth £30 billion pounds and has the potential to create up to 28,000 Jobs for the people of Scotland. Over the weekend I noted rhetoric from the Tory party playing this down claiming that this was not a guaranteed source of energy. This is Scotland, it’s windy 95% of the year. This sounds like the same lie they have peddled from the 1960’s that oil and gas was running out in the North Sea. Yet last year there was £7.5 billion of capital expenditure spent on drilling and excavation projects to find new streams of gas and oil. BP has said as Recently as October 2012 that they believe oil and gas will flow from the North Sea for another 40 years. At this present moment in time our oil and gas resources is worth over £1 trillion. When the cost of crude oil and gas increases, which it will, these revenues will to.
In an Independent Scotland there would be no need for nuclear bases on the Clyde. This will result in savings annually of over £250 million. Think about where that money could be invested to help the people of this country who need it most; money that could be ploughed into education, social housing and healthcare projects.
We are poorer today than we were 5 years ago. That is not something that is likely to change if we continue to be part of the Union. In real terms our economy is struggling and the vast majority of us are suffering from financial hardship. The latest cuts imposed on the people of Scotland by Chancellor Osborne – and those of his predecessors, Darling, Brown, Clarke, Lamont, Major, Lawson and Howe – show that Scotland is not better off as part of the Union. We continue to be the poor relation while the recession was barely noticeable in the prosperous areas of London and the South East. London was the last place in the UK to enter recession and it was the first to exit from the slump.
In today’s society our elders are being forced to work longer than ever before. Our sick and unemployed are having benefits cut, our kids and families are facing cut backs in Child Tax and Working Tax credits. Yet the rich continue to get richer and those who earn most are seeing their taxes cut.
It is worth mentioning also that although Scotland is gas and oil rich the UK Government don’t take these revenues into consideration when it talks about Scotland’s finances. If it did we would be rated as the 6th Wealthiest nation per capita in the developed world.
Imagine the difference we could make to the everyday lives to our citizens if we had control over our own wealth and resources?
Think long and hard about how much fairer an independent Scotland could be for every single one of us?
Ask yourself who you would prefer to Govern you in an independent Scotland? It doesn’t have to be the SNP. They are simply one of many political alternatives that would be standing for election to government post-independence. An independent Scotland needn’t be a one party state.
But please don’t let the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications Bill be the deciding factor when choosing our destiny.
Mark Renton from Trainspotting said it was “Shite being Scottish” I say its shite being British. Let’s make change happen and Vote YES in 2014.
In closing, I’d like to point out another excellent article written by Jim Slaven of the James Connolly Society for TAL and the fantastic 107 Cowgate Blog – Independence: Should we stay or should we go?