On 18 September 2014, the world will look on with interest at the decision of a small but distinguished nation. Should Scotland vote Yes and decide to take control of its own destiny by entrusting its affairs to its own people, that decision will reverberate around the globe and signal the end of a Union that currently thwarts Scotland’s progress at many a level. In contrast to those whose most compelling argument for remaining part of the United Kingdom is one of sentimentality, an independent Scotland would capture the world’s imagination and epitomise the ideal 21st century political state. With some of the leading institutions around the world as well as a diverse and talented workforce, Scotland stands well placed in the modern world to prosper once freed from the shackles of Westminster.
As things stand, we form part of a political union that is dominated and influenced by a select few, continuing to drift further away from the needs of its people. Moreover, it lacks the genuine will, means or courage to tackle the myriad of problems that blight its landscape. With inequality so stark, when every whim of a wealthy elite is accommodated at a time when those at the bottom of our society are left destitute, when drugs and armaments form two of our biggest industries, it is high time we seriously questioned the direction of the Westminster project.
The No camp tell us how fortunate we are as part of the Union yet singularly refuse to discuss our current predicament that is underscored by a crippling national debt, a spluttering economy, institutions at breaking point, a pensions black hole staring each and every one of us in the face, exorbitant university costs for students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, not to mention the soaring cost of living. Instead, they retort the tired and hollow line that we stand Better Together.
Take, for instance, their claim that leading businesses will depart Scotland after Independence; I ask, which of those businesses haven’t departed these shores already? When giants such as Vodafone, Google and Starbucks each pay a pittance in tax or when some of wealthiest individuals in the country such as Philip Green and Lord Ashcroft pay no tax at all and are then rewarded with key governmental posts, the false narrative of the No camp becomes abundantly clear. At a time when trust in Westminster politics is at an all-time low, it would be absurd to fall for the bogus claims of the No campaign.
With the whiff of scandal, failure and incompetence never far away from Westminster, the systemic flaws in our current political setup are all too apparent and do not complement the needs of an ambitious, modern democracy. When the disconnect between the government and the governed becomes this large, reform is both urgent and necessary. All this is at a time when political interest is greater than ever through the advent of new forms of media. Yet, instead of greater empowerment, the irony is that we are more helpless than ever before.
Against this backdrop, this referendum is not a motion in the popularity of the SNP, nor about what big businesses may or may not do after Independence. Instead, it is a referendum is about you, the individual and your worth to Scotland. It is about ordinary citizens who go about their daily business in an unassuming manner seeking nothing but a fair shake in life for themselves and their families.
This is as glorious an opportunity any society across any generation will have to reengage, reinvigorate and inspire action in their politics by voting for Independence and reconnecting their system of governance with the needs of the population. In the last decade alone, citizens in diverse societies across the globe have sacrificed life and limb for their democratic freedoms and so it would be unthinkable for Scotland to squander this opportunity when we stand upon the cusp of history.
This is our time and this is our moment to step up and show that we aspire for higher ideals and refuse to settle for less than we
deserve or for what the cynics and fear mongers say is not possible. Above all, this is an opportunity to be embraced, not feared.
That we are in a crisis is certain. Subject to data, statistics and other analyses, the signs of decline as part of the UK are right before us. However, as we learn from the Chinese ideogram, a crisis is an opportunity for change, and change comes when you have innovation of thought and originality of ideas, not when you follow the status quo.
If ever the words of an Englishman were fitting at this juncture in Scotland’s history, it is the immortal lines of William Ernest Henley: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul”.
By Wasim Mahmood.