Scottish independence: Why second referendum push is not a distraction from cost of living crisis – Tommy Sheppard MP

On Wednesday, the Queen’s Speech was voted through. It’s a rag, tag and bobtail of measures only masquerading as a programme for government.

By Tommy Sheppard
Thursday, 19th May 2022, 4:45 pm

In amongst it are yet more reactionary measures like locking up climate protestors and blocking ethical investment.

But the most significant aspect of this year’s speech is what it doesn’t say. Listening to ministers prattling on about levelling up, you could be forgiven for thinking that we weren’t facing the greatest fall in living standards in two generations.

Astonishingly, there are no measures to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. Nothing helping the millions being forced into poverty and destitution. No reversal of cuts to social security payments. No action on rising energy bills.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

And there is still no recognition by the Tory government that constitutional change is needed and wanted in Scotland. This month the SNP won our 11th election in a row. In large part, that is because so much of the electorate want Scotland to become an independent country.

We now have the absurd spectacle of a UK Government discussing constitutional change in Northern Ireland with a party that lost the election there, whilst refusing to discuss constitutional change in Scotland with the party that won.

The cost of living and demands for an independence referendum will dominate Scottish politics in the year ahead. Plenty will argue that the latter is a distraction from the former. They are wrong.

Read More

Read More
Independent Scotland forcing nuclear weapons bases to close would be odd way to ...
Does Scotland want more of the same under Boris Johnson's government, or to choose its own way? (Picture: Oli Scarff/WPA pool/Getty Images)

How we are governed and the public policy it leads to are fundamentally linked. Put simply, no government can improve living standards if it lacks the legal power to do so. Our choice is whether to sit on the sidelines, observing inaction and failure by a UK Government that has the power to change lives, or to say enough is enough and take those powers ourselves.

Think what the Scottish Parliament cannot do. We ought to have serious regulation of energy prices, like in France and many other countries, rather than allowing bills to rise astronomically. But Scotland doesn’t have that power.

Shell and BP are not charging more for oil and gas because it costs them more to extract from the North Sea. They are hiking the price because they can. Their profits are obscene, and we have no power to tax or regulate them in Scotland.

Scotland is blessed with abundant renewable energy potential. We should establish a state energy company to take ownership of some of this and make sure proceeds go to the people rather than global corporations. But we cannot do that without the financial freedom of being independent.

You might even think that people who are extremely wealthy ought to be asked to pay more tax in crisis. But Scotland cannot do that. The Scottish Government has no say on corporate and wealth taxation. The changes it can make to income tax will always be marginal, as it has zero control over the movement of capital and labour.

And, of course, you might want Scotland to play a bigger role in the world from the heart of Europe, but we cannot do that either.

Independence means taking the power to do things differently. Look at the state of the UK and ask yourself if all you want is more of the same.

Tommy Sheppard is SNP MP for Edinburgh East