Your metal soundtrack for the post is provided by Iron Maiden
To anyone who’s only just becoming involved in the campaign for Scottish Independence, it can be extremely difficult for longtime campaigners, or even folk like me (I only really started campaigning properly about the time the referendum was announced), to elucidate to complete newcomers exactly what it’s all about. There’s just so much to say! Democracy, accountability, equality, social justice, environmentalism, identity, anything and everything. It’s particularly difficult when undecideds bring up the “big issues” as dictated to them by the UK establishment: what currency will we use? What about our pensions? What about jobs? All things you’ll read in Better Together literature.
So I got this through the door yesterday. Crumpled, bashed, rudely handled, I dared to imagine the courier: an angry youth? An impatient jobseeker? A Liverpudlian bussed up courtesy of Anas Sarwar? Whoever it was, they didn’t seem to care if it got battered about.*
As with Alistair Darling’s visit, it’s one thing for you to see this on the television or the internet, even out on posters and billboards on the road to Glasgow. But to have this in your home, intruding on your personal space… Well, how best to explain to people who have no idea of anything about the referendum exactly why my immediate reaction was to wonder what the most insulting origami creature I could make from the leaflet? Their nonsense has been discredited hundreds of times by now, by the indefatigable Wings Over Scotland, NewsNet Scotland, Bella Caledonia, National Collective, Craig Murray, Derek Bateman, Paul Kavanagh… really, too many to list. Then I thought: this leaflet may well encapsulate everything wrong about Better Together for me. To my utter amazement, I believe a case could be made that every single statement in this leaflet is wrong. But it more than just wrong, as in inaccurate or in error – it is a lie. It is deliberate. It is concerted.
I know, I know, how could that possibly be true? Even the most fraudulent of politicians have some sort of basis in truth, don’t they? Surely the entire Better Together campaign has something going for it, some genuine points in favour of the Union? It seems completely irrational that the side which is still currently ahead in most polls is so tenuously gossamer-thin. Yet as far as I’m concerned, it is.
So I’ve decided all I can do now, after years of explaining, is to be perfectly and utterly blunt. I will go through this leaflet, and explain why everything in it is not only incorrect, but dishonest, and be as concise and uncompromising as possible.
PEOPLE OF SCOTLAND – THEY ARE LYING TO YOU.
THIS IS A LIE. How can we possibly know whether our public services would be better or worse outside of the United Kingdom when it hasn’t happened yet? As things stand now, UK public services are being slashed mercilessly by the UK government, and unlike many government decisions, this cannot simply be reversed by a new regime.
THIS IS A LIE. Scotland has higher public spending than the UK average – not “the rest of the UK,” as the public spending in Northern Ireland is much higher per head. But even excepting Northern Ireland, the higher proportion of public spending is more than offset by the higher proportion of taxes raised in Scotland – £1,700 higher per head. Taking the higher spending out of context with the higher taxes presents a completely fallacious impression of the real situation. (Also the coin piles are not reflective of the stats: it should look like 11 coins against 13 (15% difference), not 14 against 20 (30% difference))
THIS IS A LIE. “Experts” implies a consensus, as if every expert in the world is in agreement – which is obviously not the case. Several notable NHS workers, doctors, nurses and experts are explicitly in favour of independence, while Teachers for Yes boasts 500 members so far. I’d much rather trust the word of those in the education and health professions than the unsourced, unnamed “experts” here.
THIS IS A LIE. There is no UK NHS: there have been entirely separate and independent National Health Services for Scotland and England and Wales since their foundations in the 1940s. Groups from Great Ormond Street Hospital to NHS Blood & Transplant have stated unequivocally that there would be no changes to the current situation in the event of independence. Either Dr Bowie is mistaken, or GOSH and NHSBT are.
THIS IS A LIE. Scottish Universities benefit massively from the extra funding from the Research Councils UK because they are good, not because they are in the UK. RCUK is explicit: “Research Council funds are awarded on the basis of applications made by individual researchers, which are subject to independent, expert peer review. Awards are made on the basis of the research potential and are irrespective of geographical location.” Cameron is not technically incorrect in that Scotland receives funding “as part of the UK,” but the impression is that the funding is given because it is part of the UK.
THIS IS A LIE. The “drop” in Scottish oil revenue was a result of major investment stalling productivity, not due to some mysterious “volatility.” The money wasn’t lost, it was spent – specifically, spent in order to invest in future discoveries. And, of course, it ignores that Scottish oil and gas accounts for only 15% of Scotland’s economy – Norway’s is 20%. They’re doing fine.
THIS IS A LIE. If being part of a bigger country did mean more economic opportunities, then why are most of the richest countries in the world small – some even smaller than Scotland? If size protected us from economic crises, then why were the USA and Russia harder hit than Hong Kong or Singapore?
THIS IS A LIE. As if I have to tell you why it takes a brass neck to say your money’s safe in the UK.
