Monday, 30 September 2013

Westminster is working (just not for you)

Westminster is failing Scotland.  It has allowed social and economic problems to take root in our country and offers no solutions beyond 'let's all suffer together'.  Below is a list of things that they have allowed on their watch but I feel shouldn't be true about 21st century Scotland.

"You're thinking of voting 'no'?  Do I have to list all the reasons why that's a stupid idea?"

Child Poverty
More than 20% of kids growing up in Scotland are living in poverty.  This contrasts sharply with Denmark and Norway, where the figure is below 10%.  The only difference between us and our Scandinavian cousins is that they run their own affairs, whilst Westminster runs ours.

"Widespread, unnecessary child poverty isn't enough to convince you that Westminster is useless?  I'll try again."
Fuel Poverty
Scotland is an energy exporter with vast resources, yet 1 in 3 households in our country suffers from fuel poverty.  Take this quote from Children in Scotland:
Denmark and Finland's fuel poverty rates are significantly lower than Britain's even though they suffer harsher weather patterns.  In Scandinavian countries, which are colder than the UK, excess winter deaths are much lower.  For example, Sweden sees a 14 per cent increase in death rates in winter months and Norway only a ten per cent increase while the UK sees an average increase of 31 per cent.
"We've got more oil than you can shake a stick at and there's still people struggling with the cold through the winter!  How can you support that?!"

Never Ending Wars
The UK has been at a state of war with at least one other country for the vast majority of it's existence.  If you'd like to see a breakdown of these conflicts by name and year, then look at the Scrap Trident blog entitled, 'Britain at War - The Never Ending Story'.  Just keep in mind that it was ordinary people like you and me who fought and suffered in every one of these wars, and that an exclusive clique became very wealthy every single time.

Wars cost lives and money, and should only be engaged in self defence, yet we're supposed to meekly accept every Westminster cut whilst we pay to have military bases in over 80 countries worldwide.  That is simply unacceptable to me.

"We've had to fight in 137 different wars, in 171 different countries, in just over 3 centuries!  Don't you realise that that just isn't normal?!!!"

Westminster has been lying to us for years.  From producing figures using different sources to make Scotland's economy look weaker, to luring us into illegal wars, to the infamous McCrone report which was hidden from the Scottish people for decades, Westminster is built on deceit, and the only cure is to say 'no more' and to take responsibility for ourselves.

"How many more times do those two-faced, selfish, narcissistic, power-mad, lying liars at Westminster have to lie to you before you'll accept that they're two-faced, selfish, narcissistic, power-mad, lying liars?!!!"
If you want to tackle child poverty in Scotland, if you want to help those struggling to heat their homes during the winter, if you want to give peace a chance and if you want a more honest system of governance, then you need to vote Yes.  Otherwise Westminster will keep working for itself (and sending you the bill).

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Monday, 23 September 2013

Edina! Scotia's darling seat!

The view from Calton Hill is a spectacular one at any time of the year.  But at this weekend's March and Rally for Scottish Independence, it was grander than ever.

Calton Hill in the 1840's
Approximately 20,000 people attended this year's event, doubling the numbers from 2012.  The route, which made it's way along Edinburgh's High Street and up the short but steep climb to the summit of Calton Hill, was bustling with colour and activity.  So many men and women, young and old, rich and poor, were marching together for a single cause; to return Scotland to the family of nations.

Calton Hill in the 1870's
It was an experience that reminded me why I support Independence.  The excitement and energy in that crowd is what has been missing from our country for so long.  That sense of hope, that sense of destiny, that sense that we don't need to accept illegal wars, unjust taxation and diminishing representation, is just not present anywhere else.  Independence, and only independence, offers a better future.  No offers us nothing.

