This past weekend I spent a couple of days canvassing for support for the Yes vote around Stonehaven. On Sunday afternoon I was delighted to be joined on the campaign trail by the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
On the door steps we were challenged to explain our vision of an independent Scotland, and so I’m taking the opportunity here to explain my position.
I recognise that many folk have real concerns about what independence might mean, but I am also very aware that the No side have completely failed to provide any vision; it’s simply negativity.
What is clear to me is that if we want to build a better and fairer Scotland then we need to have the political power in our own hands.
You won’t be surprised to learn that most of the constituents who come into my office or to surgeries do so because they face difficulties of one sort or another. The single biggest reason is to do with welfare eligibility and payment.
I see the most disadvantaged of people; the young, the old, the disabled and the unwell being penalised by Westminster policy when they are already vulnerable. What can I do about the policy behind that?
Absolutely nothing – because the Scottish Parliament has no control over welfare and welfare reforms, and we can only do our best to mitigate the damage by spending money which should go to other budgets. Independence to me means that we can build a fairer and more equal society.
It is astonishing that, given Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, richer per head than France, the UK and Japan, many thousands of people in Scotland just don’t feel it. Under Westminster the gap between rich and poor is among the highest in the developed world with wages for many falling below inflation.
No surprise, then, the unacceptable growing dependency on food banks with charities warning that an extra 100,000 children could be living in poverty by 2020.
This simply should not be acceptable to us, and to change course we have to be able to make our own decisions.
Our NHS is facing cuts as Westminster is privatising NHS England. Because of the way Scotland’s budget is decided those cuts are automatically passed on to us. With independence we will be able to control our own budget – which means we are protected from Westminster privatisation.
And what about our young people, the most well educated bunch in the world? They are increasingly seeking opportunities abroad because we don’t have the powers to tailor our economic policy to our own needs and to offer them the opportunities they need and deserve at home. We need to be able to control these matters for ourselves to make the right choices for the people of Scotland and not the people of the South of England.
We hear so much unnecessary negativity and needless scaremongering from Westminster and the No camp that it is no surprise to me that opinion polls are showing growing support for an independent Scotland.
The people of Scotland are the best people to take decisions about our country’s future – no-one else will do a better job. That’s what being an independent country is all about.