Writing: Rufus Pickles
Illustration: Sian Griffiths
On 9 March, Whitehall was a road awash with blood. Much of the grey tarmac of Westminster’s governmental thoroughfare was turned to a dark, sanguine red by the climate activists of Extinction Rebellion in a show of direct action. Like a biblical plague informing the people of impending doom, it is a metaphorical indictment on the UK’s deathly political landscape. Just a few hundred meters down the road, the Westminster cartel bicker endlessly about different forms of the same disastrous Brexit or the same broken social order that has blighted Britain for decades. There is, however, a path out of the darkness. For sociallyconscientious students living in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland that feel the same anguish with our political system, becoming involved with the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the independence movement could be a remedy.
We in Edinburgh do not have to stand for the drawn out social and economic disaster that is Brexit. Scotland did not vote for this - in fact it voted overwhelmingly against. Independence provides an emancipatory escape route which we would be foolish not to follow. In the 2016 Scottish Parliament Elections, the SNP stood on a manifesto that said it would call for an independence referendum if there was a ‘significant and material change in circumstances, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will.’ A mandate for autonomy exists, now all that is needed is political will.
Our solidarity and relationship with the rest of Europe is not the only thing that Westminster leaves in ruins. British society is laden with glaring injustices, from the scandal of bosses earning 312 times that of an average worker, to the four million children that live in poverty despite the UK being the fifth richest country in the world. Around 3,500 people are homeless in Edinburgh and one in five working age Scots live in poverty.
The Conservatives will not confront these issues because it was their own rigid dogma of Thatcherism and austerity that caused them. The Liberal Democrats stopped being a serious political force in 2010, when they reneged on manifesto promises and enabled the destruction of the social state. The fledgling ‘Independent Group speaks of changing the old order but in reality is just more of the same dysfunctional Westminster model. Sarah Wollaston, one of their ex-Tory MPs, claimed yesterday in the New Statesman that ‘we cut too much’. What a pathetic admission to hear, years after the damage has been done. As for the Labour Party, it is too mired in internal strife and debilitated by unpopular leadership to bring about progressive change anytime soon. Scotland should not have to wait in the wings. Furthermore, even with real socialists at the helm, they cannot totally separate themselves from the Westminster establishment. At the last election, they remained committed to keeping £7 billion of welfare cuts and blowing at least £205 billion on illegal weapons of mass destruction.
In Holyrood, the Scottish government is taking a different approach. The SNP’s latest budget mitigated austerity by investing £42.5 billion in Scotland’s economy and public services. This included extra money for schools, mental health, and social care. Last year, the finance secretary Derek Mackay raised taxes on the top 30% of earners and lowered them for the bottom 70%, in an attempt to correct the highly regressive British tax system. This, however, is only the beginning. Only independence will be able to free Scotland from Westminster’s cruelty and incompetence.