My original notes for SOS article:
“In 1999 I was elected to the Scottish Parliament as a Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, in my first speech to the Scottish Parliament in 1999 as a callow inexperienced politician, I levelled the charge at Donald Dewar that he lacked ambition for Scotland. My words then were “If you never raise your eyes above the horizon you will never see the stars.” Today nearly 15 years later the stars are not only firmly in focus but almost within reach. A yes vote on 18th September next year will put them firmly in our grasp.
The economic arguments will continue to be batted to and fro and the negative campaign of the No group will continue to paint the future black. I am not an economist and no one can predict what lies ahead absolutely, but my simple question is this, will Scotland be any worse off by grasping self determination? Is it credible to believe that we could possibly fail to prosper solely on the basis that our own decisions are made by Scots for Scots in Scotland?.
But there are wider issues than economics and those wider issues are the ones that matter more to me than if we may pay a penny more or less tax or save an extra shilling on a dram. These issues are founded on the type of society that my grandchildren will inherit. Look at what we seem to be unable to achieve under the current union, not just because of legislative restrictions but of a lack of will and purpose. There is evidential certainty that the inequalities inherent in British society fester in the social divisions exemplified so strongly in Scotland. There is little doubt that there are issues that we acknowledge but appear to ignore, issues such as land reform and ownership, issues such as access to the levers of power, issues such as the raft of NGO’s peopled by a select elite whose decisions affect the lives of millions, issues such as substandard housing in sink estates blighting the lives of children. My hope is that once independence is gained the people of Scotland will feel more inclined to participate in matters which directly impinge on their wellbeing.
The apathy that seems to infect the Scots , with scottish voter participation steadily declining in recent elections is perhaps a reflection of the perception of the Scottish Parliament as a kind of Super Council, where worthy bores drone on about the mundane and parochial, interspersed with a shouty wee Labour woman from Glasgow berating awbody, a Lib Dem forgotten somewhere amongst the blond wood and Minnie the Minx firing her Tory peashooter at the Chieftain tank that is the First Minister. It is true that a lot of Parliamentary business is, of its nature, attending to detail, but changes must be made to increase the participation and engagement of the voters. If Scotland is to really benefit from independence it may need to rethink the way it rules itself. Not least in the way that prospective MSP’s are selected for a start.
The Yes camp draws its support from across the political spectrum, but the preponderant impression projected by commentators is of a left/ soft left bias flavour to the vision it articulates. There is a a lack of expressed enthusiasm from the centre right or those who don’t believe that centralisation is the only method of arranging society. However this voice needs to be raised and heard. To desire less state intervention in peoples lives is not to emancipate the worst excesses of Toryism, to encourage people to think for themselves and influence the decisions that affect them directly is not to abrogate responsibility rather it increases and strengthens democracy. In an Independent Scotland there would be a direct incentive to be involved, a right to claim “move over, you, it’s my country too”. It is time for all Scots to embrace those latent feelings of pride and patriotism to enable us all to work together to build a better land. Perhaps a good place to mention “wealthy Nation”?
And yes there will be things to be arranged, negotiations to take place, compromises will have to be tholed, disappointments swallowed. The sticking points of sentimental attachments to armed forces links, shared history and familial ties are not obstacles to running our own lives but treasures to be archived and valued. As we make our way independently into the wider world we will make new links, new alliances and new attachments , not to replace the old ones but to add to them.
So by voting yes we have a chance to redress that 1999 accusation of lack of vision, to create a society free to rearrange itself in the way that suits it best, a society where innate fairness is the basis of behaviour of government to its citizens, a society where inequalities of opportunity are eliminated over time, where people have influence over their environment, health and education, where we all work towards commonly agreed goals whilst being guaranteed individual liberties and freedoms. In short a wish list of aspirations for a better country, one that a No vote not only won’t deliver but can’t deliver.