Margo MacDonald: Don’t be afraid to show anger

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Already this year is looking better than 2012. Down Gorgie Road way, a glorious draw was 
 better than a poke in the eye with a stick, and the authorities seem to have reacted to the hooliganism swiftly and decisively.

Sure, the forecasts for the UK economy are eye-wateringly poor, as are the reports of the numbers of Scots declared bankrupt, but behind every cloud there’s a silver lining, the Treasury has estimated that independence would cost each of us a pound a year.

Put aside any feeling that they’ve a brass neck to try and sell us our own country and have a right guid-willy waught at the crass political stupidity of putting such a piddling cost on our sovereignty. Whoever OK’d this report betrays a contempt for Scots, but this is one ill wind that will definitely blow some good for someone – in this case, us.

Dismissal in this manner invites retaliation from the person or group, but the quality of this insult is so poor as to allow us to mark it, but to make our response positive and superior. A letter to the Treasury, copy to G Osborne, seeking confirmation that their prediction assumes that we will follow their lead in economic and monetary policy terms, should allow Scots to decline Westminster’s offer on the grounds of the Treasury’s failure to balance Scotland’s books during three decades of income from oil and gas.

The scenario described above depends on us, the Scots, acting in our own interest. It assumes that with the facts laid in front of us we will conclude that whatever we’ve been, it has not been better together. It’s crazy to do so, but forget the billions of oil and gas, and the further billions of export earnings from whisky. Why do you think the big brains of the Treasury Civil Service, working to the direction of successive Scottish Chancellors in Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling, could do nothing to get the growth rate in the Scottish economy to equal that of the UK? Why do the higher percentages of Scots kids going to university and college fail to generate the sort of new, small businesses that characterise higher and further educational institutions in Sweden and other countries on the northern rim of Europe?

I realise that these are awkward questions for both sides of the referendum debate, and my comparatively happy feeling for 2013 derives from feeling that there’s now enough 
information that cannot be shoved aside. I’ll certainly do my best to seek out the scientists and engineers who understand the potential developments in oil and other fuels. This exercise, of course, might well replicate Yes campaign activity. But if it does, it will be because the supposedly all-party and no party Yes campaigners are following the SNP government’s line.

These days, the fashion in political campaigning is to put on a happy face, and if necessary, explain situations as teensy-weensy little problems or challenges. That worked for George W and Barak Obama and so people who are angry at the state of affairs should ignore this fashion. I ask you, would the poll tax have been withdrawn if the genuine anger felt towards it 
had been suppressed rather than channelled?

Some pro-violence groups managed to band-waggon on the London poll tax demonstrations, but having learned the facts of life in the Scottish Assembly ’79 referendum campaign, independence campaigners in Scotland should not be afraid of showing anger. As the First Minister jokily reminds us as often as he can, “Facts are chiels that winna ding.” The current litany of life as it’s endured for young Scots without work or the hope of work, older Scots who’ve had to go part-time at work and elderly Scots who fear the thought of having to work till they drop, engenders anger, not a false, stiff-upper lipped positivity. But in expressing our anger, we must still be mindful, in opposing ideas and policies that have hurt Scotland, that our critical analysis tackles the policy, and not the policy-maker and implementer.

And I’ve another reason for feeling good: regular readers will know that I’ve been banging on about the need for a stream of information on the big questions people have to answer for themselves before they vote Yes or No. I’m delighted to report that the Scottish Government has assembled a pretty impressive group of social policy academics and senior public servants. It will be charged with examining how a welfare policy for Scotland might be constructed.

Nicola Sturgeon will introduce this and, I hope, will hand over to the welfare experts for an independent exploration of the possibilities, because there’s likely to be more than one model. The government will have carried out its duty to inform without undue influence . . . people can decide for themselves which they prefer.