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Shout If You Wanna Go Faster (December 2006)

This article was first published on The Guardian's Comment is Free

(Written by Alasdair Gray Christopher Harvie Tom Nairn Jimmy Reid)

If devolution is a motorway to independence, Scotland needs to head down it at top speed.



Before a major general election in 1966 an "independent voters' initiative" was launched by German writers and artists supporting Willy Brandt's challenge to the Federal Republic's Conservative government. Brandt's victory strengthened democratic institutions and defeated what looked like becoming a neo-Nazi revival.

The Scottish parliament election on May 3 2007 is a similar challenge to Scotland. It falls 300 years after the Act of Union, which was passed by the last independent Scots parliament and made Scotland part of England's expanding empire. Nearly 10 years ago the loss of that empire allowed Tony Blair to give Scotland what Billy Connolly rightly called "a pretendy parliament". That term is also applicable to Westminster. The London government uses docile Scots MPs to carry through legislation against majority English and Labour opinion. The result? Growing anger in Anglo-Scottish standoffs, and the functional and moral collapse of local Scottish Labour parties. Today their main work is to sell public property and give well-paid jobs to its members. More and more Scots accept independence as inevitable. The question now is when?

We write assuming that you share our worries and hopes. Do we want a new generation of nuclear power stations, or of Trident nuclear submarines? Does Glasgow need a super casino? Does Scotland need another corporate golf course? Must our local hospitals be closed so that most invalids must travel long distances to a few super-hospitals? Must the Scottish executive's plan to help local authorities sell off chunks of our public parks to private businesses succeed? Is Scotland's only social construction plan to build big workspaces so that global corporations can lease them cheaply? After a few years will the corporations inevitably pull out because they can hire inexpensive third world labour?

It is said that every man has his price. New Labour has sold itself to private business at every level; cutting deals with individual, corporate and multinational wealth as enthusiastically as the Major and Thatcher governments it replaced. They promised to rule us more honestly. We want a land whose government encourages local businesses of different kinds, and enterprises whose goal isn't just profits, but supports innovation and co-operation. Away with McConnellspeak - Tsars for this and that, advertising campaigns in favoured papers, policy wonks! Replace it with an honest statement the problems we face.

Some of the signatories of this letter come from outside the SNPand do not believe that politics end at the Scottish Border. But New Labour's economics are fraudulent. Gambling, retailing and fast food grow uncontrollably, financed by borrowing, arms dealing and social inequalities. The bill is yet to come in. We need independence to sort out our country and create a nation with a voice in world affairs. The impending fuel crisis has been aggravated by Blair's foreign wars, making our North Sea resources more valuable. These oil fields won't last forever, but Scotland could use them as collateral for an independent government with an eco-hi-tech future and responsible international role. Tam Dalyell is an honourable opponent and we agree with him on one point. Devolution was a motorway to independence without an exit. It is time to go down it, making our own decisions and not blaming others when things go wrong.

So we need independence, and soon, so that we can debate the choices open to us, make alliances with other lands in and outside Europe, and create the Scotland we want. It will be years before we get another chance. Leadership matters. As New Labour has dodged around the ambiguities of devolution, wrapped in a tattered Union Jack, Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon have shown an articulate social democracy, weak on spin and strong on principle. What matters to them is not party victory but empowering the community of Scotland to once more exercise "freedom alone, which no good man gives up except with his life."

We ask you to support this appeal for what has been called the "Scottish Cooperative Wholesale Republic". Join on!

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