Jim Sillars: No is a vote for more austerity

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Noticed something about Better Together speeches and articles? They tell of the 300-year union, but skip its present day circumstances.

David Cameron joined in this mushy stuff, telling us it will break his heart if Scotland votes Yes. Are we meant to take that seriously? He will be more concerned about the effect on England’s balance of trade when the 40 million tonnes of oil, the whisky, food and other exports are subtracted, when we become independent.

Then there are the big problems he will face when trying to move Trident to a base in southern England. Down there they are going bananas at the idea of fracking, so you can you imagine what the English middle class will do if they are to get a nuclear weapon on their doorstep.

But consider cause for real heartbreak. Here’s a report: Julie Webster, who helps run the Maryhill Food Bank in Glasgow, had a woman and her two children come in. It was a Tuesday. The family was flat broke. There had been an administrative problem with benefits. They had last eaten on the previous Friday. In the food bank the mother was seen to be searching the cans. Julie wondered what she was doing. She was looking for a tin of beans with a ring pull, so that she could get to the beans, eaten by her and her family with their fingers, they were so hungry. In Edinburgh, 50,000 families live below the poverty line.

I went through the war as a child, and the post-war years were ones of severe austerity. But no-one was destitute, no-one starved.

We now live in a system where zero hours contracts are normal, where people in work need government subsidy, the gap between the rich and the rest has widened to a degree not witnessed in the last six decades, and a Labour leader promises to means test families whose sons or daughters, under the age of 25, live with them. Is this really being better together?

How is it a country called Scotland, with an agricultural base that can feed our population, with exports exceeding imports by a substantial margin, that has what is vital in a modern economy, abundance of energy, with universities among the best in the world, has 250,000 children living in poverty?

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has Scotland placed 14th in terms of being rich, given its resources. Yet we are told we cannot take the risk of managing those resources on our own, applying our own values and principles – with many of our people so manipulated they believe we cannot succeed unless we hold the hand of clever big cousin England.

I was at a graduation ceremony at Heriot-Watt University two weeks ago. The vice-chancellor, in his address to the young people holding their well-earned degrees, encouraged them to be ambitious, which meant taking a risk.

He used the analogy of the turtle, pointing out that in order to move on land, as it needed to, it had to stick its neck out. If it didn’t take the risk of sticking its neck out, it couldn’t move. That’s us in Scotland. Some afraid to take the risk of independence, while staying stuck in the certainty of more austerity.

Union is strong position for SNP

A UNIONIST newspaper headline ran “A No will sink Salmond.” No it won’t. Fast forward to a Scotland which has voted No, with one of the reasons being that we were promised, nay guaranteed, a new vast array of powers for the Scottish Parliament.

But when the reality of No sinks in, we begin to realise that devolution is a matter not just for us, but for the whole of the United Kingdom, with any powers decided at Westminster where Scots MPs are in a minority. From after a No vote in September, the priority in Westminster in a general election year will not be Scottish devolution, but the issue of in or out of the EU. And after that election will come the new austerity, and an even bigger fight over Europe.

Therein will lie Salmond’s opportunity as we run up to the next Holyrood elections in 2016. He will be able to run that election on demands that Westminster deliver on the promises being made now; and he, more than anyone, will be able to make demands for powers most Scots will see are necessary, but Westminster will be unable to deliver. It will be the perfect election platform for the SNP.


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