We will report tomorrow on tonight’s [7th November] launch of the pro-Union Better Together campaign.
First – now – we want to be heard with no commentary, the personal position statements of key political figures in Argyll, for the Union and for independence.
Tonight’s three panellists have given us the basic texts of their 2-miiute statements to the audience; and we invited pro-independence figures to wrote their own 2-minute ersobal statements for us, so that we could present both positions in the same way at the same time.
The pro-union panellists, in order of speaking, were:
- Mary Galbraith. Labour candidate for the Argyll and Bute Westminster seat in the 2015 General Election;
- Jamie McGrigor, Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP and Argyll resident;
- Alan Reid, Liberal Democrat MP for Argyll and Bute.
Those of two of the pro-independence political figures we invited are:
- Campbell Cameron, former SNP Councillor, Oban Town Centre Manager, Oban FM presenter and For Argyll’s Music Editor.
- Michael Russell, SNP MSP for Argyll and Bute.
We had also invited Mike Mackenzie, Highlands and Islands SNP MSP to contribute but he was too busy to do it.
Here are the personal statements of each of these influential figures in the ongoing debate – in the order given above.
Supporting the idea that Scotland is better off as part of the United Kingdom is always going to be personal as well as political for many people. My personal story goes like this:
I grew up surrounded with distinctly Scottish culture. Here in Argyll – Kintyre, just the other side of Loch Fyne. My father played the bagpipes, and the notable piping families of the area were close friends and regular visitors to our home. My mother’s heritage is a Gaelic one, and she and her siblings sang at local and national Mòds from a young age. Ceilidhs in the house were standard fare – everyone had to do something, so I and my sisters found it entirely natural to join in.
As a child I did Highland dancing, singing Scots and Gaelic songs in the village choir, and played the chanter. Trips to Cowal Games here in Dunoon were like an annual pilgrimage for our family – we looked forward to the last weekend in August almost as much as the last week in December.
Later I was drawn to other Scottish cultural touchstones: A love of football for example, so I did several trips to Wembley when the Home Internationals were an annual feature. Then I persuaded the man who became my husband to holiday in Italy. In 1990. And follow Scotland to yet another glorious World Cup exit…! The experience didn’t put us off either; we’ve done ten foreign expeditions to see Scotland at the last count.
By then I had joined the Glasgow Gaelic Musical Association choir, and so when my girls were born I became active in Comann nam Pàrant, the Gaelic parent’s association, latterly as convener. I’m very proud to have led the parent body in its campaign to set up Scotland’s first all-Gaelic school in 1999. Then we also established the highly successful 3-18 Gaelic School in 2006 – the fastest-growing school in Scotland.
All very clichéd. I just need red hair to hit the jack-pot!
Obviously it’s different for others: There are as many personal recipes for being Scottish as there are people content to call themselves Scottish. This is simply my story. It’s who I am. And I don’t need any constitutional change to feel one iota more Scottish.
And just as important to my Scottish identity is my sense of belonging: To Britain, and the UK. It’s like a family I’m incredibly proud to belong to. With its reputation for creativity, tolerance, humour and integrity. We in Scotland all get to be part of something bigger, like a club, with the membership benefits that this brings. Just like people in Wales, Northern Ireland and England benefit too. Each brings its own distinctive cultures and perspectives. And everybody gains.
So last year I was so proud to cheer all British athletes at the Olympics and Paralympics. We all wanted David Weir to win just as much as Chris Hoy. And team events, in rowing and cycling are simply the epitome of how – joining together – we can achieve so much more. Shared expertise, like the national training centres, and joint endeavour, like the elite UK teams, have helped Scots – and other British athletes – get sporting success.
This shared endeavour model is just as true in business, universities, the NHS, charities, broadcasting – so much of what we hold dear. It’s not any lack of independence that holds us back. Every single one of us is independent already: it’s is a state of mind. Each of us is in charge of our own destinies. By choosing to collaborate we learn and achieve more.
The future for everyone in Scotland is all about offering our young people the chance to achieve. Whether to pursue a career as an athlete or nurse, engineer or accountant, by keeping open the avenues of study, qualification and employment, across the UK, we give them opportunities to succeed. Separating Scotland from the rest of the Britain can only diminish their prospects.
So for all our futures – young people charting their way in the world, pensioners securing their financial well-being, and families seeking affordable homes – whether in Dunoon or Doncaster – we stay stronger when we work together.
Jamie McGrigor MSP
I am a proud Scot and I am also proud to be British, to be part of our United Kingdom partnership of nations which we should never let anyone forget is one of the most successful political, economic and social Unions in history. And it is because I am a proud Scot and want the best for Scotland that I support our United Kingdom.