THIS IS A LIE. Without any citations or names, these “economists” could be entirely made up for all we know. We do know, however, that plenty of businesses like those of Business for Scotland and Wealthy Nation evidently disagree.
THIS IS A LIE. Craig’s job does not depend on being part of the UK at all: the MoD and BAE have already made clear that Royal Navy contracts will remain for the Prince of Wales aircraft carrier, and BAE systems have no plans to halt production in the event of a Yes vote. Yet even if that were so, why should production dry up simply because the UK doesn’t put in orders? Scotland will need ships of her own. It is a cruel irony that a shipbuilding industry that was once the pride of the world has been so devastated that the loss of 72 jobs at Ferguson is a deathly blow – and even more ironic that we’re to expect the UK will protect those jobs where it failed to protect hundreds of thousands before it.
THIS IS A LIE. As stated above, that £1,200 is more than offset by the £1,700 raised in taxes. What’s more, that extra spending is not just spent on schools and hospitals, but interest on the UK’s debt, as well as what used to be called “imperial expenditure” – or, things outside of Scotland which are nonetheless partly funded by Scotland if they’re deemed to be good for the whole UK… like HS2, Trident, Boris Island, the House of Lords, and others. As working parents, perhaps the Midgleys would be better considering what staying in the UK would mean for their family.
THIS IS A LIE. It’s a particularly preposterous one because of the use of Ireland as an example – mostly because unlike the UK, Ireland is entirely surrounded by sea. The UK has the Channel Tunnel and access to the European mainland, so of course prices will be higher there. Scotland isn’t an island, so there’s no reason for groceries to be any higher than they are now.
THIS IS A LIE. I can only quote that man from the second Darling/Salmond debate: if we’re Better Together, why are we not better together?
THIS IS A LIE. The Scottish Parliament has full power over NHS, school, police and transport policy, but not NHS, schools, police and transport finances – because Scotland’s finances are largely controlled by Westminster. One cannot have full power over anything if they have no power over something as significant as its budget.
THIS IS A LIE. “The strength, security and stability of the UK” is a cruel joke considering the UK’s current standing in the world, and the possibility of “more decisions” being devolved is vague and meaningless.
THIS IS A LIE. There are serious risks and uncertainties in staying in the union – further austerity, the further erosion of rights, irreversible privatisation, possible future wars, and more besides. To say independence offers more risk and uncertainty than remaining in the UK is outrageous.
THIS IS A LIE. At least they waited until the second-to-last page for an Alex Salmond dig. But to say that independence is synonymous with Alex Salmond is to ignore the long history of the modern independence movement.
THIS IS A LIE. Based on all the evidence in front of us, it is the definition of madness to expect anything less than more of the same from Westminster.
THIS IS A LIE. One of the few truly unambiguous things about the entire debate is that Scotland can keep the pound, Westminster cannot stop us from using the pound, and indeed no other country can stop Scotland from using the pound. The only ambiguity is whether the use of the pound would be official or unofficial – there is no way we can’t “keep” the pound.
THIS IS A LIE. The absolute worst thing you can do to protect Scotland’s schools & hospitals is to let Westminster continue on its path of grotesque tuition fees and privatisation of the NHS.
THIS IS A LIE. As with the pound, pensions are one of the few absolutely sure things we know about independence – namely, that your pensions are as secure in independence as they would be in the UK.
I’m already sick of this. I will not cover any more Better Together material, because frankly, what else could I say? Everything listed is a lie. Some are complex misrepresentations, which use omission and remove information from context to give the opposite impression of the reality. Some are outright fabrications with no bearing on truth. And some are simply, utterly, irrefutably, lies. This is how Westminster does things. When they have no genuine case, they simply resort to lies, deception, fear and tactics. And I’m sick of it.
Just be honest with us. “We want Scotland to stay because Scotland’s balance of trade props up the UK’s economy. We want Scotland to stay because our millionaire friends want a lovely isolated place to shoot grouse and deer. We want Scotland to stay because over half of the UK’s territorial waters belong to Scotland. We want Scotland to stay because we want somewhere to park our nuclear status symbols. The people? If you’re worth taking, then you’ll come down to work in London: the rest of you can eke out an existence in the wilderness. Scotland is what we want – not its people, no, just the resources, the land, the water. The property. The things.” But we’ll never hear that, because they can never tell us exactly how little we mean to them.
Vote Yes, and we have a chance to end the Politics of Deceit. We may never utterly eliminate corruption, and certainly will never eradicate mendacity – but at the very least, we can cleanse them.
No more lies.
*The culprit was indeed an “angry youth” – a young family member was as incensed as I was with the contents of the leaflet that they couldn’t help but grasp it without any care for its condition. In fact it was delivered by our postman – the fact that Better Together are so starved of grassroots campaigners that they must resort to the post speaks volumes. I greatly apologise to our wonderful postmen, whose jobs I appreciate more than ever before.