A polite, NO, thank you.

My first introduction to politics was being allowed to stay up late at my Granny’s while we listened to the election results on the wireless. She was baby-sitting as my Mum and Dad were always at the count, they have been avid supporters of the Labour party for many years, my Mother being election agent for at least 3 candidates in the Western Isles since 1974. It was her father who encouraged the interest in politics; KD (Kenny Dan) a weaver and crofter, yet a well-travelled man, he had lived and worked in Australia for 15 years. Dina, my granny, was very interested in politics too and on result night would sit on the arm of the sofa with her body leaning in towards the radio, not wanting to miss a thing.

The political education continued when my father became Chairman of the Keep Nato Out (KNO) campaign in Lewis and I remember long discussions with the Lewis bard Murdo Macfarlane regarding nuclear disarmament.

I have always been encouraged to question things, much to the dismay of my Sunday School teachers, to think for myself and when I was older, I began asking my parents questions about their political interest, such as why they followed the political path they did and why politics was so important, the answer was ‘politics is everything’ or ‘everything is political’. I agree. Every decision we make is somehow affected by politics, how much the food we eat costs, travel costs etc, I think it might stop at love but that’s about it!

I am pleased therefore to see the political debate that is going on in Scotland at present. I am pleased that Scotland is so animated, engaged, as in many previous elections the turnout has been poor. I think that is terrible – unforgiveable. Politics is our voice! You have to be in it to win it.

I am a proud Scotswoman. My nickname in ‘The Chieftains’ is ‘SCOTLAND’! I regularly shout this to address the Irish/Scottish balance when we’re on our 3rd slip jig and I’m in need of a schottische. My husband thinks I am the most Scottish person he knows and he’s met many on his travels. The first year I began working with The Chiefs our last gig was at ‘Carnegie Hall’, New York. It was St Partick’s Day! I walked into the sea of white, green and gold wearing a top that could be described as a Saltire. You could hear the air being sucked in. I sang my first song and proceeded to mention how great it was to be in Carnegie Hall, it being built by a Scot, in fact I think I said Scotland so many times in my address to the audience Jonny Hardie nearly self-imploded. He and Brian Mcalpine were touring with The Chiefs too and I remember Brian having a good giggle.

Scotland for the most part has been a socialist country. I am glad of that. Right now within Scotland we have the power to make decisions on:

  • agriculture, forestry and fisheries
  • education and training
  • environment
  • health and social services
  • housing
  • law and order (including the licensing of air weapons)
  • local government
  • sport and the arts
  • tourism and economic development
  • many aspects of transport
  • varying taxation by up to 3p in the pound

We can do this on our own doorstep. The decisions are not made south of the Border. However in the last 7 years many of these decisions relating to the above have not been made in the best interest of the Scottish people by the Scottish Government. For example no action has been taken to reduce child poverty, it has increased, new housing completions have not increased at the rate new housing is required – the SNP Government actually cut the housing budget. They cite that their hands are tied. I believe they have not made good use of the power they do have, so as to drive their own agenda.

The economic crash has affected us all. It has had a huge effect on Ireland and I have lived there through this. I repeatedly hear the Irish comment that the UK was right to stay with the pound. Yet we still don’t know what currency Scotland will have. If it is to be supported by the UK banks, what is the point of independence? Where is Scotland to get its federal reserves from? The markets are already reacting to the polls and the polls may well be wrong. How soon will this all be resolved in an independent Scotland? How much will Scotland lose out on while this is being decided? All countries needs business to create jobs. Will businesses go elsewhere while this is being decided? If Scotland joins the Euro it would make my life easier but where does that leave Scotland, the Euro being in the weak position it is in?

I love the NHS! When I was 11, members of its staff saved my Mother’s life, when I was 40 they saved my Dad’s; they nursed both my Grannies through the end of their days, I came into the world via the NHS and currently the English NHS is caring for my Auntie. Here in Scotland when I needed to go to the Doctor and on several occasions, due to a condition I have, to go to the hospital at a moment’s notice, I could go without worrying if I could afford to or not. In Ireland it costs anything between $45 – $60 (£40-£50) per visit to the GP and then you pay for your prescriptions after this. I have health insurance but it only kicks in after I have been to the doctor 15 times in one year. In Ireland due to the economic crash, the first thing to go in families struggling with finance has been their health insurance. This is appalling to me. I don’t want to see this happen in Scotland. If taxes are not raised, then how else is the Scottish NHS going to be funded in an Independent Scotland? Are they going to follow Ireland’s example and will health insurance come into play? The Scottish Government has given people free prescriptions but this actually only benefits the well-off who can already afford prescription fees, lower paid families have their prescriptions covered by welfare. I won’t say that the welfare system is adequate but here in Scotland prescription fees are covered. Also a recent report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies states that the Scottish Government, who would be in power after the Referendum are ‘planning cuts in health spending even though NHS budgets are rising in England, directly challenging one of the yes campaign’s most successful arguments with voters.’ NHS budgets rising in England but being cut in Scotland? NAW?! Fit?! De?! There is an article in today’s Herald Scotland saying the NHS managers need to make cuts of ‘£400m and £450m by April 2017 and warns health boards do not have the powers to make the changes they believe are required to balance the books’ This report has been ‘leaked days before the referendum as some health service staff are increasingly frustrated by suggestions from Yes campaigners that Scotland needs independence to protect NHS funding.’

