For someone who has a vast interest in politics and now possesses a BA in Social Sciences, I still do not know why I feel I have done nothing with politics, apart from voting in elections when I first turned 18. However, Monday June 23 changed that in Coatbridge. I turned down my weekly game of 7-a-side football, and with one of my best friends and my sister, we all attended our first political public meeting. A chance to see George Galloway in the flesh, and debating about the Independence Referendum, this was not something the three of us wanted to miss.
Galloway has his critics. He is in support of the Union, but has been critical of it and Better Together. Nonetheless, he does feel Better Together's faults may not be of their own accord. The No side has been accused of various things, but two points stick out in most peoples' minds, mainly scaremongering and being too negative. Well take a look what No means in the dictionary: "used to express denial, disagreement or refusal." To highlight this, this is not what Better Together has been focusing on. Yes, it can be seen as negative at times, but it has mainly pointed out why Scotland is better in both worlds to stay together in the United Kingdom.
One topic the Nationalists discuss is the usage of the pound. We may dispute over the use of legal tender down in England, which is frustrating. I have had to suffer this myself whilst using notes from the Clydesdale Bank in Sheffield. Yet, the pound remains one of the most stable currencies in the world today. I have no idea what it is like for the Northern Irish to use Bank of Ulster notes in England, but you can look back to the 1690s when the Bank of Scotland and England were established. The Bank of Scotland was founded in 1696 and was to offer no money to the government, instead focusing on business and enterprise, due to the lack of taxation paid into Scotland from shipping from the North, West and East as companies looked to avoid imported taxes. In addition it was to hold a monopoly over the banking sector battling with the Company of Scotland. However, the Bank of England was set up to create capital to send to the English government as a loan, to allow her to structure her empire's finances and markets.
Eleven years later Scotland and England were united in a union which was to be the most successful union of all time. It has had its own share of problems with financial institutions, but thanks to regulations and expert advice, we have managed to help resolve these problems. Before Northern Rock collapsed in 2007, the last major Bank to fail in the UK was the City of Glasgow Bank, 129 years before. Problems did arise with RBS's huge losses, but we are recovering. In 2008/2009 RBS had losses of £24billion in just one year. The Bank was bailed out by the government and was to be owned by the British taxpayer. Imagine if Scotland had to bail out the RBS? Instead of being shared by a population of 60million, a population of nearly 6million would be funding this at £4,000 per head. This is not accounting for RBS's debts, other losses and what it owes in interest. Scotland would be in a vulnerable position immediately if a bank needed to be saved. Should I start on Iceland, who only seem to have sorted themselves out?
Nevertheless, we are told that if we vote for independence then we can no longer use the pound. Galloway has pointed out this has been spoken in the corridors of Westminster and Whitehall, and will not be negotiated. Something could be negotiated, but then why should we be gambling over what currency we will use? Joining a currency union with the Bank of England is not independence (the clue is in the name). Maybe this is conservative thinking, but a vast chunk of 300+ year history will be gone. Scotland would be forced to follow through on the Bank of England's policies and interest rates, and would simply have to follow suit, or risk losing a currency union anyway.
So that is ruled out, we would use the Euro. Or would we? To be accepted into the EU, countries must show their accounting records for the past five years to show their spending, their profits, debts and liabilities in order to prove they can run their nation sustainably and efficiently. Nations are not reminiscent romantics - they are businesses. They too need to live on an income and make profits, so it can improve their livelihood, just like workers too. The Maastricht Treaty encouraged nations to limit their spending and start focusing on their debts, but many ignored it. Now we have a Eurozone crisis that nobody in the EU knows how to solve. France and Germany are bickering over how to solve it, with the latter still blaming France for the collapse of the Weimar Republic in the 1930s. We have nations like Greece who needed to be bailed out by the International Monetary Fund, and are now fixed to a huge debt, with massive interest fees, leaving them with a bill which will take them a lifetime to pay up. Scotland would be a "new country" as it would move from a stateless nation which creates new problems.
If the EU is getting stricter then Scotland will not gain entry. New entrants Bulgaria and Romania have proven they can run their countries properly and who is to say Scotland cannot after a period. However, due to the rules this makes us look at Plan C - a new currency? Galloway draws up the image of the Groat. I would call it the Orkney, or the Shetland, and here lies my argument: nobody will be able to agree to its name, its terms, conditions, its liquidity: nothing. The new currency will be extremely volatile. Another thing to think of is Scotland will be a new democracy, despite possessing a proper democratic state since 1918. Newer democracies, if they experience economic hardship, are more likely to lose trust in the government and the civil service and turn to another form of power and leadership, with a higher chance of turning to an authoritarian figure. This however, does not mean I am saying Scotland will fall into a dictatorship -I am merely pointing out the risks of adopting a new currency whilst establishing new sovereignty. Confidence levels are high in the UK in its political institutions, so it would be interesting if we could pick up Scottish citizens' trust in the World Values Survey at this moment in time.
