I have seen the extreme effects of extreme poverty and I didn’t have to be a ‘poverty tourist’ to do so. One instance was in Dingwall, the town where I grew up, during the late sixties/early seventies. A woman, who to me was old but I was a child, had legs which bowed right out the way and she bowled along when she walked. It was shocking, I was shocked. My mother told me she was from Glasgow where there was a lot of poverty and poor conditions and she’d had rickets as a child, which was caused by a vitamin deficiency which affects the bones when they’re growing and vulnerable so they were damaged for life. She told me that was why we children got free milk at school as it contained the needed vitamins to ensure that never happened again. Terribly, it has been for a while
The sixties and seventies were also the time when Britain had hit its time of most equality as the ongoing results of the radical 1945 government, as well as plenty of talent, inspiration and creativity. The upper echelons were complaining to the rest of planet Earth that in Britain the poor were getting richer and the rich were getting poorer and they were threatening to leave. The appropriate response at this juncture would have been “Goodbye”, but someone called Margaret Thatcher got up and made a speech addressing these people, saying “Please stay”. They gave her her reward.
The advances of democratic and social progression were brutally halted and reversed. The establishment entrenched their position. Avarice became the philosophy over altruism, selfishness and greed encouraged. Progressives were co-opted and absorbed, some still there to be seen.
So here we are now. At least in the 60s/70s there was a consciousness, an empathy and sympathy whereas now when people are born into appalling situations, the right wing media which has the tabloids in its grasp has even intelligent people believing there will be something “genetic” wrong with that child. Some things are genetic – like haemophilia, porphyrias, low IQ, but neither the unfortunate results of extreme poverty nor extreme wealth are, despite Andrew Windsor claiming “it is training and genetics” which mean he can do his “job”. We might ask why he does it so abysmally badly then. Now there is a culture of blame rather than sympathy. This leads to some truly disgusting attitudes, to people attacking those who live in the same place as them, whose lives they would not swap with in a million years, with comments that they “should be sent to Belsen”, “should be locked up and made to fight each other to the death” – these are online comments made on the Highland News website about named families in Inverness, on a news item which didn’t even involve anyone from most of them.
Some businesses which presumably have always accepted they must deal with market forces but which apparently don’t feel up to dealing with democratic forces, ‘lords’ and ‘baronesses’ now ingrained in privilege and others who like what they have and feel complacent or cynical are threatening to leave Scotland as it sees a chance to escape the entrenched establishment death grip of the Westminster political system.
Others in the rest of Britain are increasingly seeing the potential of Scottish independence to crack this now seemingly impenetrable edifice, to undermine and destabilise undemocratic power, thereby facilitating desperately needed change there too. The claims and utterances of those desperate to retain their positions are becoming more extreme and nonsensical along with their desperation. They can feel the way the wind is blowing. The mediaeval power swilling around at Westminster is intoxicating and has been corrupting heads and hearts for centuries. The unelected can still stalk its corridors and wield it decades after the public have voted them out or they’ve ceased to bother standing for election. Meanwhile on 5th April in a speech to London Conservatives, David Cameron has ranked defeating Labour in 2015 above maintaining the Union – preparing the ground for defeat in Scotland.
Scotland becoming politically autonomous will not cataclysmically endanger the world with forces of darkness. Could anyone retaining their reason believe this? We now await how the No campaign will couch their warning that the sky will fall in, as surely that must be next. What is there truly to fear? Trident is “too dangerous” to be situated in England, but there it is on the Clyde. But independence? That is about truly democratic governance by the people for the first time, at last. Have confidence and trust that the heart of the people is optimistic, reasonable, fair, talented, creative and kind. Blind faith in the non existent benevolence of overlords who are anything but is regression to a time our forebears were always leaving behind. We’ve been held back for a long time - it’s time to forge ahead.