When Franklin D Roosvelt, said, "...the only thing we have to fear is fear itself", during his first inaugural address in 1933, he was speaking to a nation which was in the depths of the Great Depression. Unemployment was 25%, with another 33% working part-time, which meant 50% of the work force was unused. Farm incomes had fallen by 50% and out of a total of five million mortgages, 844,000 were foreclosed. Banks were closed and savings lost, no unemployment benefit and no social security. The soup kitchen, riding the rails, hopelessness and abject poverty passed into American folklore with songs such as, "Buddy can you spare me a dime". When, in a recent blog I suggested that Roosvelt's, "the only thing...." was far more applicable to present day Scotland than to America in 1933, it was the comparison of the relative levels of poverty and economic activity that I had in mind.
Roosvelt, went on to say, "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyses needed effort to convert retreat into advance". There is absolutely no doubt that much of the fear of independence we are hearing expressed by Scots, is both unreasoning and unjustified but which has been engendered by the Unionists during the application of their "Project Fear". Their relentless negativity, not just over the past two years of the referendum campaign, but over generations of propaganda, has damaged Scotland and the Scottish people, not just economically or materially, but psychologically. To instill unjustified fear and encourage lack of confidence in a nation, so that it will cease to aspire to create change or challenge the dominant partner, is criminal. I have been just as relentless in stating that Scottish Nationalism, the desire for independence, is about dignity and self respect, not economics and been accused of insulting those who oppose independence. I may have some sympathy with their arguments if they were not invariably couched in economic terms. Where is the dignity and self respect in believing that independence will inevitably lead to economic collapse, or that Scots will be unable to fund their pension, education or health service?
Margaret and Jim Cuthbert, who have produced some excellent work on the Scottish economy, said in one of their papers, "The Union has proved itself incapable of exercising proper stewardship, either of an irreplaceable resource like North sea Oil, or of the UK economy. Secondly the Union has failed to honour the kind of implicit bargain of good faith that should exist in any properly functioning union." That is a serious charge but one that can be shown to be accurate in any number of ways. For people who preface every comment with, "I am a proud Scot but.." Unionists do their very best to show what a useless, feckless, uninspiring collection of subsidy junkies, we are. They are also the only people who argue that Scotland will collapse when the oil runs out - next week, next month or next year. They will never have any credibility on oil after hiding the McCrone report and lying to the Scottish people for over thirty years. They are still lying and deliberately ignoring the other sectors of the Scottish economy which are doing well and with independence will do even better, such as food and drink, tourism, life sciences et al.
Gordon Brown warns us we will not be able to afford our pensions - who pays for them now? - which is rich, coming from the man who destroyed the pension industry in the UK. Standard Life announced yesterday they intend to reduce the pension provision for over 3,000 of their staff but this is just the latest installment of the total destruction of final salary schemes, brought about by Brown's policies when he was Chancellor. The uncertainty created by the currency issue, is said to be causing the finance industry to relocate to England, in the event of a Yes vote, with Standard Life leading the charge. This is the company that made the same threat when Devolution was proposed but is one of the few companies left in Scotland out of the once dominant financial services sector. Where are the great Scottish companies such as GA, Scottish Amicable, Scottish Equitable, Scottish Mutual, Scottish Provident, Scottish Life; all of them taken over and business transferred? When Margaret Curran warns we will lose shipbuilding jobs if there is a Yes vote, has she deliberately forgotten the jobs we lost when Labour were in power for thirty years out of the last 63? One hundred years ago, one fifth of the total ships built in the world, were built on the Clyde. Where are they now? Labour presided over massive job losses not just in shipbuilding but in the railways, mining and steel industries, while Scottish oil revenues were being used to fund the necessary changes in the English economy.
For a nation that produced some of the world's greatest inventors, scientists, engineers and whose working classes were at one time, the most literate and best educated in Europe, to be afraid of governing itself is almost beyond comprehension. Our history in education and medicine and the part played by the great Scottish thinkers such as Hume, during the Enlightenment, is without equal. We have lost almost two million people in the last 100 years and their talents played a massive role in building the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Their talents could have been used here, in their own country and with the exception of Ireland, no part of the British Isles has lost a greater proportion of its people to emigration. Independence could reverse that need to go abroad to realise aspirations while the great Scottish diaspora will continue to give us the international contacts we need.
Roosvelt was later said to be the "man who saved capitalism", although it took World War II to put the American economy really back on its feet. The independence movement's ambitions are less lofty than "saving capitalism". It has been repeated countless times but people seem to need reminding that the referendum is not about voting for the SNP or any other party; it is about deciding who governs our country and that is far more important. It would indeed be a tragedy if Roosvelt',s "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror" was allowed to determine the result.