Galloway makes vital points about the economy if Scotland divorces from the union. If a couple divorce, deals can be made. Someone can keep the CDs, the dog, DVDs, TVs etc. Yet nobody will agree to use a joint bank account or credit card. Scotland sells more to the rest of the UK than we do to every nation worldwide, with 65% of its products being sold within the UK. Post-independence would bring the risk of less trade - or more trade who knows - but Scotland would immediately be taken out of the Single Common Market, so would have to pay taxes on imported goods due to her not being a member of the EU. Other options need to be examined. Oil was one of these. A good that is meant to run out by 2050, which has been as low as $8 a barrel and high as $144 a barrel is expected to help raise Scottish finances through oil funds. Every penny made from Scottish oil is already being put back into Scottish public services. That oil is paying for our schools in which we learn in, and has helped us become the most educated nation in Western Europe. The oil is financing our hospitals, helping to pay for our NHS, so we are not struck with high cost medical bills. Oil additionally helps funds our pensions, giving the elderly the final sense of security of being able to live out their final days, and not pushing them to death with monetarily worry of not being able to raise a bar on their fire.
But let us move back to the point of authoritarian figures, or extremists. Many people may disagree what UKIP leader Nigel Farrage stands for. I do not personally agree with various things David Cameron says. However, this does not mean Scotland is "occupied." Scotland has been able to choose if it wished to be independent in the past 100 years. Scotland and England fought each other back in Medieval times thanks to two French speaking Kings. It sounds ludicrous now. Aristotle, in Ancient Greece announced he was not Greek, or not even an Athenian, but "a citizen of the world." We will always disagree over policies, laws, decisions and interests. However, we can always negotiate. We have stood by to help one another. Even through war, the SNP claimed that it was England's war when Clydebank was bombed during the Blitz. It was the SNP who helped claim Thatcher and the Tories gain power in 1979, which led to Scotland's downfall in the skilled industries. Alex Salmond even claimed recently "Labour was no more," famously coining the phrase used by the Proclaimers in Letter From America, which highlighted the fall of Scottish industries under Thatcher's reign as Prime Minister.
Scotland has never been under control from another nation. It is part of the United Kingdom. It was never forced to sign the union. The disasters caused by the Darian Scheme made rich businessmen ponder on how to recover their assets, caused by their losses in speculative schemes in Panama. England offered them a union to help her empire and promised these men they would make a return on their losses and eventually profit. They duly signed. At the signing of a bit of paper, Scotland automatically had the right to use anywhere that was part of England, and now Great Britain's Empire. We became a part of the Slave Trade, and helped rule a vast part of the world, which is extraordinary for our size. We got the Tobacco Lords, who helped build the city of Glasgow. Through Christian teachings and the emergence of the Enlightenment, our thoughts changed and we rationally chose to end the slave trade within Britain. Yet, we still controlled the world. Scotland was a major player in the Industrial Revolution, with Glasgow, Dundee, New Lanark and Monklands all benefiting from different trades. We have had shameful times, such as forcing Highlanders to make way for sheep in the Clearances. We failed to accept Irish immigration at the time of the Famine due to an ignorant lack of understanding and science itself. Overtime, we fixed these problems, and Scotland is a country that wishes success for all, regardless of race or religion.
We moved into the 20th century and experienced two world wars and the creation of the welfare state. We moved away from colonialism, and reduced the Empire to a Commonwealth, allowing nations to choose if they wanted to remain, or leave. We experienced the Winter of Discontent, and Thatcher and the Tories. We experienced the Miner's strikes, whether good or bad depending on whom you speak to, and believe me, many Scots were happy Thatcher sorted out the miners. Look at her faults, but Scots would not have been in a position to pay for their council house if it was not for Thatcher. The problem created there was a lack of creation of new council houses which creates problems to this day, with huge mortgage fees stopping young people from entering the housing market.
The UK has its problems, but it is not simply down to the Tories. This is something we can fix, not by independence, but by being together. The UK can change and progress forward once again. Ed Milliband has said he wants to change and fix the UK. That is something I want to hear. I want to see the UK move forward, and benefiting all of the UK. Galloway said under nationalisation, companies were told were to set up business. Go to Kilmarnock and you will find its people who would be desperate for something similar to be set up, after Diageo moved their plant away from the Ayrshire town. What I do not want to hear is SNP ministers claim that British spies are being used to send abusive messages on Twitter to those backing Better Together. Yet, I will respect their right to say so, as a democratic state.
Galloway concluded that he wants to be able to walk around the corners of these islands and be able to say what he wants. If we all agreed and disagreed the same opinions the world would be a stale place. Scotland has never been forced to surrender her territory, unlike Georgia and Ukraine who have lost land thanks to Russian invasions in the past few years. Creative Scotland is one of many agencies that have had to put their spending on hold due to the "neverendum." I, for one, cannot wait for this debate to be over in September. Once, we finally get over this issue, we can finally focus on the real issues - housing, social security, schooling, the NHS, pensions etc. Only when the referendum has concluded we will turn back to these issues and deal with them as a united nation.
And for the reasons mentioned above I have one simple message: Just Say Naw.