Margo Macdonald: Mary’s vision’s a vote-winner

Mary Lockhart. Picture: PA

Mary Lockhart. Picture: PA

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I HOPE I’m about to make a new best friend. Mary Lockhart, the chair of the Scottish Co-operative Party, has announced that she will vote Yes to Scotland becoming a sovereign country, rather than remaining a devolved part of the UK.

Mary explains her beliefs much as I do – they are the result of observation of how other people live their lives and how some others by dint of circumstances are forced to endure a much impoverished existence. Not for either of us the glib repetition of even Bernard Russell or George Orwell. Sure, we probably read Animal Farm, but that merely confirmed what we already knew.

Like me, I imagine Mary Lockhart went to school from a home based on good parenting and a steady wage. My mother struggled against ill health to keep the equation balanced, but some of my contemporaries were neither parented nor cared for. Such was the devastation caused by the loss of work to the families that for Mrs Thatcher were “society” that, usually, the vigour and self-confidence that supported voluntary groups and activities faded away, and family units loosened and weakened.

So what’s this got to do with Scottish independence? We’ll still have to cope with the fallout of shut businesses and unemployment managed by faceless international conglomerates. We’ll be left with the legacy of badly-managed de-industrialisation, and some Scots will have more than enough to sustain a healthy, productive and happy lifestyle while too many of their fellow citizens won’t have the basic tools to fashion families that will properly nurture our future. But it’s just as true that we will make a better, quicker job of closing the gap between the haves and the have-nots if we work to a Scottish template – and that’s a good enough reason to justify independence.

Think of the attempts made by Westminster governments, starting with the YOPS scheme and continuing along the road to nowhere with the Modern Apprentice scheme. Since devolution, the Scottish Government has done what it can without the power to look at the entire jigsaw of public spending. Luckily, we’re a small country so have more flexibility in the resolution and, if needed, the discrimination in favour of communities and families that have been the casualties of the huge changes that have taken place in the world over the past 20 years.

But good enough as these reasons are for Mary Lockhart to use them as measuring sticks of the two choices offered in the referendum, there’s another dimension to consider. Even apart from the incursion into a Scottish finance minister’s freedom to balance taxes against benefits and other expenditure, we cannot govern and develop our society holistically unless we accept the challenge and responsibility for our own security and the effects of our defence and security policies. We won’t be a world power. Our neglected families need the money squandered on Trident and they will help Scotland contribute to the international community.

If I read Mary Lockhart right, she’s an independently minded member of the Co-op Party. She may only be the first to realise the referendum is about what we want for Scotland as individuals – and that political parties don’t matter in this test of public opinion.

Lisbon plan is wide of Merk

I’ve been through the mill recently, and as well as feeling unfit and unwell, I felt guilty at dominating my husband’s time as I rattled from one specialist clinic to another.

Not for the first time I had reason to be thankful for the onward march of communications technology that allowed me to keep up to scratch with the paperwork in my office. With the mail up to date, and all the other activities chugging along nicely, it seemed everything was conspiring to let Jim and I get away into the reviving Portuguese sunshine.

It poured for a week. But that meant we had time to spend with our friends. The common topic for conversation was how the economy is being strangled by the euro.

The only way for Portugal is out. A treasury in Lisbon would bring about an economic plan more suited to Portugal’s needs than the German Chancellor does . . .

Let Luis sink his teeth into a ban

How do we explain Luis Suarez, the Liverpool FC striker, nominee for Player of the Year and biter?

He thrills spectators with his ball control and he horrifies them with his lack of personal control. He bites his opponents.

The Football Association should bite back and ban him.

Move with times and tax rich OAPs

What’s all the fuss about taxing wealthy pensioners? What if files are found buried deep in the local housing department showing that the free travel was bent in favour of the poor old pensioners of yesteryear . . . and not the reasonably comfortable

majority of today?

Times have changed but will any political party admit it?

We know how important it is that children get the best start possible. Unfortunately, we also know that too many of them experience the debilitating effects of poverty and that it cramps their achievements throughout their lives.

So if some wealth is transferred from better-off pensioners to hard-up young parents, who’s complaining?