Before Scotland and England came together, our nations regularly tore lumps out of each other. Yet only a few years after the Act of Union, Scotland, transformed, was leading the developed world through its Enlightenment and Scottish thinkers like Adam Smith and David Hume were establishing systems of ideas that still underpin modern economics and philosophy.
Today modern Scotland benefits from the best of both worlds. We have the combination of a strong, accessible and open Scottish Parliament that deals with all the key domestic issues such as health, education, housing, farming and transport- recognising Scotland’s different legal and education systems and particular needs- while as part of our United Kingdom we have the security of the UK’s defence capabilities and international standing and membership of key global organisations like the UN Security Council and the G8.
We live in an interconnected, fast moving, increasingly competitive world of ever advancing technology with new threats and challenges emerging almost every week. The idea that we would separate ourselves from our friends and family in the rest of the UK, from our biggest market, seems a bizarre one to many observers from other countries.
And the fact that Alex Salmond and the SNP simply can’t answer any basic questions on their plans for a separate Scotland suggests an uncertain future.
Salmond told us he didn’t want the monarchy – now he does. He said he would join the euro – now he wants to keep the pound. He said he would pull out of NATO – now he wants us to stay in. He said he would be at the top table when it came to discussing interest rates and credit rating but he didn’t find out the facts from the monetary policy committee of the Bank of England. And he said an independent Scotland would automatically be a member of the EU but we know legal experts and the EU Commission say this is not the case.
Scotland and the UK have achieved great things in the last 300 years but our best days don’t have to be behind us- they can be ahead of us if we renew our partnership and go forward Better Together.
Alan Reid MP
For over three hundred years, we have achieved so much as part of the United Kingdom.
Together we built a free and democratic society – a welfare state – a National Health Service.
Scotland is a proud nation within a larger state which creates opportunities for our people.
We’re positive about all the identities that we share – Scottish, British, European, citizens of the world.
I want Scotland to continue to look outwards – to continue play our part in bringing benefits to the wider world.
We can do that best as part of a strong United Kingdom.
We have an influential position in the United nations, European Union, the Commonwealth, the G8.
We are leading the way in environmental protection – leading the drive to cut carbon emissions with ambitious targets ourselves and seeking to persuade others to follow suit.
When our two largest banks crashed five years ago, the size and strength of the UK meant that we were able to bail them out and Scottish taxpayers only carried a small part of that cost.
We have the best of both worlds – a strong Scottish Parliament to decide our own internal affairs and a key role in a strong and secure United Kingdom.
Don’t vote to put a barrier across this small island.
Continuing to work together with our neighbours will deliver a brighter future for us all.
All around the world – Independence is normal.
Scandinavia, South America – the former USSR. Independence = Normal.
Interdependence is Scotland’s and the remaining countries of England, Wales and Northern Ireland’s future.
Like all good neighbours we will get on well – we will support each other in times of trouble – we will be friends.
Not the type of friends that are always borrowing without repaying – and being reminded of it constantly – but the type that offer a helping hand.
Like the crofter of old, who when his milk cow goes dry or hens stop laying - is given some eggs and milk by his neighbour
- and probably some cheese too!
Not because its a favour – but because its the right thing to do. it’s Normal.
We will be in a position to support the energy needs of our neighbours – with copious green wind and wave power.
They will support us with tourism across an invisible border – much like it is on the continent – no passports – just a welcome!
Just like now. Normal.
We will stand up for each other. At home and abroad.
We will trade – whisky, gas and oil and much more – in return for freedom from a dependency culture as some of the less generous commentators south of the border suggest. We will call it …normal.
We will buy what we do not make ourselves – though we are pretty well self sufficient. Cars and lorries spring to mind as the big manufacturing industries up here have gone. But we still make ships. Big ones. And we build oil rigs and turbines. We invent.
There will be many other things too, I am sure, to trade with our friends.
Food and drink are plentiful, fresh and supreme – including, it seems, most of our fish today, along with our lamb, beef, and venison.
The creative industries will thrive and life sciences will abound up here too.
When a grateful government re-invests the taxes they raise, they will grow.
Its the normal thing to do…. elsewhere.
What have we got to loose?
Trident on the Clyde. The Bedroom tax. Governments we never vote for. Fear…..Project Fear!
What has Westminster got to loose – a surly lodger – but then it gains a new friendly neighbour.
But …What will we gain?
The ability to look after the less well off without fear or favour. Compassionate Capitalism. Democratic socialism.
Lost years of Oil investment in our future.
