(Fair warning, this is the angriest post I think I’ve done. Just so you know…)
Alistair Darling came to Greenock today. The town of my birth, where I spend many of my days, which is as familiar to me as anything I can think of. He came here, to spread his message. He came here.
He came here with his big vans. “I love my family. I’m saying No Thanks.” “I love Scotland. I’m saying No Thanks.” We love our kids. We’re saying No Thanks.” You’d be hard-pressed to write a more implicitly chilling threat. “You love Scotland, don’t you? You love your family? Then you’ll vote No, won’t you? If you love Scotland, and you love your family, then you want what’s best for them. You don’t want to see harm come to them. You don’t want something… unpleasant to happen to them. So you’ll vote No. There’s a good voter.”
It’s not an argument. It’s not even a meaningless platitude. It’s a ransom note.
Jim Murphy came to Gourock a while back. I missed him, and frankly, I’m glad I did, given the nonsense which has come to pass in recent days. But while I despise the things Jim Murphy has said and done, I couldn’t see the point in bothering. He’s a Scottish MP, after all, whose influence is a fraction of the mere 5% of power Scottish MPs have in Parliament, and currently part of the opposition, so not even in government. He’s irrelevant.
George Galloway is coming to Greenock. I will not be going to his meeting, and I urge all Yes voters to do exactly the same – like all trolls, Galloway gains sustenance from attention. I will happily withhold that from him, starve him of his cravings. He’s a Scottish MP, after all, but as a representative of East Bradford, his influence is even less than the fraction of the mere 5% of power Scottish MPs have in Parliament, and as a member of Respect, not even in opposition to the government, let alone actually in government. He’s irrelevant.*
Alistair Darling is a different thing altogether: not because he has any more power than the other two, not because he has any influence, but for something altogether more personal. There are certainly plenty of despicable figures in the campaign, for which I hold a special level of disgust: Anas Sarwar and his complete inability to tell the truth; Margaret Curran and her frighteningly callous attitude to the First Minister’s life; Ian Davidson and his enthusiasm to impoverish his own constituents. But Alistair Darling is one who I cannot help but truly hate.
This is because I hold Alistair Darling personally responsible for everything which happened since the banking crisis. In September of 2007, a bank run on Northern Rock started. The first time there had been a run on a British Bank in almost 150 years. The UK banking industry was already suffering a liquidity crisis due to the lack of regulation combined with a mortgage crisis in the United States, and thus, it was unable to borrow to cover its liabilities. It was a grave situation. The bank was going to collapse. Alistair Darling faced a choice: should he allow the bank to fail, or should he act to stop it?
Alistair Darling chose to act – by not only authorizing the Bank of England to lend funds to Northern Rock, but by providing an unqualified taxpayer’s guarantee of saver’s deposits. In short, Alistair Darling chose to funnel billions in public money to save the skin of a private company. As a result, the UK’s already huge debt rocketed to astronomic levels. This led the way to a huge crisis of confidence in Labour, already reeling from the Iraq War and the Data Protection scandal, allowing the Conservatives to sweep in – and Darling’s actions gave them the excuse they needed to tighten the grip of Austerity. Welfare reform, the Health & Social Care Act, the privatisation of the Royal Mail and NHS – the massive deficit & debt provided the excuse to devastate public spending under the lie of Austerity, the idea that there is nothing else in the UK’s budget which could possibly be cut to alleviate the UK’s horrendous debt. Labour started it, and the Conservatives capitalised.
“We are sticking to the task. But that doesn’t just mean making difficult decisions on public spending. It also means something more profound. It means building a leaner, more efficient state. We need to do more with less. Not just now, but permanently.”
Austerity is only tolerated because the vast majority of people don’t seem to realise what a complete and utter lie it is. Food banks are no longer viewed as a travesty in a supposedly first-world country, they’re just another type of charity. The grotesque injustice of secret courts, extradition and rejection of human rights aren’t abominations, they’re “just part of life now.” Whenever I am asked to sum up why I’m voting Yes in a single sentence or paragraph, I always come back to this simple, inescapable reality of the United Kingdom as it is now:
The United Kingdom is a state where the 1,000 richest citizens earned £155 billion thanks to tax cuts,** while the 900,000 poorest are forced to use foodbanks, all while those richest 1,000’s friends in government claim that “we’re all in this together.”
Austerity is a lie, and remaining in the UK will continue to feed it. And Alistair Darling gave the architects of Austerity all they needed to make it happen. This is why I reserve such burning resentment for Alistair Darling – not because he is inherently evil, but because he has enabled it.
