The socialist case for independence

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The prominent Scottish socialist has been speaking to packed meetings across Scotland as part of his Hope Over Fear tour. Here we print extracts from a speech he gave in Paisley in late June.

This referendum is not a barometer of whether you like the SNP or whether you like or loathe Alex Salmond. This vote on 18 September is about the future of your country. It’s bigger than any political party, bigger than any individual.

The vote is for you to have the right to decide who runs our country… Since 1951 Scotland has rejected the greed, the privatisation, the toffee-nosed Tories. And since 1951 Scotland has had to endure 35 years of Tory governments. You vote for independence and you will never have to endure another Tory government in Scotland…

A No vote signals the end of the public health service in Scotland. If you don’t believe me, examine the effect of the Health and Social Care Act that has been passed in England by the Westminster government.

Sixty different firms have been invited to provide healthcare services — the Royal Bank of Scotland, Price Waterhouse Cooper, Virgin, Atos. Companies that have never had any record of providing healthcare are being invited to bid for the £112 billion that the NHS budget in England has.

Within five years of a No vote in Scotland the health service will be unrecognisable. Within ten years the health service in Scotland will be privatised.

If you value public services like the health service, you’ve got the freedom to do something about it and that’s to vote Yes. That’s how we’ll save the health service from privatisation.

[It’s about the] freedom to decide that you are fed up to the back teeth of the pictures you get anytime there a big anti-poverty event when you’ve got well known faces on the TV snapping their fingers and telling you that a kid dies every four seconds of malnutrition, kids die from dysentery, cholera, kids dying because apparently there’s not enough money to feed them or to tackle the diseases that are killing them.

But there’s always enough money to buy the bombs and the missiles for war — why’s that? Here in Scotland you’ve got the freedom to put us on the map, because on 18 September you can say we reject the warmongers. A vote for independence is a vote to scrap Trident.

Independence isn’t a destination. Independence is the start of a new journey to transform Scotland from a poverty ridden, low paid, backward country when it comes to economic and employment conditions to a high wage, full employment country that banishes poverty and looks not to the UK, not to the food banks and zero-hours contracts of England but looks to the Finlands, the Norways and the Swedens — the high wage economies, the high public services, where poverty rates are less than 5 percent instead of the 35 percent here in Scotland.

The White Paper [the blueprint for independence put forward by the SNP-run Scottish government] offers us a start. There are some things I disagree with. I don’t agree with being a member of Nato, I don’t agree that we should have sterling as our currency — I want Scotland to have its own currency. I want Scotland to abolish zero hour contracts completely.

I want to have legislation that imposes a living wage so that the Tescos and the Morrisons and the Asdas that make billions of pounds every year cannot get away any longer with paying poverty pay…

In an independent Scotland we’re going to do what the Labour Party never did in its 13 years of power; we’re going to take back into public ownership the gas and electricity…

Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling have been telling you that there are going to be dark clouds assembling if you vote Yes, because an economic disaster looms ahead. Here is what Mr Brown has said about the UK: “The UK is defined by our unique pooling and sharing of risks and resources.”

Let’s start with the risks. How many here in Paisley, pensioners, low paid workers, health workers, how many of you were responsible for the economic crisis?… Austerity means that the poor pay for the mistakes and greed of the rich. We have a situation where bankers’ bonuses are higher today than they were in 2008 before the last economic crisis…

What about the “unique pooling of resources”? Oxfam produced a report telling us that in the first year of the Con-Dem government an extra 900,000 people in Britain have been forced into poverty, 300,000 of them children… There’s another wee report, the Rich List. The richest 1,000 in Britain last year increased their combined wealth to £519 billion. It’s grotesque.

The guy who does the Rich List, Dr Philip Beresford, said, “I have never seen such a phenomenal rise in personal wealth as the growth in the fortunes of the richest 1,000 over the last year. The richest people have had an astonishing year.”

So Oxfam tells you 900,000 more people forced into poverty while the rich have had “an astonishing year”. And Gordon Brown tells you about “a unique pooling of resources”. Why would you listen to an idiot like that?

If we don’t grasp this opportunity to change Scotland, to make it a better place for our children and grandchildren, I’ll give you a certainty: On 19 September, there’s going to be more poverty, more low pay, more zero-hours contracts, more food banks, more inequality, more war, more nuclear weapons. Have the courage, the vision, to vote Yes. Vote for Independence.