The return of the eastern sea border to where it was before Westminster unilaterally moved it north to suit its needs.
No longer will we be “scroungers” with a “Barnett formula” to prove our value……
With our belief – we will prove our own worth – and create our own wealth!
We will believe.
By our own endeavours we will work together for success.
Infact, we will be…. normal.
“Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation”,
… which is engraved in the Canongate Wall of the Scottish Parliament.
Alasdair Gray who penned “Lanark” frequently uses the quotation,
….he created it.
We will live by it.
Michael Russell MSP
There is nothing abnormal about independence for a small country like Scotland. In fact it is the normal state for normal states. Across Europe prosperous small countries are providing more for their citizens, are ensuring greater equality of opportunity and are speaking to and with the world in a way that the present generation here can only dream of.
A ‘YES” vote is a positive vote. It is not a vote against anything, unlike the NO vote. It is not a vote about borders or barriers. In fact it will help to take down the barriers between us and the rest of the world. A YES vote expresses the belief that good relationships like the “social union” – of which I am a product having an English mother and having been born in Bromley – will continue and flourish once the negativity of present political arrangements have been dissolved.
A ‘YES” vote is about moving on and seeking new partnerships of equality. In the words of an old nationalist saying it will mean that England will lose a surly lodger and gain a good neighbour. It is a confident statement that arises from optimism and experience
Optimism about the way in which the immense riches of this nation – in natural resources, in people and in reputation – can be put to work for the benefit of ourselves and he benefit of the wider world.
Experience because, since devolution, Scotland has shown that it can run its own affairs efficiently and effectively in a manner which means that the right decisions are made here by the people most likely to be affected by them.
Scotland’s health and education provision which is virtually fully devolved has developed over the past 14 years into the appropriate , effective and well appreciated public services that people in Scotland want and need. Contrast that to the privatisation of health south of the border and the demoralisation of the teaching profession in England with consequent effects of young people and their prospects.
But to make such services everything they can be the Scottish Parliament needs to be able to control all the levers of power - benefits, taxation and labour market regulation, amongst other things – so that all necessary effort can be put into eliminating poverty and ensuring that we have the best country to grow up in, to work in and to grow old in.
Just we can and should make our decisions about what happens here, we should also make them about our place in the wider world. Scotland does not need to be spoken for. Indeed in Europe our fishermen and farmers and our wider rural population are all paying a heavy price for the lack of direct representation. The recent agreement in Europe for new fishing , agriculture and rural development policies gave Scotland far less than she would have as an independent member of the EU – something, incidentally, which would be guaranteed given that everyone who lives here is already a European citizen.
And the enormous damage done in our name in Iraq and elsewhere is further evidence of the need to make our own decisions and not get drawn into illegal wars by London Government.
Closer to home the cruel imposition of the bedroom tax in Argyll & Bute which has left families on the islands , in the villages and in the towns worse off because there is literally no alternative accommodation of a smaller size shows that policies imposed from outside, against the wishes of Scottish elected representatives at every level , can and do impose real hardship and personal suffering.
Democratically we also need to move on. Britain is the most unequal society in Europe. An unelected House of Lords , packed with place men and women, is hardly the model of impartial and evidence led representative decision making. The lack of a written constitution is unique in Europe and now almost unique in the world leaving our citizens unprotected and the threat of the Tories (often mirrored by Labour alas ) to become ever more harsh on those who need help from society, ever more unwelcoming to those who flee to here and ever more determined to leave Europe poses real threats to Scotland’s future wellbeing and the wellbeing of all our fellow citizens.
For almost two thirds of my life I have lived under Governments that my fellow Scottish citizens did not elect. It is surely wrong for that to continue. We need to bring decision making home and show ourselves to the world as the open, outgoing, internationalist people we are whilst taking full responsibility for our own affairs.
Argyll & Bute is proving very receptive to that message wherever and whenever it is given,. The local YES campaign is up and running very vigorously. I welcome the debate we are now engaged in about Scotland’s and Argyll & Bute’s future and I am happy to take part in it at any time and in any place.
The first American Vice President and Second American President, John Adams, put it well in 1796 when he wrote this about his time being one in which “..a coincidence of circumstances without example has afforded (us) an opportunity of beginning government anew from the founding and building as (we) choose. “
That is the opportunity we have too. We can all imagine a better place to live and that better place can be built right here if we vote YES.
What a privilege it is to be in Scotland now , arguing for the greatest prize we could imagine – real democracy in a rich, outward looking country full of ideas and promise.
Lets grasp that chance with both hands and make it happen for all of us.