Calton Hill in 1974
Diverse groups, including the Scottish National Party, the Scottish Green Party, the Scottish Socialist Party, the Scottish Republican Socialist Movement, Liberal Democrats for Independence, Labour for Independence, Scottish Democratic Alliance, Radical Independence, Business for Scotland, Eco Scots, Farming for Yes, Veterans for Independence, Women for Independence, Youth and Students for Independence and, of course, our humble group, Sign for Scotland, were all in attendance, alongside many more.  It is this diversity which makes me most optimistic for the future.  Our path in an Independent Scotland hasn't been decided for us, it is truly something which we can all shape.

Carton Hill in 2013
The view from Calton Hill is constantly evolving, but Scotia's darling seat, and the rest of our country, has a chance to create at least one more memorable sight.

All we need to do is vote Yes in 2014.

Watch our video of the 2013 March and Rally here
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Monday, 16 September 2013

Tax dinnae need tae be taxing

Independence is a great opportunity for much needed tax reform.  For decades, Westminster has failed to fix the inequities of the UK tax system.  We have corporations avoiding billions in tax, special rates for certain businesses, and declining wages forced upon the majority of workers whilst FTSE 100 directors enjoy increasing generous paycheques.

Westminster economic policy
If you believe that this doesn’t affect you then consider this: some families in the UK are paying a crippling 73% rate of tax, which is significantly higher than the EU average.  This makes it almost impossible to avoid debt or save for the future, and discourages people from starting their own businesses.  Compare this to those on the Sunday Times rich list and what is going on in the City of London.  Our tax system doesn’t just abandon the working and middle class, it actively harms them.

We’ve previously looked at some of the reasons why Westminster won't fix this situation, but that will become irrelevant with a Yes vote in 2014.  We will have a better democracy which promises more choice and more control for the people of Scotland.  What we do from there is up to us.  Only our imagination limits us.

We can't create a perfect system, but we can do much better than what we've got!
We can reduce rates for small businesses to make them more competitive, cut or scrap employers’ national insurance to encourage companies to hire more staff, raise the threshold of VAT, introduce a monopoly tax to make it easier for firms to break into stagnating markets, change copyright law to encourage innovation, switch to a straightforward sales tax for greater transparency, improve infrastructure and transport links to make trade more efficient, end different tax rates for different sources of income, start debates on how best to fund local government and create a futures fund to ensure that we leave our children a nest egg instead of crippling debt.

You ain't going to find Robin Hood at Westminster!
You may view some of what has been written above as being wasteful, yet Westminster is wasting so much more through foreign military bases, nuclear weapons, the undemocratic House of Lords, the excessive (and exclusive) tax breaks to certain groups and individuals and much, much more.  But none of the above is possible with a ‘no’, only ‘Yes’ empowers us to decide what values we want to live by.  We know that we’re getting a raw deal from Westminster but this will only change when we become independent.

Voting ‘Yes’ gives us choices.  What we do will be up to us.  Voting ‘no’ means that the powers that be will remain tax free.

And I don’t want that!

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Monday, 9 September 2013

The Sign for Scotland Parliament

A Yes vote in 2014 will return power over foreign policy, social security, taxation and much more to Scotland.  We’ll be able to decide what we believe to be right and important, and have more opportunities for honest and frank debate.  But what will our first parliament look like?  Thanks to our own highly unscientific research, we can provide some answers.

First the data: Sign for Scotland has been running a poll on our blog asking our readers which political party they would be most likely to vote for following a Yes vote.  We offered 8 choices; Conservatives, Green Party, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Scottish Democratic Alliance, Scottish National Party, Scottish Socialist Party and Other.  The chart below shows the number of seats each party would hold (proportional representation has been used).

