A response to Mr Salmond’s speech

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alex salmond

Dear Alex

We will never agree on the future of this country as you want us to go alone and I believe in the union. But that is not the thing I want to pick up from your speech – it’s more important than that – it’s about who we are and what we could achieve here in Scotland. And you know what? Regardless of being run from Edinburgh, London, Brussels or even New York we could be brilliant in all the ways you want right now – and you are actually one of the obstacles to that.

We are and will always be a diverse, interesting and culturally rich people – that’s not down to politics, it’s about the individual. Your obsession with your agenda while you have had the reins of the country could have driven us in a different direction with all the powers you have had and the options you could have put in place. But you didn’t. You very often prioritised things that were populist – nothing wrong with that in principle but I question the free prescriptions an lack of bridge tolls and university fees waiver for Scots as a blanket policy because actually the majority of us could afford to contribute something or means test it. That money could have been used for other measures to deal with the real issues in this country – poverty in Scotland for one.

You have been focussing on the Independence of Scotland when really the best way for you to prove your love of this country is to work hard for it instead of trying to score political points again whoever disagrees with you this week. Challenging the Prime Minister to a TV Debate on Independence is missing the point. Why not go on TV and convince us, as a man who wants this, why we should vote yes? Stop playing games and calling those of us who disagree with you names. I love Scotland, but I’m also British and European and beyond. While I want this country to do well – because I live here – I want everyone to do well. I’m not a traitor, a turncoat, a scoundrel or any of the other names I’ve been called by you and your supporters.

You say that you want a constitution for the country, and in it you say that:

  • We seek a country with a written constitution protecting not just the liberties for the people but enunciating the rights of the citizen.
  • We seek a country where we make work pay not by humiliating those with disabilities but by strengthening the minimum wage.
  • We seek a country where key public services remain in public hands.
  • We seek a country where business prospers but where the public are protected against the abuse of monopoly power.
  • We seek a country where the right to health and education are based on human need and ability not on the size of your wallet.
  • We seek a country which understands its contribution to culture and creativity as part of an international framework.
  • And we seek a country which judges its contribution on how useful it can be to the rest of humanity not on how many warheads in can balance on a Trident submarine.

You cannot promise all these things. You don’t know what the future holds financially and there are already questions over the long term sustainability of the financial support for elderly care with the aging population. And the fact that you “seek” it shows that even you are unsure about the ability to achieve these things. Very few in the country would disagree with any of these points, very few in the UK would either, or Europe. They are not uniquely Scottish values.

And this is my point. Whether it’s Scotland or Great Britain we can be game changers, leaders and positive role models – that has nothing to do with the borders and seat of power. It’s about people. It is about changing long held views and opinions of thousands people in this country. You’re not going to change the country because Edinburgh is in charge – you will change it if you get to the roots of the problems in our communities with education, health, housing, crime, inequality of wages, race issues, poverty, opportunity and hope. Independence has nothing to do with these things. People do. Unless you can change the long held beliefs and attitudes, a new border and layer of administration will do nothing to change any of it.

For me we missed an opportunity. We could have had a true inclusive national conversation about who we are and what we want – instead we have an us and them argument and regardless which side you are on the finger-pointing and name calling has become childish and puerile. We could have talked about what it means to be Scottish, our national identity, our shared vision for where we want to go and grow as a nation – instead we have a public fight that will do us all a disservice in the end.

There are only around five million of us and we could have spoken and been heard with a collective voice. Instead the infighting, name calling and division of those who are not a million mile apart in their vision of their country could do more damage. If we had the conversation before even thinking about votes or referenda we would have been stronger and united in a largely shared vision – instead we will wake up divided on Sep 19th 2014 regardless of the result. And you had the opportunity to make us stronger and instead chose your blinkered stance and opinion over the needs of the country you lead.

JD

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