Independence Without Nationalism
Kevin McKenna, a man not associated with the cause of self-determination, has written a remarkable column for the Guardian, in which he states: “Unionists, me included, have talked loftily about dangers of break-up and separation in a world that is thirsting for continuity and stability.Yet we conveniently overlook the fact that London has already broken away from the United Kingdom and now exists as a world super-state governed by the greed of unhindered capitalism and recognisable as British only by its taxis and bad service.”
Another writer, Joyce McMillan, also an avowedly non-nationalist (‘I am not a political nationalist of any stripe, and never will be’) writes this past week too: “What I see at Westminster is not an alternative politics that avoids the pitfalls of nationalism, but an instinctive, backward-looking British nationalism that is even worse: a farrago of double standards about Westminster and Holyrood, and of reactionary nonsense about the nature of national identity in the 21st century, combined with a complete vacuum of progressive policy, and an instinctive willingness – on the part of the Labour Party – to side in this debate with what is perhaps the most privileged and reactionary government the UK has seen in a century.”
What we are seeing emerging is not a nationalist movement, it is a movement for self-determination, it is going to become – it has got to become – a movement defined more by our ability to to articulate a different set of values, and from them, a different set of policies, concrete, credible and sovereign. To be clear, the choice is between ongoing sustained and institutionalised austerity or control over own affairs. There is no, and there is not going to be, a third way.
The newly formed 60% Gang promise jam tomorrow, but few would hold faith that the set of contingencies would hang together. For the undead Devo Plus to become reality we’d need first, the Labour Party or Liberals to adopt it, second for these parties to be in a position to implement it, thirdly for those realignments of taxation between NI, Wales, England and Scotland to be accepted – none of which seems remotely likely. But examining the argument is worthwhile anyway. The Institute for Public Policy Research this week publishes a new report proposing that MSPs get far more control over the taxes we pay. The IPPR’s director, Guy Lodge, warns that there are “real risks” that without such a concrete plan in place, many voters could be tempted to opt for independence in 2014. The ‘risk’ bit’s a bit of a giveaway, but what does this look like?
The IPPR report, written by leading devolution expert Professor Alan Trench, does not propose devolving corporation tax or North Sea oil revenues (that would apparently cause ‘instability’) but it does back the idea of giving MSPs complete control over income tax. It also suggests that MSPs should be “assigned” a large chunk of VAT revenues, and the windfall “sin” taxes, such as alcohol and tobacco revenue, which are collected in Scotland. Trench argues around 60 per cent of the money that Scottish ministers currently spend on schools, hospitals and transport should come directly from Scottish tax revenue – around £22 billion. Now this isn’t going to happen. This is a fudge and a ruse to try and confuse matters, but even conceptually it is comically flawed. Try this out: your boss tells you that you’ll get 60% of your salary – as giving you the full amount would be unsettling. Sound good?
Britain is spiraling into further austerity-driven economic crisis. Despite the war on the feckless poor, the reality is (according to Joseph Rowntree) 6.1 million people in poverty are in working households. Excluding pensioners, in-work poverty now outstrips workless poverty at 5.1 million households. In other words the whole war on scroungers narrative is not just offensive, it’s objectively wrong, it doesn’t make sense. The government, which we didn’t elect, has the wrong target, and is wrecking the economy, which we can’t control.
As the Child Poverty Action Group has pointed out, in addition to the 800,000 children that the Institute for Fiscal Studies says will also be in relative poverty by 2020 due to the tax credits and benefits squeeze and the impact of universal credit – a further 200,000 will be hit. So coalition policies are set to increase child poverty by at least a million children by 2020. We’re neither ‘in it together’ nor ‘Better Together’. Whatever happened to the cross-party goal of ending child poverty by 2020?
Our Kevin, puts it in sharp relief:
In Glasgow, the boss of a council-run regeneration agency was given a £500k pay-off at a time when the Citizens Advice Bureau is reporting almost 1,000 calls a day from people whose families have been impoverished by the benefit cuts. Life for millions of people under the most rapacious and reactionary government in 150 years has diminished. To prevent the peasants revolting, however, they have been treated to exaggerated displays of unity euphoria such as the Olympics and assorted royal jubilees.
The evidence for a broken society, distorted and by poverty lies everywhere around us. The latest report suggests 14 million people or a staggering 37% of people unable to meet unexpected financial expenses.
This is about the Raploch, not Bannockburn.