On 18 September — one month from today — a referendum will be held to determine if Scotland should remain in the United Kingdom.
As a Palestinian living in Scotland, I’ve been arguing in favor of independence. To Palestinians, it is natural to believe that all peoples have the right to self-determination.
Of course, I’m not trying to claim that the question of Palestine is central to this referendum. Nor should it be. But I do believe that Scottish independence could have positive effects beyond Scotland’s borders.
That isn’t to say that Scotland will have genuine independence if a majority votes “yes.” More than likely, deals will be done to allow it remain in NATO — a US-led military alliance — and the European Union — a political club largely subservient to America.
But a “divorce” from the UK would be an improvement on the status quo, whereby the Scottish people have no real say on British domestic or foreign policy.
Yet Scotland is run by a government in London that is dominated by the Conservatives. This means that a government that is totally out of touch with Scotland sets policies affecting people here on every matter from social security to broadcasting.
This situation is not new. For most of the last 67 years, Scottish MPs have had little say in the composition of the British government. There have been rare exceptions: in 1964, Scottish politicians prevented the Conservatives from forming a government. The Labour government formed that year had a majority of just four and collapsed after a mere 18 months.
It is true that Scotland received the go-ahead from Westminster to set up a devolved parliament of its own in 1998. The devolved parliament has repeatedly taken decisions that are fairly distinct — if not radically different — from those of the UK government. Yet because the devolved government has no power over defense or foreign affairs, the statements made by its ministers have no tangible effect on UK policy. So the Scots have to endure foreign policy decisions that do not reflect the outlook of most Scottish voters.
Official statements issued in Edinburgh were far more critical of Israel than those from David Cameron’s government in London. Humza Yousaf, the Scottish minister for external affairs, called for “a complete suspension” of British arms sales to Israel until an investigation is conducted on whether British military equipment has been used in the current Israeli operation.
Cameron, on the other hand, gave Israel all the encouragement it needed. When Israel began its act of aggression against Gaza in July, Cameron “underlined Israel’s right to defend itself.”
Vince Cable, the business secretary in his government, has announced that nearly all of the weapons deliveries promised to Israel may proceed — with only twelve export licenses being rescinded if “significant” hostilities resume.
Facilitating war crimes
The latest issue of the Scottish newspaper the Sunday Mail reports that parts of the “smart” bombs recently dropped in Gaza are manufactured in Scotland. Raytheon, a US weapons-firm, is one of just two suppliers of the Paveway II bomb that was recently photographed destroying a residential building in Gaza.
The laser-guidance systems for those bombs are made at Raytheon’s plant in the Scottish county of Fife.
If the Scottish minister’s call for an arms embargo was taken seriously, Raytheon would no longer be permitted to make components destined for Israel in Scotland. To their shame, however, Vince Cable and other figures in the London government appear determined to keep on arming Israel.
Arms made in Scotland will continue to facilitate war crimes in Gaza.
I’m not claiming that Scottish independence will offer a panacea. Nor, to my knowledge, are most campaigners for a “yes” vote.
They are concerned about a range of issues: saving the National Health Service from privatization; ridding this country of Trident nuclear submarines; securing a more representative democracy in the hope of ensuring a brighter future for their children and grandchildren.
The campaigners are realistic enough to know there is a lot of work ahead. Scots should never place their faith in governments or institutions. The powerful must always be under pressure from grassroots activism.
For me, the key issue is democracy. Grassroots activists in Scotland would have a greater chance to influence an independent government than one in London. I realize that Scotland will have its scope for introducing a progressive foreign policy restricted so long as it is part of the EU and NATO.
But ordinary people would still be more likely to have their voices heard if Scotland achieves independence. This could prove vital on issues such as where Scotland may sell weapons and whether or not Scotland should support foreign invasions. That’s why I am convinced that a “yes” vote could only be a positive thing.