|Earlier this year the political map of Scotland was flooded yellow as the SNP swept to power with a landslide victory of the type which our system of proportional representation aims to all but preclude. Even the Lib Dem stronghold of North East Fife couldn’t resist the wave of national spirit which engulfed our wee bit hill and glen.|
However, in its international diversity, cosmopolitanism and … let’s just say it, either unionism or plain apoliticism, St Andrews remains immune to the historical events currently unfolding, and ignorant to the case for Scottish Independence.
Indeed any declaration of pro-independence is generally met with the same abhorrence as if one had announced a Faustian pact with the devil in St Salvator’s Chapel.
Yet the call for Scottish independence is not a violent battle cry or an unreasonable demand for superior status. We desire only the freedom to make our own decisions in the same way that other countries do – the ability to control our own affairs and address our own priorities.
As individuals we value our own independence. We accept that it is entirely natural to make our own decisions, to earn and spend our own money, and to take responsibility for our own lives.
Why should we settle for anything less for our country? We do not think it strange that the people of France and Germany run their own affairs. We would not expect the people of Sweden to ask another nation to make decisions for them. Why should the people of Scotland be any different?
Independence would create a better relationship with the rest of the UK, a partnership of equals in a social union to replace the unfair political union governed from London, in which the interests of Scotland are neglected in favour of those of the UK as a whole, in which England constitutes the most dominant part.
The priorities of Scotland are likewise misrepresented in the EU, where we are recognised merely as a region of the UK. Issues like fishing and agriculture, which are of vital importance to Scotland even if not to the UK as a whole, are currently subject to EU agreements in which Scotland has no say.
Where independent countries of a similar size have 13 MEPs, Scotland has only 6 and no automatic right to send ministers to important EU Council of Ministers meetings.
The Scottish Government passed world-leading climate change legislation in 2009, yet was unqualified as an independent nation to send an official delegation to the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen that year.
To ensure that the interests of Scotland are represented in Europe and that we have a voice and a vote in the all-important Council of Ministers, we must become a normal, independent nation again.
Responsibility for currently reserved matters like Foreign Affairs and Defence would allow us to take our own place in the global community of nations and play a constructive role in the world.
We would function as a full member of international bodies like the UN and the EU, working together on equal terms with other nations to tackle problems like climate change, war and poverty and decide how we want to interact with the world around us.
It would mean avoiding being dragged into costly and misguided wars by the UK government, and choosing not to pay for the UK’s expensive Trident nuclear weapon system.
Nobody is better placed to address the priorities of Scotland than the Scottish people themselves. The dynamic approach of our SNP government has made maximum use of the limited powers available with devolution, for example, ensuring that everyone can afford to pursue Higher Education by footing the bill for University tuition fees.
Completion of this home-rule through full independence is necessary to ensure that our government can continue to make and finance such decisions in the interests of the Scottish people, instead of being dictated to by an ever-decreasing Westminster-allocated budget.
No discussion of independence can ignore the scornful claims of Scotland’s inability to afford independence, a move which would doom the financial security and prosperity enjoyed as part of UK, by whom our existence is kindly subsidised.
This myth is enthusiastically propagated by those parties who repeatedly claim that we are somehow uniquely incapable of running our own country.
The reality is quite the contrary. A study last year – in which the Department of Economics here at the University of St Andrews was involved – proved that full fiscal responsibility would see the Scottish economy grow faster each year, and a quick glance at GERS reports (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) demonstrates how our national accounts are even now in better shape than those of the UK as a whole. 2008/9 figures saw Scotland with a surplus of £1.3 billion, compared to a UK-wide deficit of £48.9 billion.
Scotland has won the natural lottery twice over, boasting oil and gas reserves together with huge potential in renewable energy, with as much as a quarter of Europe’s offshore tidal and wind resource.
Scotland is also home to a highly skilled population, world class universities and a modern diverse economy. These are solid foundations on which to foster a stable and prosperous economy.
That Scotland is too small to survive as an independent nation is an equally deluded statement; almost half of the countries represented in the UN have a population smaller than that of Scotland, including some of the wealthiest in the world.
Independence is not a new idea. Scotland is today, and always has been, a distinct community and nation.
Roman territorial expansion never did succeed in conquering Caledonia, with Hadrian giving up in northern England and the later Antonine Wall of 142 AD being built not as an attempt to claim Scotland, but rather as a defense against the “barbarians” of the north.
The later English threat to the individuality and liberty of the Scots was met with the passionate assertion of national spirit in the Scottish Wars of Independence, which saw the emergence of heroes like Wallace and Bruce, who dedicated their lives to ensuring that Scotland remain free from English rule.
Unsurprisingly then, the loathsome prospect of subjugation to England which was to result a few centuries later was never the will of the Scottish people.
Rather, the dynastic dilemma that unified the crowns under James VI of Scotland was swiftly followed by the economically disastrous Darien Scheme, subsequent to which the political class of Scotland were financially bribed into selling their soul to the devil in ratifying the Treaty of Union.
In 1603 and 1707, the Scottish people had no voice with which to express their opposition to English-dominated rule as part of the UK. Today they do, and they have spoken.
The Devolution Referendum of 1997 led to the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 and the SNP has emerged victorious in the most recent elections of 2007 and 2011.
Scotland is striding powerfully towards the restoration of the sovereignty which was never rightfully taken from it.
Far from an unfounded patriotic pipe-dream, the student population of St Andrews needs to acknowledge the case for Scottish Independence as one of resounding historical and contemporary significance.
After all, ‘it is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone…’