By Dennis Canavan
I RECENTLY came across an old election leaflet which was used by me as a Labour candidate during the 1979 general election.
It began: "The result of this election will determine the kind of society we shall have for many years to come.
"Do we want a greedy, grasping rat-race where only the strongest survive and the weakest go to the wall? Or do we want a caring, sharing society based on the principle that most help should go to those who are most in need ?"
In that General Election, Scotland voted for the caring, sharing society. The UK as a whole voted for the rat race. We all got a Prime Minister who told us that there is no such thing as society and the result was 18 years of Tory devastation.
In twelve months time, the people of Scotland have another opportunity to determine the type of society we have for many years to come. How we vote in next year’s referendum will be one of the most important decisions not just in our life-time but in the entire history of Scotland.
We face a stark choice: do we want more austerity under the union or do we want the opportunity of a fresh start in an independent Scotland? Much of the negative propaganda of the No campaign is deliberately designed to create a climate of fear and uncertainty. In an independent Scotland, what will happen to our pensions and benefits? What about our mortgage rates? How much tax will we have to pay? And what about our currency?
When the naysayers talk about uncertainty, they ignore the fact that, in politics, there are many uncertainties. The truth is that there are as many if not more uncertainties if we choose to stay in the UK as there are if we choose independence. No one can say with certainty what the rates of interest, tax or benefits will be in five or ten years time, if we stay in the UK. Any politician who tries to tell you otherwise is a snakeoil salesman.
But there is one thing for certain. If we stay in the UK, we shall suffer more austerity because that is the agenda of all the major parties at Westminster.
Scotland is at present being ruled by a UK government which is rewarding the rich with massive tax hand-outs and punishing the poor with savage cuts in benefits, including the iniquitous Bedroom Tax. Who ever dreamt that any government would stoop so low? It's Robin Hood in reverse, robbing the poor to pay the rich.
So what is the alternative? Labour has lost its soul as well as its moral compass and the Scottish Labour Party is just an adjunct of the British Labour Party. The Westminster consensus means wasting billions of pounds on weapons of mass destruction such as Trident, instead of investing in people, including the most vulnerable members of society.
So what is the realistic alternative for the people of Scotland? Independence may not be a panacea but it will guarantee
that the people of Scotland will always get the government they elect. That will help to ensure that the Scottish Government will reflect the values of the people of Scotland.
One of those values is social justice. When Margaret Thatcher came out with her infamous dictum that there is no such thing as society, she obviously had a receptive audience in Middle England but there was little if any resonance in Scotland.
She later boasted that her proudest legacy was the creation of New Labour and her legacy lives on at Westminster on the
opposition as well as government benches.
For many Scots, Westminster is a different political planet whose inhabitants are completely out of touch with the values, the needs and the aspirations of the people of Scotland.
In twelve months time the people of Scotland will have the opportunity to choose a different pathway – a pathway of hope
rather than despair. We can choose to continue as junior members of a discredited union where the economic consensus
has brought us to the brink of bankruptcy and the political consensus is making the poor the scape-goats.
Or we can start afresh with independence and try creating a caring, sharing society, where the freedom of people is more important than the freedom of market forces and investment in our National Health Service is more important than investment in weapons of mass destruction.
Independence will empower the people of Scotland to shape their own future by building a better Scotland, a more prosperous Scotland, a fairer Scotland. It will also enable us, as full members of the international community, to help to build a better world.
This article appears courtesy of The Scottish Socialist Voice.
A special edition of the Voice which will be available for purchase at the Scottish Socialist Party stall at the Independence Rally in Edinburgh on Saturday 21st September.