Considering that I’m a member of the SNP, I have never felt particularly Scottish. I think most of us in Shetland consider ourselves Shetlanders first and Scottish, British or European after that (and not necessarily in that order).
When I studied in Glasgow, my friends from south would joke “has Tom mentioned he’s from Shetland?” – because I almost certainly had; a good few times.
Being proud of where you’re from is a funny one: it’s not as if being born in the Gilbert Bain is an achievement that I can take credit for, but I felt (and still feel) the need to mention that I’m from somewhere a wee bit special.
I think many of us feel this way, but I’ve yet to meet a Shetlander who would not also agree that our Nordic neighbours have been more successful in creating shared prosperity and quality of life for their people.
We know that the Norwegians created a state-owned oil company and a sovereign wealth fund (now the world’s largest), while the UK let private companies make off with much of our wealth.
We know that the Faroese built fixed links, a municipally owned energy company and world-leading broadband.
We know that as a percentage of average earnings, pensions in Denmark and Iceland are more than double what our elderly get, and that fuel poverty and food banks are not on the rise there as they are in the UK.
Our Nordic neighbours and the Scottish Parliament show that there is a better way to run a modern democracy. In 20 years of patient, methodical, mostly civilised debate, Holyrood has some serious achievements to its credit.
The debates may not be as exciting, but they compare favourably with the increasingly bizarre shambles at Westminster, where private schoolboys roar insults across the cramped chamber of an unsuitable building, using ridiculously outdated procedures.
The Scots parliament is elected far more democratically than Westminster, ensuring minority parties are represented more or less in proportion to their popular support.
The parties that have been in government at Holyrood – particularly the SNP for the past 12 years – have in general done better than the New Labour, Liberal-Tory and Brexit-Tory administrations in London. As a result, Scotland is still a relatively civilised European country.
I hear some folk say that they could never vote for the SNP because they are against nationalism. I do not consider myself a nationalist. Like Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf, I would have chosen a different name for our party. But if you look at the policies and record of the SNP in government, it is clear that ours is a progressive, internationalist party.
Nicola Sturgeon has made it abundantly and repeatedly clear that anyone who does us the honour of choosing to live and work in this country is welcome here. When the Brexit shambles began, she sent a letter to reassure EU citizens, urging them to stay.
This at a time when Theresa May was promoting the “hostile environment” and sending vans to areas with high immigrant populations, emblazoned with the words GO HOME OR FACE ARREST.
By an accident of history, Scotland already has many of the systems of government that a new country would require. We also have another subset of government functions provided by the EU. More and more people are starting to wonder if we really need an intermediate layer of excessively right-wing government from Westminster.
For as long as Scotland remains in the UK, we must try to make Westminster work for Scotland’s sake and for our family and friends in the other three UK nations.
I have no wish to see our friends and families south of the border slide further into Brexit chaos and economic crisis. Nor do I want a hard border with our neighbours. That’s what the Brexiteers voted for, not the SNP. I sincerely hope the rest of the UK will come to its senses and vote to keep the Tories out.
But we have the chance to choose our own future. I want Scotland to have full self-government in a European Union of equal nations, rather than being an American protectorate in the crumbling remains of Boris Johnson’s juddering imperial fantasies.
Yes, there are people in the SNP who think that Scotland is a wee bit special, but perhaps Scotland could do with a bit more self-belief: the Nordic countries have never doubted that they are best placed to take their own decisions.
Convener of SNP Shetland branch
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