Some cite the oil industry as the pot of black gold that could cover the cost of the NHS and cure all ills but oil is on the decline and the easiest places to extract oil from have been exploited. Ireland for example has two new oil fields that have been found in recent years but experts are not sure they are ever going to be able to extract this oil, the actual extraction being so difficult. We need investment in renewable sustainable energy sources for our future, our children’s and their children. Oil is not the cure. Let’s invest in wind and wave power, we have enough of it. This will need funding initially and where exactly will that money come from as right now the UK government provides the subsidy?

Trident: I was there during the peace marches of the 70’s and 80’s. My parents regularly attended ‘Ban the Bomb’ marches, and I heard many folk singers perform at these and remember the actress Julie Christie speaking at a march in Paris. Due to my Father’s involvement in KNO, I met EP Thompson of END (European Nuclear Disarmament) I played on his piano, in those days I practised. I also met Olafur Grimsson, who at the time was an MP from Iceland opposed to the NATO base in Keflavik, he went on to be Iceland’s President. I also visited Greenham Common and spent a day at the Women’s Gate – Green Gate, I think it was. Here was where women from all over the UK and beyond lived and demonstrated for nuclear disarmament. We have come a long way as regards the BOMB since then, gone have my fears of imminent nuclear attack (I possibly knew more than most children about the cause and effect a 1 megaton bomb could have) however I still want nuclear disarmament. I am not satisfied with The Scottish Government’s White Paper and its suggested ‘solution to Trident’. The idea of purely moving it somewhere else does not get rid of the problem. I cannot agree to a policy that merely moves Trident elsewhere that is not a solution and there is currently no solution to this amongst the parties and voters. No one will say what they want to happen to Trident other than they just want it out of Scotland. NATO is a nuclear alliance. How can removing Trident but remaining in NATO even work? This still gives opportunity for the continued destruction via weapons of mass destruction that we have seen in Syria and Gaza in recent years. I don’t wish to be complicit in this. The logical solution here is to work with the UN to remove nuclear and weapons of mass destruction from the world forever! To work together, to get everyone, to take responsibility. You might think this an ideal but imagine if everyone did pull together to achieve this. No splitting of countries into smaller factions. Saving only ourselves is not saving ourselves at all.

All these issues are very complicated. Politics is complicated. There are many factors that have led to Scotland being as unhappy with the UK government as it is. Over the last 30 years certainly it has seen Margaret Thatcher and her decimation of the Unions (throughout the UK), her closure of mines (also North and South of the border) and her Poll tax trials in Scotland, but Tony Blair and his New Labour must be held a responsible too. There were huge protest marches in Scotland about the invasion of Iraq; there were huge protest marches in London too. He didn’t listen to any of us.

I think what my Yes voting friends may not see is that they and I have many common grievances.

Glasgow has at times more in common with Manchester, Liverpool and Belfast than with Edinburgh. The first 4 being known as working class industrial cities results in a certain sense of humour amongst other things. Areas of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales have people with the very same social values, no wonder they don’t want to lose Scotland, they’d lose 59 Scottish MP’s from Westminster only 1 of whom is a Tory. Further Tory rule would become inevitable and I don’t wish to leave my English, Welsh and NI friends to have to deal with that. Surely we don’t just say ‘let them get on with it’? As even with independence our greatest importer and financial backer, still, would be England though then we’d have even less say over how they go about that.

Politics is like a marriage or love of a team sport. The team results or marriage might not always run smoothly but you have made a commitment. You sometimes need to be more vocal in your disapproval, you have to take stock, take time to iron out your differences but you don’t just walk away. If your partner is not listening then you have to make them listen and make it clear what you want. You in turn need to listen and make compromises, not bend over backwards but work at it together. Scotland feels sorely aggrieved, understandably, but I do think that the rest of the UK is listening and I think we will work best if we move forward together to achieve social change for all.

This is why I advocate NO, thank you.

Alyth McCormack.

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