Sun 23 Jun, 2013

An independent Scotland, free of the shackles of Westminister control, would be better placed to take care of its people and environment and stop the rot.

I am a member of the Scottish Greens and I’m backing the Yes campaign because I believe it is vital for Scotland’s environment – an environment which for years has been treated by too many people as an expendable commodity rather than a precious resource. It’s not too late to save it but the clock is running.

Independence will give us a better chance to manage our environment, so that it supports jobs and health in a way which I believe is impossible under the present system of government. We need to be able to speak for our own fishing and farming interests in Europe instead of hoping for concessions off the back of UK negotiations. By doing so I think we have a better chance of gaining what Scotland needs – sustainable fishing and agriculture.

We have to be very careful about how much more North Sea oil we extract, and how we invest the revenue. We can’t take all the oil without severely compromising our efforts to reduce climate change. We should use the revenue to invest in renewable energy and we need total control over energy policy.

There’s been a lot of argument about whether we could or should keep Sterling. Other countries have their own money, sometimes pegged to other currencies, for stability. The Scottish Greens believe a gradual transition to a new currency may be in Scotland’s best interest. At the same time, a banking system, to serve local economies, could help to reinvigorate our businesses and communities..

Scotland’s environment is suffering from many problems: polluted air and water, overgrazing, over-fishing, loss of wildlife, the impacts of climate change. And yet we have one of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes anywhere in the world.

It’s not too late to turn things around, and I believe independence will give us the chance to do it. And not only ‘stop the rot’, but manage our environment so that it supports jobs and health in a way which is impossible under the present system of government.

It’s impossible under a system that regards the City of London as the keystone of the economy and everything else as a commodity which must be exploited to support it. It’s a rotten system and it’s time we made a clear break from it.

Scotland’s people and its environment are our most valuable resource, but we don’t take enough care of them. Independence is vital for our environment because we need to rid ourselves of a system and culture of dumping on each other – at every level, from global to comparatively local.

At UK level, London has dumped Trident on us, with the potential to wreak death, disaster and environmental havoc. We dump our nuclear waste on Cumbria. Here in Scotland we send out landfill waste to communities which are viewed as being, generally, out of sight and out of mind. And ws dump open-cast coal extraction on places whose economy has never recovered from the collapse of deep coal mining.

How do we pay our way without making the maximum use of North Sea oil?

For a start we need to re-think our taxation system. Radical reforms could include a Land Value Tax, to replace the council tax and business rates. This may also help to deliver land reform which doesn’t tinker at the edges but ends the most concentrated pattern of land ownership in Europe and which releases this valuable resource for the benefit of a greater number of people.

Independence gives us the opportunity to design a tax system that has, at its heart, fairness, consideration for the finite environmental resources that sustain us, and prevents wealthy individuals and corporations from dodging their fair share.

People sometimes ask why the rest of the UK is so keen to hang onto Scotland – you only have to consider our phenomenal natural resources to find the answer.

• Louise Batchelor is former BBC Scotland environment correspondent

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