Today, the Scottish Government published ‘Scotland’s Future’, their blueprint for independence where they set out their ‘vision’ of what an independent Scotland would be like.
I might be called a ‘sympathetic sceptic’ about Scottish independence. I voted SNP in the 80’s when Thatcher’s policies where devastating the industrial cities where I was brought up. I like the idea of Scotland as a ‘Scandinavian democracy’ where we have a more egalitarian, better educated society with fewer distinctions between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’. I did not vote for the current SNP-led Government as it seems to me that they are an unprincipled lot whose populist policies, such as the freezing of council tax, have led to serious damage both to local democracy and to key services such as education. Their energy policy has led to a proliferation of wind farms and irreparable damage to Scotland’s landscape.
But this was their chance to convince me that I was wrong. That the end of independence justified the means of populism and that there were indeed principles and a vision of the future of Scotland as a distinctive modern society. It was a chance to demonstrate that they understood the problems that we face in Scotland and to show that they had the courage to face up to these. It was a chance to show that they trusted the Scottish people to understand that hard problems need difficult decisions and the path to change will sometimes be a rocky one.
But no. We didn’t get any of these things. We simply got a timid reassurance that nothing really will change – don’t worry, the Queen’s head will still be on the stamps, the pound in your pocket will retain its value and we’ll still get Coronation Street.
There is no recognition that to create a vibrant, knowledge based economy we need to change, in a humane way, the balance between the public and the private sector; we need new approaches to entrepreneurialism and enterprise and a new kind of enterprise agency, not more of the same; we need fewer local authorities with more powers to stop the destruction of our town and city centres. We need a recognition that digital services are profoundly changing our world and a step-change in investment in this area is required if Scotland is to thrive.
More childcare is welcome but we also need new approaches to flexible working so that Mum’s and Dad’s can have a better work-life balance and much more investment in education to raise the expectations and abilities of our children.
We need new approaches to conservation of our magnificent landscape and new policies on land ownership that stop huge areas of the country being underexploited by rich landowners, who think nothing of desecrating the landscape with wind farms. We need a sensible energy policy that takes into account the costs to the landscape of renewables and makes sensible investments in other technologies, such as nuclear and carbon capture.
I believe that we need to make big changes in Scotland to make the transition to a knowledge-based, 21st century economy. But there is nothing in this White Paper that convinces me that independence is the way to make these changes. I believe many of them can be achieved if we have principled,visionary politicians within our current devolved structures. The barriers are not the UK Government, but the dull and unimaginative Scots at the bottom of the Royal Mile.
I certainly won’t be voting ‘yes’ to keep them in a job.