Just over a year ago the Yes campaign in East Dunbartonshire kicked off with our first public meeting in Lenzie. Must have had about 30 folk there including a load of Yes East Dunbartonshire volunteers. Bit of a contrast to the 250 odd we had at our Yes/No debate in Kirky last week. Last year we started with personal statements from our panel followed by a question and answer session. I said then that the Union was our reality but it wasn’t normality. Take a look at the map below. What’s the difference between the countries in blue and the countries in red?
There’s two main differences. The countries in blue are independent, the countries in red are not. The countries in blue have written constitutions defining the rights, protections and responsibilities of their citizens the countries in red do not. The countries in blue are normal.
It’s a theme I return to today. Too often in the independence debate we get involved in the narrow arguments and never see the bigger picture. But to truly understand Scotland’s place in the world, how she stacks up as a nation versus the UK and the rest of the world we have to look at ourselves from the outside.
So I’m indebted to an article I read recently that shows some of the contrasts and underlines that it’s us that are normal, we’re like the rest of Europe, it is the UK that is out of step. Here’s some of the reasons why.
Democracy: The UK is the most undemocratic country in Europe with its combination of first past the post elected lower house and unelected upper house. Scotland’s parliament is elected by proportional representation
Education: Free in Germany and the Nordic countries, cheap in many other countries like Holland and France. Free in Scotland. £9,000pa in the UK
Renewable energy: Despite having more potential than nearly every country in Europe the UK uses less renewable energy than every country in Europe except the Benelux countries and Cyprus. Scotland generated more than 30% 0f its energy from renewables last year.
Public ownership: Public ownership of major services and utilities is normal in Europe. UK has flogged off everything. Scotland holds on to water, a devolved issue, as the last big publicly owned service.
Childcare provision: UK has some of the worst provision. Number of women in work is 56%. In Norway it is 79% and in the mid seventies in the rest of the Nordic countries and Germany. Care costs are far higher in the UK than most European countries.
Equality: The UK is the 4th most unequal country in the world. Pay has fallen faster in recent years than in all but 3 EU countries. The UK works the 3rd longest hours in Europe for the second lowest wages in the OECD. We have the 3rd highest housing costs, highest train fares and the 2nd worst level of fuel poverty.
Pensions: The UK has the fourth poorest pensioners in Europe
Children: Child poverty is among the worst in Europe, more than double the rate in Norway for example. We have the highest rate of infant mortality in Western Europe.
Wealth gap: Our wealth gap is twice as wide as any other European country.Productivity is 16% below the average. We have the greatest regional inequality.
Remember these facts when Cameron et al are banging the drum and telling you how great Great Britain is. Remember these facts when they tell you this is as good as it gets. Remember these facts when they tell you you’re too poor, too weak to stand on your own two feet. Remember this when they tell you we’re better together and remember this when you go into that polling booth in September. Those things which Scotland has, those aspirations you have for yourselves and for your country are normal. You’re normal, independence is normal. If you’ll settle for less than normal vote No but if you want what is normal, beyond normal, if you have the vision to see a Scotland that is truly great, a country others look up to not down on then vote Yes. Don’t be abnormal, don’t be weird, try normality + , you’ll like it.