Scottish independence is on the cards again and I’ve just published my view on the issue in The National. You may be wondering why this divisive issue has emerged so soon after the last referendum and this can be explained in one word: BREXIT; a major change to the UK that a majority of Scots voted against.
The original title of my article in The National was: Will I be shot down in flames (again) for questioning independence? The worthy editors at the paper changed the word “independence” into “indy” which I find rather grating, but hey-ho; mustn’t grumble.
Here’s the article:
During the 2014 referendum I was against independence but now I’m in the unclaimed centre ground, the no-man’s land, the “Don’t Knows”. I’m open to persuasion.
I could have been a Yes voter first time round but two things put me off: Alex Salmond’s bulldozing through of Donald Trump’s application to destroy a Site of Special Scientific Interest, to create a golf course near Aberdeen; and the fact that my questions about Scottish independence were met with abuse on social media.
For many years I worked on EU-funded projects in Central and Eastern Europe and in 2006 I spent a frantic month helping the Romanian government (successfully) negotiate the most difficult part of EU-accession: the chapter on Justice and Home Affairs. I naively thought this experience would be of interest to Yes supporters, but whenever I asked how Scotland would re-join the EU I got shot down in flames (this comment I wrote in Huffington Post caused outrage on social networks).
This time round Brexit and the shambolic way the British government have managed the pandemic has pushed me back into the centre.
But my questions are different now: how will Nicola Sturgeon handle Donald Trump in the future; and can Scotland show genuine leadership regarding climate change?
Although the SNP distanced themselves from Trump after his 2016 presidential election victory, they are currently faced with an embarrassing question: will the Scottish Government seek an Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO)? Where did he get the cash to buy two Scottish golf courses? If they acted on this issue, the SNP would show that they don’t tolerate rich crooks.
My biggest concern is the climate emergency which is more serious than Brexit and the Covid 19 pandemic combined. If the SNP could show any real leadership on the issue I would be their biggest fan. But the Scottish government just follow the tired old formula used by Boris Johnson: recognise the problem, set up commissions, agree targets, fund small pilot projects – kick the issue along the road, claim success and, above all, do nothing to upset the status quo.
The Scottish government’s web page on climate change claims it is, “winning international respect for our ambition and leadership on climate change. Scotland’s greenhouse gas emissions have already been reduced by almost half from the 1990 baseline.”
But the latest report by the Climate Change Committee says two thirds of these reductions in carbon emissions were due to closing a few coal-fired power stations, and: “Emissions from all other sectors outside of electricity generation have fallen by just 14%.”
The real elephant in the room is Big Oil. As with Trump, it comes down to raw political courage: will the SNP have the guts to stand up to the oil companies and – equally difficult – tell the people of Scotland that we all need to start making plans for a carbon-free future?
Writing in The National, Mark Ruskell says New Zealand recently ended new offshore oil and gas exploration and the government was rewarded at the polls: “Jacinda Ardern won a landslide and her Green Party allies increased their share of the vote while climate-ambivalent parties saw their vote share decrease.”
Perhaps the Scottish government could be the first European country that tells its people “Enough! No more oil! No more plastic! No more pollution! On your bikes!” That sort of leadership would inspire the continent and even big business would have to comply.
The one good thing about Covid 19 is that it has shown what governments can do – close down whole economies – if they feel the problem is serious enough. Whichever European leader has the guts to make this call will instantly become a leader in the new green economic revolution.
What do you think about Scottish independence? I’d love to know, even if you live on the other side of the world. Please leave a comment below.