On September 18th, 2014, Scotland will vote whether or not it declares independence from the United Kingdom. If Scots vote yes, this historic vote will mark the first time that a country had successfully seceded from a larger territory to form an independent country without war or bloodshed in modern recorded history. But a yes vote is even more important than that. In a world of rapidly expanding neoliberal policies of privatization and profiting from war and weapons of mass destruction, an independent Scotland would contribute to the decline of the UK’s imperialist power structure, the dismantling of one of the largest caches of nuclear weapons on the planet, the socialization of health and education for over five million more people and set a precedent for future movements that wish for local representation, economies based on local industries rather than war and exploitation and grassroots movements that trump big money’s special interest mass media fear campaigns through local people-powered actions.
Currently, the United Kingdom has one of the largest stocks of nuclear weapons in the world. The facility where these weapons are housed is called Trident, and it is located 25 miles from Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland and home to 600,000 people. The total acquisition cost of the Trident program was £9.8 billion, with a projection that the upkeep of it will cost an additional £130 billion over the next 30 years. Beyond the arguments that the weapons housed at Trident would never be used because pushing the red button would lead to catastrophic world consequences is an argument that has more immediate effects. Every pro-independence party in Scotland opposes the presence of Trident in Scotland.
Currently, countries in the United Kingdom have representatives, pay taxes and receive budgets based on their population size. Scotland represents 9% of the United Kingdom’s total population and has representatives and economic investment accordingly. There numbers are extremely important, as 9% is never enough to win a majority in any decision made in government. Consequently, Scotland’s desire to dismantle Trident never comes to fruition, and yet, with a currently projected cost of $100 billion in upkeep over the next ten years, the Scots must pay $9 billion of their tax money to a program that they not only don’t want, but which poses possible harm to their residents. That money could instead be devoted to education, healthcare and housing. Not only does the existence of Trident pose more of a threat to domestic safety, as well as a threat to peace relations with other countries, but if Scotland were to become an independent country, it would add one more country and five million more people to the list of countries and people taking a stand against offensive wars and weapons of mass destruction.
Scotland has its own parliament, which is responsible for all aspects of Scottish governance, except finance, foreign policy, and defense. (In more specific terms, the Scottish parliament is responsible for agriculture, fisheries and forestry, economic development, education, environment, food standards, health, courts, police and fire services, local government, sports, the arts, tourism, research and statistics, and social work. Issues outside of Scottish governance include abortion, broadcasting policy, civil service, common markets for UK goods and services, the constitution, electricity, coal, oil, gas, nuclear every, defense and national security, drug policy, employment, foreign policy, national lottery, protection of borders, social security and stability of UK’s fiscal, economic and monetary system.)
The issue of 9% representation and 9% funding comes back again when we look at how the two governments interact.
According to this power structure, the Scottish parliament has the right to decide how to organize their National Health Service (NHS), but they do not decide how much of the overall tax money collected is put aside for the NHS budget. This discrepancy in power is huge, especially in the era of privatization. As the United Kingdom moves towards privatized health care, the overall budget for the NHS shrinks. Consequently, the Scottish government has less money with which to provide health care to Scottish residents. Although the Scottish government continuously votes for socialized medicine, they may be forced to privatize their NHS due to budgetary constraints. Taking the above two examples into account, Scottish residents are forced to pay taxes towards weapons of mass destruction, and will, if the current trends continue, be forced out of socialized medicine because of the current power structure. This same logic can be applied to the education system as proponents of an independent Scotland want free college tuition and English higher education is moving increasingly towards funding from tuition rather than government spending. Considering that economic stratification is directly linked to increased violence, providing for the basic necessities of citizens is a move towards a more peaceful and safe society.
There has been considerable argument about what Scotland’s economic situation will be with independence. Scotland currently provides 60% of Europe’s oil, but receives 9% only of the revenue generated from its sale. People argue the increased oil revenue with independence could provide social services, or build vital infrastructure. Others say that the oil will run out and Scotland needs a plan for when it does. Scotland also does not currently have its own currency, and how that may affect an independent Scotland is unknown. Just as the financial crisis of 2008 was unknown, so was the discovery of oil off of the shores of Scotland in the 1960s. To believe that the future of Scotland is knowable, as either an independent country or as a part of UK, is a falsehood. The important part of that question, however, is who gets to decide? Do Scottish people have a right to self-governance, a right to fair representation, and a right to implement policies that the people who live in Scotland want implemented? For a wealthy country to pull its money out of the war machine and reclaim its capacity to care for its citizens is, and should be, an inspiration to us all. We are past the age of imperialism and it is high time that world superpowers stop deciding what is best for other people, for other countries. It is time for the unicorn to break free of her chains.