Before a major general election in 1966 an "independent voters' initiative" was launched by German writers and artists supporting Willy Brandt's challenge to the federal republic's Christian Democrat government. Brandt's campaign success strengthened democratic institutions and defeated what looked like becoming a neo-Nazi revival.
The election to the Scottish parliament on 3 May 2007 is a comparable challenge to Scotland. It occurs exactly 300 years after the Act of Union, passed by the last independent Scots parliament, made Scotland part of England's expanding empire. The loss of that empire after 1997 allowed Tony Blair to give Scotland what Billy Connolly rightly called "a wee, pretendy parliament." Since then the London government has made that term apply to Westminster by using docile Scots Westminster MPs to carry through legislation against majority English and Labour opinion.
Christopher Harvie is a historian who was professor of British and Irish studies at Tübingen University, Germany. His homepage is here
Alasdair Gray is a novelist and artist. His website is here
Jimmy Reid is a journalist and broadcaster
Result: ever-angrier Anglo-Scottish stand-offs, and the functional and moral collapse of local Scottish Labour parties whose main work nowadays is selling public property and giving well-paid jobs to its members. More and more Scots now accept independence as inevitable. The question is: when?
Do we want a new generation of nuclear-power stations, or of Trident nuclear submarines? Does Glasgow need a super-casino? Does Scotland need another corporate golf course? Must the country's local hospitals be closed so that most invalids must travel long distances to a few super-hospitals? Must the Scottish executive's plan to help local authorities sell off chunks of our public parks to private businesses succeed? Is Scotland's only social construction plan to build big work-spaces for global corporations to lease cheaply, though after a few years the corporations pull out because they can hire workers more cheaply in third-world nations?
New Labour has sold itself to private business at every level, cutting deals with individual, corporate and multinational wealth as enthusiastically as the John Major and Margaret Thatcher governments it replaced, promising only (but failing) to rule us more honestly. We want instead a land whose government encourages local businesses of different kinds, and enterprises whose goals are not just profits, but support for innovation and cooperation.
New Labour's economics are fraudulent - an indiscriminate growth of gambling, retailing and fast food, financed by borrowing, arms-dealing and social inequalities, with the bill yet to come in. We need independence to start sorting our country and making it a nation with a voice in world affairs. The approaching fuel crisis has been brought nearer by Tony Blair's foreign wars, making Scotland's North Sea resources even more valuable. These oilfields won't last for ever, but Scotland could use them as collateral for an independent government and technology for an eco-hi-tech future and responsible international role.
We accept the view of Tam Dalyell - an honourable opponent who in some respects we agree with - that devolution was a motorway to independence without an exit. It is time to go down it, making our own decisions and not blaming others when things go wrong.
We need independence, and soon, to debate the choices open to us, make alliances with other lands in and outside Europe, and make the sort of Scotland we want. It will be years before we get another chance.
Leadership matters. At a time when New Labour has weaved and dodged through the ambiguities of devolution, wrapped in a tattered Union Jack, Scottish National Party (SNP) leaders Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon have shown an articulate social democracy, weak on spin and strong on principle. What matters to them is not a party victory but our empowerment as the community of Scotland, again exercising that "freedom alone, which no good man gives up except with his life."
We ask you to support this appeal for what has been called the "Scottish Cooperative Wholesale Republic".
Alasdair Gray, Christopher Harvie, Jimmy Reid