Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014
I was a very young child when I began to dream about the independence of Scotland. More than 100 years ago, my grandmother on my mother’s side was a member of the Independent Labour Party campaigning for home rule and Scottish independence. Also, my grandfather’s uncle was an ILP politician at Westminster. But I am not the only case. In fact, many Scots have dreamed of independence since their childhood even having been forbidden to speak Scotch at school.
Today, our dream is just about to come true. In October 2012, UK and Scottish governments finally signed an agreement to hold the referendum on an independent Scotland in 2014. Now there is a great upsurge of people’s interest and expectation in independence. I think this is a good atmosphere and that it will make the referendum a success. Moreover, it has been decided that 16 and 17 year-olds will participate in the referendum, which means that this generation of teenagers can help decide the future of Scotland by their own hands. When the middle or elder generations were young, they couldn’t get a chance to exercise their views about independence for Scotland. But finally the chance has arrived which will let their children and grandchildren experience a true democracy. Whether they choose yes or no, it is significant that they now participate very actively in the activities concerning the referendum, which, I believe, will wake up the older generation to regain their passion and confidence that may have faded out with age.
Some people say that the ‘independence’ argument seems out-dated in the 21st century. But independence is not a matter to be limited in any certain times. We have fundamental rights and freedoms as human beings to decide our own lives. Equally, all peoples should help to shape the future of their own nation. Accordingly, we need to formulate and implement the policies that are the best for Scots. It includes social needs, education, welfare, and so on. But under the present structure of legislation through the UK government, it is very hard to realise these policies in the ways we want. For example, we have been paying huge taxes in supporting the UK nuclear deterrence capabilities. And although we have oil and gas in the North Sea, we can’t access the revenue from this because the UK government possesses those rights at present. In order to convert these budgets to spending for the benefit of our present and future generations, independence is necessary.
For a long period, Scotland has been used as a legal laboratory animal by the UK government to test unpopular legislation. I was born in Glasgow, about 30 miles away from Faslane naval base where the Trident system is deployed. Thus, I grew up seriously considering that nuclear weapons are distinct from other weapons in terms of their capability for mass destruction. At home and in school, I often talked about nuclear weapons or the naval base with my parents and friends. Those conversations affected me and caused me to think that Scotland should be denuclearized. With the hope that I will make a contribution to realise a nuclear free Scotland, I joined in with antinuclear activity at Scottish CND[ii] in my youth. Then I affiliated myself with the Scottish National Party and became a member of parliament in 2007. At that time many people of CND supported me. Since then, I have kept working as an expert parliamentarian contributing on the issue of nuclear disarmament.
For the SNP, our ultimate goal is to remove all nuclear weapons out of Scotland as we have desired for so many years. However, the UK government will never voluntarily remove them from our territory. That’s the most important reason we are trying to gain independence as the first step to achieve the goal. After independence, we will still remain a member of NATO, subject to the agreement of the withdrawal of Trident from Scotland. On this, some people say that it means an independent Scotland will rely on the US nuclear umbrella, which seems against the philosophy of nuclear free Scotland in the true meaning. Yes it does. However, it is important to realise that we must do this step by step until reaching the goal. For the next step, we plan to enlarge a nuclear-weapon-free zone to Northern Europe cooperating with other countries such as Norway and Sweden. Furthermore, we expect that it will influence other parts of Europe to build nuclear-weapon-free zones as well. Finally, we hope that it will provide an opportunity to fundamentally challenge the UK Government’s nuclear policies and practices – hopefully even driving the UK toward complete nuclear disarmament.
At present the SNP is involved in the ‘Yes’ campaign for the referendum. I believe that this campaign will move people’s minds in a constructive way because Yes is positive and there is a power in itself. Someone asked what would come if the referendum ends in failure. As I predict, we would challenge such a tough situation for quite a long time. The UK government would deal with Scottish independence as a very insignificant issue. Furthermore, it would be very difficult to make an issue of it again in Scotland. Nevertheless, I totally believe that YES will win. Also the SNP will continue pursuing independence whatever may happen in 2014.
Lastly, I invite you to our capital city of Edinburgh on 17-18 April in 2013. At this time, Abolition 2000[iii] will hold its annual general meeting. Already some major figures from Mayors for Peace have decided to attend. So, I would ask that you would consider visiting Edinburgh to attend this meeting, or send fraternal messages, so as to demonstrate international support for the Scottish anti-nuclear campaign and independence. I am sure that your visit and messages will encourage Scots very much.