Like many young activists, I didn’t get involved in politics to consolidate a career – I did it because I want justice. People the length and breadth of these islands, from Unst to the Isles of Scilly, feel the same – there’s a desperate need for justice, and for change. Yet the changing of the guard at No.10, from a corrupt crony to a careerist neoliberal, isn’t the ‘change’ we need, let alone a way of delivering it on a fair timescale.
The likes of Sarwar, Brown, Starmer, Swinson, Davey, Sunak, and Cameron would have us wait yet another decade for reforms, which we need now, to even begin to be seen. It’s quixotic, insulting, and unrealistic to demand that marginalised young people, starving families, freezing pensioners, and exhausted workers wait for these changes to take effect, against a background of similar inaction on the climate catastrophe.
The Labour-Conservative consensus – Westminster won’t solve our problems
Neither Labour nor the Conservatives are interested in tackling the cost of living, or the crises facing our democracy and the climate. Instead, they would rather exacerbate them with policies like NHS charges, corporation tax cuts, and refusing electoral reform.
We face a dire situation, stuck between a rock and a hard place. I want a future on this planet, in a socially just country, with a functioning economy and a protected democratic system – none of that is possible under Westminster rule, and you would be in denial to believe otherwise. Ultimately, Scotland has the opportunity to facilitate the change we need for everyone across these islands: with independence.
Scottish independence; England’s recovery
Scottish independence would provide the very necessary constitutional catalyst to deliver genuine, pragmatic reform within Westminster, on the practical timescale we need, for people living in England. Inducing the necessary break to the Westminster establishment which would force an overhaul of the system, facilitating the essential changes that would create a fairer, more prosperousand democratic country. In turn, it would allow for the Scottish government to be an equal, independent neighbour and partner to the UK government, resetting our current toxic relationship that has seen our (Scottish) parliament undermined (such as with the Internal Markets Act), overruled or threatened.
Not only would we be able to pursue closer relationships with our Nordic neighbours and the EU, ones that would suit our geopolitical and socioeconomic needs, but we could actually start to address many of the problems we face in Scotland but currently can’t do anything about, within the limitations of devolution.
At present, the Scottish parliament can only mitigate the damage caused by multiple crises, since it lacks the full levers of independence that would allow it to tackle root causes. Well, mitigation simply isn’t good enough for me, nor for other young people, for anyone else living in Scotland, and particularly not for our planet. Scotland can be the example to disprove much of the right-wing media scaremongering in the rest of the UK, proving the success of progressive green policies, a wellbeing economy, and a positive relationship with the EU.
No future in the UK
As a young person, I cannot see a future for myself in the UK. Many of my friends are looking to emigrate (some, sadly, have done so already) because of the lack of opportunities, a decade of austerity, damage from Brexit, and the cost of living. For me, too, the question is: do I need to emigrate from the UK in order to get a job and build a livelihood, or can I continue to live here in an independent Scotland. That is the reality that many young people face, and part of the reason why young Scots are overwhelmingly pro-independence.
However, as much as I believe independence is the necessary vehicle to deliver these changes, I also recognise the problems of a plebiscite election. If it’s successful and pro-independence parties win a majority of votes and seats, that doesn’t mean this mandate will be respected – it might very well be ignored, like every other election in Scotland, by the likes of Sunak and Starmer. If it’s unsuccessful and we don’t get a majority of pro-independence seats and/or votes – then Westminster’s establishment will use this as a justification to stop any referendum being delivered for the foreseeable future. There’s a lot to lose, with potentially little to gain. So, let’s take a page out of Westminster’s book – it’s time we used their system against them. Let’s take the campaign to England.
Taking advantage of Westminster’s broken system
Nigel Farage achieved a Brexit referendum victory, despite his party winning just a single seat in the commons, because he forced David Cameron’s careerist hand and made him adopt the policy of holding a referendum on the EU. He played the system by threatening to deprive Cameron of a majority. If we want to deliver genuine progressive policies, democratic reforms, and an independence referendum, we need to do the same. I believe we should adopt ‘Common Election Pledges’ – a series of shared, progressive policies and pledges for reform to be delivered under the agreement that only one candidate, who agrees to the pledges, may stand in each constituency.
Such pledges could include:
- The permanent devolution of a Section 30 Order to the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly to legislate for, and hold, a legally binding referendum on independence once per parliamentary session.
- The abolition of the House of Lords, to either be replaced with a democratically elected upper chamber, or removed altogether to create a unicameral parliamentary system.
- Electoral reform to allow for a more democratic and proportional voting system, such as proportional representation, multi-member constituencies, AMS, or otherwise – to be decided through a ranked choice referendum.
- The immediate reversal of anti-strike and anti-protest laws which have been put in place under the Conservative government, with a commitment to end outsourcing, privatisation and corporatisation of the NHS.
- Delivering genuine Land Reform to empower rural communities, tackle island depopulation, improve local connectivity, ensure economically better (and more efficient) use of land and investment in agroecological practices & technologies.
And so on. We would look to other progressive parties across the UK, such as Plaid Cymru, Yorkshire Party or the Green Party of England, to commit to these fair, and justifiable, pledges. Recognising that much of Labour’s support comes not from the charisma of a deeply unpopular opposition leader, but a rejection of the Tories, means we can provide an alternative for apathetic, pro-EU, swing and progressive voters to show their frustration with Labour and the Tories.
With the Tories polling so low, the worry that not voting Labour may deliver a Tory government isn’t really a concern, which further emboldens people to protest vote. I also believe that it might be worthwhile looking into standing SNP candidates in Cumbria, Rishi Sunak’s seat of Richmond (Yorks) and the North East of England, as a pro-devolution alternative, recognising how these areas especially are often ignored by Westminster.
Make Labour progressive again – or else!
If this was successful, Starmer would have to accept these progressive policies (which are near-universally supported and popular amongst both Labour and non-Labour voters), to prevent voters from backing left-wing alternatives and to maintain his majority. In turn, we would have the powers to legislate for a referendum permanently.
On the other hand, if Starmer refused to accept these progressive policies, it could really hurt his chances with swing and apathetic left voters, jeopardising his majority. Even if candidates and parties who back the pledges didn’t win any seats in England, it could help make the SNP the kingmaker in parliament for a minority Labour government, pushing for these progressive policies, including a referendum.
There’s a third scenario: this doesn’t work – the pledge candidates and parties don’t succeed in depriving Starmer of a majority, and he rejects these progressive policies altogether. This would heavily backfire on Labour in the polls post-election, and especially in Scotland. Such fundamental proof that reform would not be happening anytime soon within the UK would only cause support for independence to go up.
In each scenario, we either get a referendum, we get influence in Westminster to deliver a referendum, or independence support goes up and the case for independence is proven outright. All-in-all, treating this election as less of a de-facto plebiscite, and more of a test of reform, in order to deliver a referendum alongside progressive change, means there is far less to lose and a greater chance of success (having already been proven successful in previous elections). Crucially, it actually provides a route to delivering a referendum, which a plebiscite election alone does not.
What’s good for Scotland, is good for England too
Putting your feelings for flags aside, recognising that Scottish Independence can help those of us living in Scotland, while simultaneously helping deliver genuine (essential) reform within the rest of the UK, is the very crux of why independence is a necessity. For democratic, social, economic, and climate justice to be realised, within the timescale we require, England needs Scottish independence – just as Scotland does.
This, I believe, will not only be the strategy to win independence (delivering a stable future for young people and working families across Scotland), but to secure genuine progressive reform in Westminster for the people of England.