On Saturday, the National published a front page article about the development of the space related industries in Scotland. Already, Scotland generates some £134 million annually in space-related industries, primarily in building small satellites, and Scotland’s contribution makes up a disproportionately large part of the UK space industry. 7000 of the total 38,500 UK jobs in space-related industries are based in Scotland. According to the economic consultancy firm London Economics, Scotland has a 11.7% share of the total UK space economy, a figure well in excess of Scotland’s 8.25% share of the UK population.
A new report from the Common Weal think tank suggests that part of the difficulty in developing Scotland’s space industry is that many of the necessary powers are currently reserved to Westminster, but if that can be overcome and Scotland invests in a spaceport and Scottish Space Agency, it could potentially provide an enormous boost to the Scottish economy. It could create hundreds of well paid and skilled jobs, and bring in millions in extra revenues. All it takes is imagination, work, investment, and to build on the skills and talents that Scotland already possesses. We can reach for the stars.
The National was the only publication to pay any attention to the report from the pro-independence think tank. This isn’t unusual. The Fraser of Allander Institute only has to clear its throat to have it plastered all over the Unionist media and the BBC, which is quite an achievement for an organisation which sounds like a knitwear shop in Pitlochry. The fact is no one needs to write a report on how any report that shows up Scotland in a bad light or provides a musical backing to the latest chorus of SNP bad, is going to get top billing on Reporting Scotland and the Scotsman. We already know that. Meanwhile reports from Common Weal about how independence can be beneficial get as much publicity in the Unionist media as an explanation from a tax lawyer about how setting up a new company means you’re not the same as the old company gets in a Rangers fan newsletter.
Sadly, and all too predictably, the National’s story was met with an outpouring of derision and scorn from Scotland’s Unionists. There were the usual complaints about how Scotland couldn’t possibly develop a space industry – even though it’s already got a space industry – because the Scottish government can’t make a decent fist of running whatever public service happens to have been attacked on the Scotlandshire news that week. One of the key features of Scottish Unionism is its wilful inability to distinguish between how any single political party runs aspects of a devolved administration and the wider issue of independence.
Devolution means that the playing field is tilted against the Scottish Government – irrespective of which party happens to be in power. It means operating within the constraints of a budget which is set elsewhere, without the full range of powers that an independent country possesses to regulate and improve its economy. Saying that Scotland shouldn’t become independent because the Scottish Government isn’t managing a devolved public service well is like saying that a football team which performs poorly on a playing field that’s strongly tilted against it and in a game where the rules are biased in favour of the opposition would do even worse on a level field in a fair game.
The fact is that Unionists don’t want to admit that an independent Scotland would be a fully functioning democracy. They don’t want to admit that an independent Scotland would be more democratic and have a more accountable government than a Scotland within a UK which is governed by a UK government we didn’t vote for, propped up by a party we can’t vote for, which is implementing a Brexit that Scotland voted against. It suits them to conflate independence with the SNP because then they can avoid dealing with the real issues of the lack of democratic accountability that Scotland in the Union faces. It allows them to mount party political attacks on a topic that is not party political.
Tory MSPs went out of their way to laugh at the ridiculous notion that Scotland could ever do something that a normal developed country might do – indeed something that Scotland is doing right now. Imagine the very idea of it eh, a Scotland which has a world class record in invention, innovation, and design Scottish Unionism is the philosophy that physical and material poverty is acceptable, that poverty of the imagination is laudable, and that poverty of ambition is normal. Unionism teaches that the only way Scotland can ever gaze on the stars is when it’s lying in the gutter. It demands that all of Scotland gets down into the gutter and feeds off the scraps that Westminster chooses to toss our way. Unionism is the politicisation of the cringe.
The most frightening thing to some caged birds is the opening of the cage door. Unionism cowers in terror at the back of the cage, angry and fearful at its fellow birds who stretch their wings and dream of a wide blue sky. Scottish Unionism is scarred by the fear that in a wide open sky with bright horizons ahead, it will no longer rule the roost. It’s only by clipping Scotland’s wings that the Union can survive.
Unionism turns the cringe into a weapon with which to beat us all down. It’s the dead weight that pulls dreams down and into the mud and calls nightmares realism. Don’t get above yourself. Don’t dream. Don’t aspire. And above all, don’t dare to imagine that you could ever be the master or mistress of your own destiny. Unionism results in a bunch of rockets telling Scotland it can’t build a rocket. It’s a band of space cadets who laugh at those with the imagination to fly. They wield the cringe as a weapon to bring down those who show any sign of rising above their fear. They’re terrified because independence is the booster rocket that will take Scotland into a global orbit, and then we can reach for the stars.
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