Despite the obvious inclination to view Yes and No as opposing forces, I prefer to think more as a spectrum. Yes Scotland have a handy wee graphic, where a prospective voter places their inclination for or against independence on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being “I don’t think Scotland should be an independent country,” 10 being “Scotland definitely should be an independent country.” So rather than No being opposites, I view it as a gradient from 1 to 10. It makes talking with No voters far more relaxing to me, as I’m fully confident that everyone is capable of moving along that scale – and precedent has shown that it’s very much a one-way street. Hence how I can have perfectly temperate conversations with staunch No-voters – they aren’t the enemy, they’re on the same scale as me or you or anyone else, just on different ends. If there is an enemy here, it’s Westminster, not my fellow Scots. I can laugh and joke with people on “the other side.”
But the reality of a No vote is something far more serious. And, to go all William Lloyd Garrison, I am going to speak without moderation, for I truly believe in what I’m going to say. It something that actually frightens me as I contemplate it. And that is this:
To vote No to independence is to vote to enable, facilitate and encourage evil.
Hyperbolic? Understand I’m not necessarily talking about some quasi-religious, supernatural Spirit of Evil here: no Chernabog atop Bald Mountain, no moustache-twirling Hades, but the terribly banal, mundane sort of evil which we’ve seen time and time again. Evil is not something people are – Evil is something people do. People are not good or evil – people do good or evil. And much evil is being done by the UK government, its allies, its servants – and we are all contributing to it.
Consider: the UK government’s policies have been underwritten by North Sea Oil for decades***, and by Scottish revenue before its discovery. Ergo, Scots have contributed their money to all the decisions made by the UK. When the UK government embarked upon the illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, Scottish oil revenue paid for it. All the cover-ups were facilitated by the money we pay. Every bullet put into the skull of a human being in another country whose only crime was being in the wrong place and the wrong time was put there with Scottish money.
We cannot change this as part of the UK, otherwise we could have changed it already. The UK’s socialist period in the immediate postwar years proved to be an anomaly for the British state, for within a few decades, it reverted to type: class division, racial scapegoating, and vast inequality. There’s a reason World War I is lionised – it’s because it was the last war where class division was still considered proper and right, where people knew their place. All that Red Clydeside nonsense was soon snuffed out. We cannot change Westminster – but we can stop enabling it.
With a Yes vote, we can stop sending billions of Scottish taxes to Westminster, knowing that it will be spent on weapons of mass destruction, illegal wars, immoral legislation, and silencing appalling scandals. It won’t stop war, it won’t stop evil – but at least we will stop contributing to it. And if an independent Scotland’s government does evil, we will be in a position to take it to account – something that simply cannot be done within the United Kingdom.
You can choose not to buy products from an evil company that operates in your country. You can choose to avoid the work of an evil artist that performs in your country. But only a Yes vote can ensure you do not pay tax to an evil government that runs your country. And for all the good the UK government has done in the past, there is no question of the breadth and depravity of the evil it has done over the centuries. I do not want a single pound of my taxes to go on the toxic white elephant at Faslane, not a penny to go to illegal wars, not a scratch to facilitate massive tax bonuses to the rich while the poor starve and freeze – and I will be damned if they are going to force me to choose between funding that government and leaving the land I love.
All this occurred to me when Alistair Darling came to Greenock. He represents everything I find hateful and loathesome about Westminster. And as a Labour MP, he represents the true horror: that it doesn’t matter whether Labour or the Conservatives get in, for the result will always be the same. How many more people are going to suffer and die while we wait for England to wake up? Only by depriving the UK of its oxygen do we have a chance to change things.
No voters are not evil. Voting No is not evil. But voting No is voting to allow evil to continue governing our lives. It is a vote that ensures every millionaire who received a tax break while pensioners freeze to death in an oil-rich country had their pockets lined, in part, by us. It is a vote that ensures every person who died within six months of losing their disability benefits was facilitated, in part, by us. It is a vote that ensures that every bullet that takes an innocent’s life was paid for, in part, by us. Voting no is hoping the thug who beat you into this life-threatening condition will show some sort of mercy on you. Independence is not a panacea to cure all ills: it is CPR, a morphine injection, a shock from a defibrillator. A fighting chance to bring our broken soul back from the brink of oblivion.
*Many thanks to the comments pointing out Mr Galloway being Scottish and an MP, but not one of the 59 MPs for a Scottish constituency, hopefully the paragraph is clearer now.
**Thanks to Stefan for prompting the clarification, see comments.
***Thanks to Tim Ward for prompting the clarification, see comments.