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Scotland's future: better than Cameron's permanent austerity, a stepping stone to real change

Yesterday, the Scottish government published their blueprint for an independent Scotland. Here, the new co-leader of the Scottish Green Party says what she thinks.

Maggie Chapman
27 November 2013
maggie.jpg

Maggie Chapman

The oil-baron funded Better Together has long demanded answers to every conceivable question about how Scotland might operate were it an independent country. Now that some of the answers have been presented within the White Paper, BT, or Project Fear complains that they are a waste of taxpayer money. But many Scots long ago stopped listening to the campaign that cried wolf.

The SNP's outline of Scotland's future is pretty comprehensive (there are a few gaps, but the key points are present), and it is distinctly theirs. They are right to provide a detailed insight into the future they wish to see for Scotland, but it is important to remember too that this is their vision. And Scotland won't just be re-built by them. It will be re-built by all of us.

From a quick skim of the document, a few things stand out. From the outset, the paper calls for a benefits system which “fosters a climate of social solidarity”. Can we imagine IDS saying those words? The document criticises Westminster attacks on the benefits received by disabled people and unemployed people, and argues for a social security system which allows dignity and participation in society for all. This shouldn't be radical. But the choice at Westminster is Duncan Smith and Rachel Reeves. The tone here is a whole country away.

For those in work, the tone is better too: workfare is criticised, there is a commitment to increase the minimum wage in line with prices (though not to the living wage, as it should be). On immigration, there isn't the open border commitment that some speculated, but there is a desire to make it easier to live here. The key criticisms made of Westminster include the extraordinary levels of inequality found in the UK.

There are, of course, things I disagree with here. Everyone will be able to find things to disagree with. But the people of Scotland must ask two questions. The first is this: in the past few days, we have had two visions for our potential futures outlined for us. The first came from David Cameron. Standing next to a golden throne, he promised permanent austerity. This white paper is the second – how Scotland will be if we leave the same people in charge, but vote for independence. Is this Scotland better than the one governed from Westminster? I believe so.

The second question is more important. We don't need to allow the people who are currently in charge to maintain control of the reins in our country. But do we have more chance of empowering our communities to take our destiny into our own hands if the levers of power lie in London, or in Edinburgh?

Democracy means debate. Of course I disagree with the SNP on some things. But the country they propose is better than the one Cameron is breaking, and a yes vote unlocks the opportunity for us all to build a nation we can be proud to live in.

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