The Union prevents Scotland from flourishing

THE UK isn’t keeping up with the Joneses, the Jensens, the Johansens, the Jacqueses or the Joyces.

Decades of Westminster control – imposing austerity, Brexit and isolationist policies against our will – has wreaked a devastating toll.

The latest research published in the Sunday National yesterday highlights just how poorly the UK is performing compared to neighbouring countries.

The UK is languishing at the bottom of the league tables on a whole host of crucial measures.

Yet an independent Scotland in equal partnership with its neighbours can do so much better. To put it simply, we are the ideal size to succeed.

Countries of a similar size to Scotland – like in the real equal partnership of the Nordic Council – are thriving.

In contrast, this devastating research detailing national wealth and income inequality shows how deeply unequal the UK is in relation to our north-west European neighbours in the 21st century – even before the pandemic hit.

For all the talk of the “broad shoulders” of Westminster, it’s more like a long shadow when the facts and statistics are laid bare.

Under repeated Tory governments that we’ve rejected for more than 60 years, the UK now also has the lowest pensions as a proportion of pre-retirement income in north-west Europe, combined with the highest rate of inequality.

People in Scotland need to know that independent countries very similar to us – countries like Ireland or Denmark – are investing in their people and building fairer, more equal societies. Independence works for them; it can work for Scotland too.

We are the ones going backward despite all the boasting of Boris Johnson and Douglas Ross or Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar.

In the Holyrood election in May, people in Scotland elected a new Scottish Parliament. The result was clear: voters in Scotland delivered a substantial majority of MSPs who stood on a manifesto commitment to hold a fresh independence referendum – once the Covid crisis has passed. A referendum for recovery.

This is, therefore, now an issue of basic democracy. Because it seems Boris Johnson is seeking to block the democratic right of the people of Scotland to decide our own future, free of the Westminster control that is holding our country back.

The UK was meant to be a voluntary union based on the idea of partnership. But the Prime Minister has revealed that he, and his Tory government, don’t believe the UK to be a partnership between its various nations – but instead a way of asserting Westminster control over Scotland.

They are demonstrating that they believe the democratic rights of people in Scotland are subordinate to Westminster control.

In doing so, they are making the case for independence – because in an independent Scotland we will replace Westminster control with a genuine partnership of equals with our friends and neighbours in the rest of the UK.

That’s the best future for Scotland – a future in which we co-operate with our neighbours in the UK and across Europe on the basis of equality.

Too many Scots know to their cost that, after the last financial crisis, the Tories imposed austerity cuts – a choice, not a necessity. And we know they want to do the same again. Who then should be making the decisions on how we rebuild and recover – the people of Scotland or Boris Johnson?

Control of Scotland’s economic policy should be in Scotland’s hands – not Boris Johnson’s or Westminster’s. We know where his priority lies. He is the same Boris Johnson who said “a pound spent in Croydon is far more of value to the country than a pound spent in Strathclyde”.

In contrast, independence means we will be spending money on Scotland’s priorities, not Westminster’s, where the cost of Trident replacement has been estimated at £205 billion before we add in the cost of the plan to increase nuclear weapons by 40%.

And the cost of refurbishing the House of Lords and Westminster is predicted to be up to £20bn.

Meanwhile, Brexit is hitting the Scottish economy hard and on top of that the UK is expected to pay the EU around £40bn in a divorce bill.

Quite frankly, Scotland can no longer afford Westminster control – and this research demonstrates why. If we were like neighbouring countries of similar size to Scotland – who are also, crucially, independent – we would enjoy higher levels of productivity, a key driver of living standards.

We would have the power to be more equal and wealthier per head and to provide our old folk with higher pensions as a proportion of pre-retirement wages.

The broad shoulders of the Union don’t carry us – they cast a shadow over us and prevent us from flourishing as we should.

The people of Scotland voted in May for their right to choose between these two futures – a future under Westminster control or a referendum for recovery to have a future as an equal, independent country. Independence works for our neighbours, let it work for Scotland.

And so, as a simple matter of democracy, it is our right to make that choice – once the current crisis has passed.

After the 2014 referendum, all the Westminster parties along with the SNP and the Greens signed an agreement that it was a matter for the people of Scotland to decide if Scotland should move on to independence. Not Westminster, not Keir Starmer and certainly not Boris Johnson.

The people of Scotland have spoken in the election – the Westminster parties should respect that choice.