The Scottish National Party would be the largest (although short of a majority), Labour would form the official opposition, with the Green Party close behind.  Possible Governments include:

SNP minority
SNP + Labour
SNP + Green
SNP + SSP + Another
SNP + Liberals + Conservatives + SDA

Labour + Green + SSP + Liberals
Labour + Green + SSP + Conservatives + SDA
Labour + Green + Liberals + Conservatives + SDA + Others
(65 seats required for a majority)

What would this mean?
Modern politics is not as simple as ‘left vs. right’ (a concept created in 18th century France).  The Political Compass, a website which compares the policies of various groups and individuals, also includes an ‘authoritarian vs. libertarian’ perspective.  It scores the main parties as follows:

SNP – Nearest the centre of all UK political parties
Labour – Right of centre with a strong authoritarian position
Greens (they look at the Greens in England, which is a separate entity, although the Scottish Party has similar policies) – Left of centre with a strong libertarian position
SSP – Very left of centre with a slight authoritarian position.
Liberals – Right of centre
SDA – no analysis, although their policies are likely to place them to the right of the liberals
Conservative – Very right of centre with strong authoritarian position
The numbers above show that:
24% of the parliament would be left of centre
33% would be right of centre
35% would favour more state control
15% would support more personal liberty

This shows that we would have a balanced parliament, with views from both the left and the right represented with open and frank debates regarding state ownership vs. civil liberties very much possible.

Let’s compare this chart to Westminster:
The only two parties who can form the government are Labour and the Conservatives, and they usually do this with solid majorities.  No combinations can alter any decisions they agree upon.  Both are right of centre economically and both are nearly equally authoritarian in outlook.  The conclusion we can take is that even if votes from Scotland strongly influenced which half of Westminster won (which they don't) they wouldn’t really make much difference…whoever forms the government will follow broadly similar policies.
Here is how the two parliaments currently compare using the chart above - which one do you believe is more representative? (Those not listed by political compass have not been included)
Our poll isn’t very scientific, and it doesn’t reflect the fact that the Labour Party in Scotland would be very likely to shift away from their shadowing of the Conservatives and return closer to their traditional values, and the Liberal Democrats could become more liberal minded, but it does show that if you want choice, if you want debate, if you want sound government and if you want influence, then you need to vote Yes in 2014.
Dramatisation of a Westminster election
Alternatively you can stick with Westminster and hope that you favourite from its ‘Good Cop Bad Cop’ routine wins.  Just as long as you accept that your opinion will never matter.

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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

It starts with a 'no' (and ends with a 'Yes')

All revolutions begin the same way.  The people, who have become politically, financially or socially impoverished, who don't believe the tired stories of their leaders and media, who no longer wish to protect the old order, finally refuse to accept the situation which has been forced upon them.  They say ‘no more’.

Sign for Scotland

What makes someone finally say ‘no more’ varies from person to person.  For some Yes Scotland supporters, it is the 50 years of nuclear weapons in Scotland.  For others the bedroom tax that we opposed but Westminster imposed.  For many more it was illegal wars (such as Iraq), a history of lying over North Sea Oil, the creeping privatisation of public services (which has Barnett Consequentials), the sense of entitlement which the political classes find hard to hide (as demonstrated by the expenses scandal), the persecution of journalists, the lack of consideration for environmental issues (through fracking and weapons testing), the spiralling debt, our diminishing military capability, the transfer of wealth from north to south, the transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich, the suffering from governments we didn’t vote for, the lack of attention for issues affecting Scotland, how Westminster treats our neighbours or something different entirely.

Sign for Scotland

Whatever the reason, the determination to say ‘no more’ is the starting point.  The next step is to consider what we can do differently.

We in Scotland have a unique opportunity; a peaceful revolution with a clear path forward.  This isn’t like a general election where we are debating the relative merits of differing political groups, this is much more fundamental.  Should we, the people who live in Scotland, make decisions for ourselves?  Should we ensure that future generations get the governments they want?

Sign for Scotland

We know what Westminster has done and we have hints as to where it is going.  We know that our independent neighbours are successful, thriving nations that are capable of influencing the world in a positive way.  We know that the closer a government is to its people, the more responsive and representative it can be.

All revolutions start with a 'no' and end with a 'Yes'.  Our independence referendum is a great opportunity that no other generation before us has had.  If you want to say ‘no more’ to any of the things above, then you have to say ‘Yes’ to independence.

It is the only chance we are guaranteed to have.

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