As Scotland looks forward to a hard-fought referendum campaign that will shape our nation’s future, it is inevitable that the disagreements between those who advocate independence and those who favour government from Westminster will be amplified and exaggerated. We should embrace vigorous debate because come referendum day it will be important for every citizen to be aware of the arguments being put forward by both campaigns – and understand what each choice means for the direction and wellbeing of our country. However, between now and the referendum, it is also important that we take some time to reflect on what unites us in Scotland.
In the summer of 2012, I wrote that I was looking forward to voting Yes to an independent Scotland in 2014, but that I would not be doing so out of "nationalism". It’s been a regular taunt from those campaigning against Scottish independence that anyone who plans to vote Yes is a "nationalist". That’s simply not true.
National identity is not at the heart of my politics. In fact, it’s not really relevant to my politics at all. People can reach a view in favour of independence without being motivated by Scottish nationalism, just as people can reach a view in favour of staying in the UK without being driven by the identity politics of "Britishness".
I’ll be voting Yes out of a conviction that the transformation needed in our society and our economy – a transformation that I believe Green politics represents – can best be achieved by Scotland as a small independent country.
The Westminster mantra that "we are all in this together" is ridiculous because its implication of parity or equality within the UK is known to be false. A recent piece in the Financial Times sketches the more accurate picture:
“Taking total assets – physical, financial, property and pension – into account, the top tenth of all UK households own 44 per cent of the nation’s wealth... The bottom 50 per cent of households own just under 10 per cent.”
So when we look at the gross disparity in the wealth and assets of people in the UK, we always have to wonder what it is they are claiming we are all in, together. All we can admit is that we are all in the UK together, both rich and poor in this grossly unequal state, together.
Two myths are perpetrated about an independent Scotland and North Sea oil and gas. The first is that the gas and oil are about to run out. The second is that investors will be scared off by independence, damaging the industry and our economy.
If you need proof that the first contention is sheer fantasy, then take a look at last week’s record-breaking release of 330 new North Sea blocks for development. This is the 27th round of licensing since 1964 and it led to 224 applicants and 167 new licences.
No-one seems to be cheering the official end of the economic recession last week, given a widespread understanding that Scotland must still reverse negative trends well recognised before the 2008 crunch turned boom to bust.
Among the worst of these is a lack of available venture capital to support growing businesses in Scotland, which is a much older problem than the long recession. The downturn worsened the reality of increasingly poor returns for investors, who in turn had an increasingly short-term outlook.
The status quo goes a long way towards explaining Scotland's shortage of business HQs and conglomerates.
At about the same time as Alexander the Great was conquering Persia, an explorer named Pytheas, from the Greek colony of Marseilles, in the south of modern France, travelled along the Atlantic rim of Europe. It is in the records of his voyage, almost exactly two millenia before the act of union brought Scotland's and England's parliaments together, that we first encounter the words Brettanikaí Nêsoi, the British Isles.
I imagine many people will have suspected that I support an independent Scotland. Through my books, magazines and television appearances I have tried to portray my own unbridled passion for this small country, and in particular its wild land areas, the mountains, moors, remote glens and coastlines that form the deep-rooted foundation of our own Scots character.