Posted by Euan Bennet on 08/07/2015
While reading today’s UK Government budget statement I couldn’t help but be reminded of my final article before the Independence Referendum. I wrote it late on the evening of the 17th of September, and in it I tried to imagine realistic best- and worst-case scenarios following a (then hypothetical) Yes or No vote.
As it turns out, today I have to hold my hands up and admit that I was wrong. My worst case scenario predictions have already been surpassed. Here is what I said on 17/09/2014:
The realistic worst-case scenario: No
There is the temptation here to construct an unrealistic scenario. One such extreme example would be the Scottish Parliament being abolished, which would be within Westminster’s gift to do at any point. The realistic worst-case scenario is, in roughly chronological order:
No new powers for the Scottish Parliament. Or worse, the Labour proposals for further devolution are brought in, featuring no new powers, but new responsibilities without the means to fund them.
A Tory Government or a Labour Government at Westminster come 2015. Both have pledged that they will continue planned public spending cuts, austerity measures, punitive welfare reform, and confrontational foreign and immigration policy. Add UKIP to a coalition with the Tories for extra racism, sexism, and every other ‘-ism’ in your worst-case scenario!
An EU exit following the proposed referendum in 2017.
The TTIP opens up the NHS in Scotland to marketisation just like it already is in England.
100,000 more children in poverty by 2020.
Another banking crash fuelled by the housing bubble that economic policy is currently reinflating.
More austerity, forever.
BUT enough money to build a new generation of nuclear weapons stored 30 miles from our biggest city
Scotland’s renewable energy potential left to one side while fracking poisons our soil and water.
Nine bullet points. Six of them (no new powers for Scotland, a Tory government, an EU referendum, permanent austerity, Trident replacement, and difficulties for the Scottish renewable energy industry) have already come to pass. Of those, it could be plausibly argued that the following surpasses my “predictions”:
- “no new powers” has been surpassed by EVEL (and every amendment to Scotland Bill blocked by MPs for England)
- Tory government, while not backed up by UKIP, is unconstrained by whatever meagre conscience the Lib Dems provided as part of the coalition, and today it looks like their assault on the poor has really been stepped up.
- a 2016 EU referendum.
- permanent austerity with added £12 billion cuts in welfare announced today.
- Scotland’s renewable industry can barely be described as being on life support, following cuts to wave power research late last year, and cuts to wind subsidies this year. Meanwhile, licences for fracking are being handed out like free sweeties.
By my count, that’s five of the nine points in the worst case scenario that have been surpassed. Already. TTIP is still on the horizon but I’m sure we’ll hear more about that shortly. 100,000 more children in poverty by 2020 was the SCVO estimate based on cuts between 2008 and 2015. Given the cuts today, it’s probably safe to say that number will be getting revised sharply upwards once the dust settles from the demolition of the social security safety net.
In my pre-referendum article I also suggested how we might go about preventing the worst. Here were my suggestions:
What we can do to prevent the worst-case scenario
Hope that it doesn’t happen.
Remember that day in 2014 when we held absolute sovereign power for 15 hours, and chose to give it away?
Regret voting No.
I had expected a feeling of powerlessness to grip the Yes movement had the vote been for No. Thankfully this was only true for a matter of hours on the 19th of September – I was astonished by the energy and strength shown by those on the losing side, and it certainly helped me recover from the crushing disappointment of the result. The response has been unbelievable, and of course culminated in the unprecedented UK election result on the 7th May. But we’re not done yet.
The way forward
Now we really do need to work together -Yes and No voters alike. If you are alarmed at the UK Government directly transferring wealth from the poorest to the richest in society, assaulting the social security that forms part of the basic function of the state, and generally making bad decisions, what do you plan to do about it? I would hope that everyone is re-examining their decision, whichever way they voted. Continuing the theme from the referendum campaign: what sort of country do you want to live in?
I’m sure the budget today will cause protests and demonstrations in numbers. Another outlet for protest is to join and campaign for a political party that opposes austerity. Coincidentally, in Scotland all of the anti-austerity parties and groups are pro-independence. Here is a list of the most well-known parties:
Politically, the priority of the anti-austerity movement should be ensuring a majority of MSPs come from these parties after the next Scottish elections in 2016. A related objective is the further extinction of the Labour Party in Scotland. We’ve completed phase 1 – reducing them to one MP this year. Phases 2 and 3 (Holyrood in 2016, and Council election in 2017) should be continued as methodically as Phase 1 – by offering a real alternative to voters and campaigning on a positive basis for anti-austerity policies.
There are also a number of groups who have continued since the referendum. This is by no means a comprehensive list:
Women for Independence: http://www.womenforindependence.org/
The Scottish Left Project: http://leftproject.scot/
Common Weal: http://www.allofusfirst.org/
Become the media
Another welcome development since the referendum has been the scales tipping slightly back towards some sort of plurality in the media. News outlets now include:
Common Space: https://commonspace.scot/
The National (also available in print!): http://www.thenational.scot/
These are a welcome addition to previously unoccupied niches, and offer a slightly different approach to those provided by the established websites:
Wings over Scotland: http://wingsoverscotland.com/
Bella Caledonia: http://bellacaledonia.org.uk/
Newsnet Scotland: http://newsnet.scot/
I’ve noticed people talking about a second referendum more and more recently. A more detailed look at that is for another day, other than to say that there will be another referendum when the people demand it. Given the surge in party memberships, campaigning groups, and media voices, it’s likely that in any new referendum the Yes campaign would be starting from a much higher baseline than it did last time. Many of the lies and scaremongering employed by the No campaign will no longer work.
Times are going to get very exciting indeed.