Over 200 people crammed into the Volunteers Rooms in Irvine last Monday (September 9) to hear the pro-independence message of the Yes Scotland campaign.
The public meeting was organised by the North Ayrshire branch of the organisation and was chaired by Saltcoats man Gary Parker. The speakers addressing the packed meeting were Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP and former Labour MP Dennis Canavan who now chairs the Yes Scotland advisory board.
Nicola Sturgeon, who grew up in North Ayrshire, told the audience, “There are many reasons why Scotland can be independent and many reasons why Scotland should be independent.
“We can afford to build a better, fairer Scotland because – based on official figures – an independent Scotland would be the eighth-wealthiest country in the world. Without counting revenues from Scotland’s oil, our economic performance matches that of the UK, but the oil is certainly an added bonus.”
Pointing out that even Tory Prime Minister David Cameron accepted Scotland can afford independence, Ms Sturgeon said, “Scotland should be independent because that’s the normal state of affairs for any country. None of us would hand over our pay to a neighbour and ask the neighbour to decide how much we should spend and what we should spend it on. Independence is not unusual, it’s the norm – with over 200 independent countries in the world.”
The Deputy First Minister said that for half of her lifetime Scotland had been ruled by UK governments we didn’t vote for but had imposed on us because we are part of the British Union, adding, “We see the welfare state and benefits system torn apart, illegal wars and billions wasted on Trident weapons of mass destruction – Scotland did not vote for these things. Next year Scotland will get the opportunity to vote YES and guarantee that we will always be ruled by a government of our choosing.”
Dennis Canavan, a man much respected in Scottish politics, admitted he was a convert to the idea of Scottish independence and that his 26 years as a Labour MP at Westminster had played a large part changing his view. “Westminster is totally out of touch with Scotland,” he said. “The Scottish Parliament is not perfect, but it far more readily responds to the wishes, needs, aspirations and values of the Scottish people.”
Mr Canavan explained he had been born into a Labour family and grew up in the Labour Party. “A hunger for social justice was at the heart of my beliefs, and for much of my political life I believed that a Labour Government would deliver that social justice.
“In 1979, the election choice was a caring, sharing society or a rat race. Scots chose the caring, sharing society but the UK voted for a rat race and we got a Prime Minister who said ‘there is no such thing as society’ and created social and economic havoc.
“So I waited for a Labour Government but we got Tony Blair and an end to student grants and the imposition of tuition fees for university students. It was the Scottish Parliament that abolished tuition fees, gave us free personal care for the elderly and free prescriptions – which the present Scottish Labour leader calls ‘a something for nothing’ society’. The track record of the Scottish Parliament has shown that with its limited powers it has aimed high and achieved high.”
Reflecting on what could be achieved with the full powers of independence, Dennis Canavan said the Scottish Parliament would “give us an ethical foreign policy with no more illegal wars, an end to Trident nuclear weapons on our shores, better regulation of banks and bankers and a fairer, more progressive taxation system. It will also allow us to contribute to a better, fairer world.”