Covid-19 does not scuttle our arguments for independence – it makes them more urgent
Proponents of Scottish independence have been told to “pack it in” for the time being – political arguments must be dropped in the interest of a war-like national unity. However, in times of crisis, we should not be discouraged from arguing for a better deal, especially as our situation lays bare the case for an independent Scotland.
Writing: Krzysztof Pukacz
As a deadly pandemic spreads throughout the planet and the UK is set to reach the second highest mortality rate in the world, a whole chorus of publications, including the Spectator and Express, have echoed cries for national unity across this fractured island. The case for independence is dead, they say; the crisis has shown the need for a strong central authority which only a medieval institution could provide. Scotland on its own is too small and does not have the budget for anything serious like this.
The campaign for independence has been suspended, with Nicola Sturgeon urging campaigners to put their efforts to good use in their communities as mutual aid. However, even if the campaign is suspended and the referendum may be delayed, we must keep the flame of independence alive, and this pandemic is a prime example of why.
After enjoying a few months of smooth sailing on the winds of Brexit and the nationalist fervour it inspired down south, as well as a high approval rating and smashing result in the December general election, Boris Johnson and his government have finally hit a brick wall in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic. The government’s cruelty and incompetence is laid bare by their response to this crisis, like tough dirt under a blacklight; putting another strain on the Scottish electorate’s trust for Westminster - already damaged by Brexit. Despite Johnson’s extended honeymoon period, propelled by Brexit and the English electorate, this may be the last straw, costing the institutions of the United Kingdom the trust of the Scots.
The list of the British Government’s blunders grows longer by the day: a recent Panorama Documentary has shown just how little the government has done to supply the NHS with personal protective equipment (PPE) – including the hilarious claim that the government has counted each individual protective glove given to hospital as a single unit of PPE. Thanks to this inaction and deflection of responsibility, the UK’s death toll is set to surpass that of Spain, Italy and China.
There is a clear contrast between this shambolic response and the actions of the Scottish Government. With limited constitutional powers and a smaller, already strained budget, Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish finance minister, Kate Forbes, announced lockdown measures and support for small businesses before any word from Westminster. The Scottish Government has even gone further than this, funding special programmes surrounding mental health and domestic abuse, two issues of particular importance during lockdown and social isolation.
The question of whether or not Scotland will be able to cut it as an independent nation will, inevitably, be settled based on these events – the ability to organise a coherent and fair response to a crisis in order to protect its people is the most basic responsibility of a nation state, and so far, the Scottish Government has had far more success dealing with the greatest crisis of our times than their “superiors” in London, despite the far smaller number of possibilities available to them. The Scottish government cannot make any decisions regarding the EU, foreign policy or employment and welfare on its own, all areas where the UK’s policymaking has been bungled by the Conservatives while Scotland’s response has been hamstrung by Holyrood’s constitutional relationship with Westminster.
For many years now, the Scottish Government under Nicola Sturgeon has been working hard to establish itself as the government of a future independent nation. The progressive policies of this government before and during this crisis are only a small insight into what sort of nation an independent Scotland could be, given the opportunity to make all of its own decisions on such matters, without the burden of what may be another decade of a reactionary and right wing government.