Even the longest journey begins with a single step. In publishing “Scotland’s Future” the SNP Government has provided its routemap for the first steps the country will take if the voters decide it’s a Yes in September next year.
For many people, the longstanding question of independence has always been a distant, slightly abstract idea. From today on it will become an increasingly practical one; a choice we could actually make in the real world. A door that’s already open, waiting for us to walk through if we choose to.
After that point, it will be for the people of Scotland to elect the Government they choose. For far too long we’ve seen our economy organised to benefit the wealthiest, including the financial interests in the City of London. In future, we can make those choices for ourselves in a way which reflects the interests of real people living in communities across Scotland.
Greens see this as an opportunity to close the chronic inequality gap in our country, and of course to make the shift to a greener, more sustainable economy. So while there’s much to welcome in the white paper, we have a different view from the SNP on many details.
Unlike Better Together, who dismissed the whole thing within seconds of publication, an honest reading of this 650-page document will always find points to agree and disagree with.
A fairer, simpler tax system with strong protections against wealthy tax dodgers is very welcome, but cutting taxes on aviation and other big businesses won’t get Green support; a written constitution clearly setting out citizens’ rights and limiting the power of Government is vital, but I don’t think we can wait till 2016 before we start working on it; independence will give us the chance to be global advocates of action on climate change, but we can’t act with credibility unless we take far more radical action on our own carbon emissions.
We’ll make the case for Scotland to reject the NATO nuclear umbrella, and to take real economic control by developing our own Scottish currency. But even the SNP leadership, who don’t share those views, would certainly agree that it would be a good idea for Scotland to have the choice!
One thing I think we should all agree on – including those campaigning for a No vote. Our political system has left many people feeling cynical and switched-off, just as our economic system has left us the fourth most unequal country on the planet. This can’t go on. I believe we’ll be best placed to build a new political culture and a new economic model if we take responsibility for ourselves, but I also want a debate in which both sides offer new ideas and a vision about the future.
For decades, politics has been offering people minor variations on a theme. The debate over the next ten months must allow us to ask – and answer – the question “What kind of country do we really want to live in?”
This article appears in today's Daily Record.