Thursday’s campus referendum on independence is more than just a practice run for the campaign in 2014, and more than just a statistic which will be used by either the Yes or No camp to gauge reception amongst students. It will be national news, a PR victory for one side, and a boost to the referendum itself. It is crucial for students to engage with this debate, and it is crucial to vote Yes.
This should not be a referendum about Scottish nationalism or national identity. I am not a nationalist, and it is disappointing that yesterday in the Glasgow Guardian we saw a supporter of the Yes campaign frame his support in terms of his ‘ancestors, the Scottish masses’. It is these attitudes that will lose a referendum, and fails to recognise that Scotland is far from one white, English-speaking, homogenous mass. It is tired, out of date, and straight from Braveheart. I am not interested in building a campaign based on getting people to vote because they are born in Scotland, and doesn’t reflect the international and multicultural nature of places like Glasgow University. I am interested in an independent Scotland rooted in social justice.
As it stands the Yes campaign faces problems. It has found itself in a position where Better Together asks/accuses, Yes Scotland answers and so on. The debate has moved on from abstract questions about constitutions and legal issues and this has not been recognised by them. In short, Yes Scotland is failing to go on the offensive and show what the grim consequences of staying in the Union are. As former SNP Deputy Leader Jim Sillars states in a recent Scotsman article “There is nothing to be afraid of in a Yes campaign that reveals the weakness of what the No side is asking us to abide with”.
Less than thirty miles from Glasgow are 180 Trident nuclear warheads eight times more powerful than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. In 2016, these will be renewed, replaced – at a cost of £100 billion. At the same time as arming Britain to the teeth with nukes, we are seeing cuts to Higher and Further education on a scale never seen before. University and college budgets are being slashed. Courses are closing. RUK students wanting to study pay thousands of pounds a year for tuition, and the situation is getting worse. I think education is a right and not a privilege. We need to scrap Trident and fund education.
Voting for independence guarantees a Britain free from nuclear weapons, something which has been recognised both by experts and by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. Faslane Naval Base is the only location that Trident can be placed – there’s nowhere else in Britain they can go, and it would take decades to build a replacement facility. This means £100 billion is freed up to re-invest into higher and further education. Wherever you are in the UK, £9K a year fees are an outrage. An independent Scotland can keep maintaining a system which is free from fees, and extend this to RUK students. As the plans for Trident renewal have already been put in place by Westminster, this is the only way we can rid Britain from these weapons of mass destruction.
A victory for the Better Together campaign would be a victory for some of the most reactionary elements of society and an endorsement of the Con-Dem austerity agenda. It is clear that Britain is broken – we are one of the most unequal societies in Europe. This point appeals oblivious to campaigners on campus sporting the slogan ‘UK OK’, an idiom which is offensive for a number of reasons. The UK is not OK. We are not ‘better together’ when the life expectancy of people living around the Red Road Flats in Glasgow is lower than in Iraq. UK is not OK when a Westminster government has led to thousands being murdered in Fallujah and Kabul. We are not ‘better together’ when disability benefits are being slashed at the same time as Vodafone and Starbucks don’t pay millions in Corporation Tax. I don’t want an ‘OK’ UK, I want a better one where education is free and public services are not cut – voting Yes is the only way this will happen. The Better Together campaign at the university might as well start wearing t-shirts emblazoned with ‘£9K OK’ because it is these positions that it defends by being part of the campaign.
We need a radical independence that doesn’t buy into scaremongering stories. In my opinion it is clear that we cannot stay a part of a regressive, militarist UK which cuts services and attacks the poor. The exact specifics of what independence will look like are still up for debate, but one thing is certain – that a Yes vote in 2014 will end nuclear weapons and defend the education we fought for. We need to fund education and scrap trident. We need to vote Yes.