One of the regular huffs of those who support the Union come what may is that the movement for Scottish independence is characterised by exceptionalism, by the belief that Scotland is somehow uniquely special, that it’s better than anywhere else, and particularly that it’s better than England. Because of course it’s a treasured trope of Unionism that wanting independence is all about anti-English sentiment. It’s not really about Scotland at all.
But none of that is true. It’s not independence supporters who believe that Scotland is special. Independence is nothing more than the radical idea that Scotland can be a normal country. It’s Unionists who believe that Scotland is unique. A Unionist Scotland is uniquely incapable of having any currency at all. Despite quite literally striking oil, a Unionist Scotland is poorer than Greece and unable to manage its own economy without subsidies from a Conservative government – which uniquely throws money at Scotland out of altruism. A Unionist Scotland has no real culture, other countries have real languages, but Scotland, uniquely, has invented ones. The Unionist Scotland is a very special place indeed, a fantastical place, a place of myth and legend that exists only in the fevered imaginings of Daily Express leader writers.
The Tories rail against the division of another referendum, but it’s they who create the deepest divisions of all. They divide us into the haves and the have nots. They divide us into those who have choices and opportunities and those who have none. They tell us we want independence in order to divide, but independence is a means to healing those cutting wounds that slice through our society. We don’t want independence because we think Scotland is so great and so special, we want it because Scotland has so much wrong with it, and we need the tools to fix it. We need independence because we’ve learned that Westminster won’t fix our problems, because Westminster profits from them. We need to fix things for ourselves.
The place for Scotland in the UK is on a lower rung, a place where there is no view and no vision. It’s a place where we do what we’re told. It’s a place where Scotland is a country in name only, and scarcely even that much. Scotland in the UK is the country that can’t act like a country, the nation that can’t act like a nation. It’s a twisted and deformed place, the land that’s not a land, the country that’s not a country. It’s the country that gets compared to a county. A country whose role is to disguise English nationalism with a red white and blue veneer and to allow English nationalists to feel as if they’re not nationalists at all, a deformed land in a deformed state. Independence breaks the chains. Independence is the leap to normality.
What sort of normal country could a normal Scotland be? It could be a Scotland that offers citizenship to everyone legally resident in Scotland at the time of independence. It doesn’t matter if you’re Scottish born, rUK born, Irish born, EU born, or born anywhere else in the world. If you’ve made Scotland your home, Scotland has made its home in you. We strive for a Scotland that demonstrates that Scottishness is a state of mind, that Scottishness is a place in the heart, that Scottishness is about acceptance and tolerance. That’s a Scotland that is proving that Scottishness isn’t about the past, it’s about the future and the journey that we all take together as a society. Because being Scottish isn’t about where you come from, it’s about where we’re going.
Scotland could be a country of tolerance where there is zero tolerance for violence and abuse against women, against minorities. A country where everyone is cherished and all citizens are sovereign. We could have a constitution that states there can be no discrimination on the grounds of age, race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, language, culture, or religion or lack of religion. We could be a country that seeks to heal the divisions of sectarianism and race, that promotes and fosters diversity. We could be a country that has railway signs in Gaelic just to annoy Tom Gallagher. We could be a country with a sense of humour and sense of itself, because a country that can laugh is a country at ease.
We could be a country at peace with itself and with the world. In the more than 300 years of Union there have been a mere seven decades of peace. In the UK war is normal, and only a few days after the Brexit process has begun and the British nationalists talk of war again. War is what defines Britain. Scotland can be defined by peace. Scotland can rid itself of the obscenity of weapons of mass destruction. It can have armed forces whose role is peacekeepers, not as war makers. Scotland can be a small voice for sanity in a crazy world. We can make that choice. We can be better. We can be good.
Our country can be a land where the body of citizens is sovereign. Independence isn’t about whether we’re members of the EU, or whether we’re a monarchy, or whether we’re in NATO or out of it. Independence isn’t about policy, independence is about who gets to choose, and those choices are made by the people of Scotland. We could become a republic, or we could remain a monarchy, but it’s for all of us to decide. That’s what independence is all about, it’s about the power of a people to determine their own path. It’s about choosing where to go, about picking a path through the green hills and along the shores of the sealochs, a path that takes us home, the path that is home, the journey that defines us.
I used to think we should aim for immediate membership of the EU on independence, but it’s for the people to make that choice. Upon independence, let’s go for membership of EFTA and the EEA – we can join immediately upon independence, we get access to the single market and freedom of movement of people, we avoid questions of having to sign up to the Euro, we avoid the jibes of those who claim there would be a veto, and we can make a pitch to those who voted to leave the EU but who support independence. And after we’re independent, then it’s for the people of Scotland to decide whether we apply for EU membership. Because we the people are the sovereign body, not a government. That’s the great difference between an independent Scotland and the imperialism of Theresa May’s Britain. That’s the point we seek to establish with independence, that it’s the people who choose, not the politicians.
There’s a difference between living and existing. Existing is having choices made for you. It’s having decisions imposed on you. Living is choosing for yourself. Scotland exists under the Union, it can only live with independence. Let’s choose to live.
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