I was inspired throughout that intense but uplifting period by the life and words of South African rebel, revolutionary, prisoner and eventually President, Nelson Mandela. Indeed one of Mandela’s wise and inspirational quotes gave birth to the radical independence campaign I was honoured to found and lead:
"May your choices reflect your hope, not your fears."
From that quote the Hope Over Fear independence campaign was formed to promote not just independence but a more radical and socialist vision than the one being promoted by the official YES Campaign under strong SNP influence at that time. Literally, tens of thousands were involved in those meetings and the George Square rallies in Glasgow and I humbly believe the Hope Over Fear message convinced many hitherto undecided or unconvinced to join the broad YES Family.
It is essential that we never forget support for Scottish independence was no more than 25% a mere eleven months before the Referendum in October 2013.
Through consistent, bold and energetic public campaigning the local YES Groups that had been formed, the official YES Campaign and grassroots organisations like Hope Over Fear managed to lift support for Scotland becoming a normal, independent and sovereign country standing on its own two feet in the world from 25% to 45%. Support among the young across Scotland and in the poorest areas was strongest with the working class, in general, being more willing to try something new than the more comfortable and wealthier layers of Scotland.
Since the narrow defeat of the YES Campaign by a 55% to 45% margin support for independence has never dropped below the 45% base and in recent times, with the Brexit fiasco causing concern and consternation, given the fact Scotland voted decisively to reject it by a 62% majority, support for Scotland breaking from the British Union has consistently registered above 50%. I am convinced that is an artificially low level. Once the question is actually put in IndyRef2 it will surpass 60% support at least.
The announcement yesterday that the Tories are considering a new proposal spewed out by the right-wing think tank that devised the hated and disastrous Universal Credit system, the misnamed Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), to raise the pension retirement age across the UK to 75 within the next 16 years will surely seal the deal.
Amongst the major lies propagated by the Bitter Together Project Fear campaign in 2014 the one about pensions being insecure and unsafe in an independent Scotland was the most damaging. Pensioners were the key demographic that rejected leaving the British Union. They were told the only way to stay in the EU was to reject independence; A lie. They were told the only way to guarantee shipbuilding jobs and work on 13 Frigates was to reject independence; A lie. They were told Scotland was not economically viable as an independent nation; A lie. And they were told only Britain could afford to safeguard pensions and pensioner benefits; A lie.
In 2009 the CSJ recommended the Universal Credit system to roll all individually tailored benefits into one cumbersome and complicated benefit with an in-built six-week delay. It was adopted by David Cameron within a year and has caused massive debt problems for claimants and increased poverty and hardship. Rent arrears have shot up in every area it has been rolled out in.
The idea of a retirement age of 75 within 16 years is, therefore, a kite which the Tories will try and fly. It is an absolutely ludicrous and socially cruel idea given life expectancy in Scotland is only 77, the lowest in the UK, and in our biggest city of Glasgow it is only 73. A state pension age of 75 will literally mean millions will never receive a state benefit their National Insurance contributions over many years was supposed to guarantee. It is theft and outrageous.
UK state pensions are already rock bottom compared to other EU nations and in the bottom half of all OECD countries. Apparently, retirement at 65 can no longer be afforded? But spending billions on nuclear weapons, illegal wars, tax cuts for millionaires and subsidies for failing banks is within our collective budget? What utter rubbish.
The British Union is so decrepit it can’t even guarantee its current inadequate pensions anymore. Pensioner poverty in the UK is a shameful scar and higher than almost all the other 27 EU countries. The British Union is disintegrating before our eyes and justifying its continued existence is the equivalent of arguing the world is flat. However, timing in politics is critical and owes much more to luck and instinct than scientific certainty.
My instinct tells me delaying IndyRef2 until next year is a tactical error. I have neither a monopoly on political wisdom or on passion for independence but as the October 31st Brexit date fast approaches and the Back Door Boris buffoons knuckle down to force a No-Deal exit it is clear Scotland has a unique opportunity on that very date to pose the question – YES to a new and independent nation within the EU and facing outwards and seeking friendships and social solidarity across the world. Or NO and stick with Bullingdon Boris and his Bulldog Britain Brigade who embody the arrogance and divisive national chauvinism which spawns hatred of asylum seekers, foreigners and anyone perceived to be different, non-white, non-British and unwilling to be so stupid to believe that low wages and poverty is the fault of the immigrants who suffer most from those sins rather than the rich bosses who commit them.
I implore the SNP to announce the IndyRef2 poll will take place on October 31st. The British Establishment is currently divided, diverted and therefore weak. The iron is hot for Scotland’s freedom. I say strike while the iron is hot, while our unionist opposition is at its weakest. Don’t delay until next year. Why give our wily and sly opponents the chance to regroup, recover and spout a new set of lies and distortions?
They will say it is too soon to hold IndyRef2. It is not the right time. Next year they will say it is too late. Brexit has caused too big a fracture. Independence is off the agenda.
We cannot and must not wait for permission from Westminster to hold IndyRef2. We tell them we are doing it and we do it on October 31st.
Mandela offers more wise words to me at this crucial juncture:
"When The Water Starts Boiling It Is Foolish To Turn Off The Heat."
Spot on and appropriate. But even more applicable and appropriate was his timeless sage for all seeking fundamental change but being told by others that such change is not possible:
"It always seems impossible until it’s done."
The time is now, Scotland. The iron is hot, let us strike. The water is starting to boil, don’t turn off the heat. Set the IndyRef2 date for October 31st and let us dissolve this decrepit British Union once and for all. We choose to be guided by hope, not by fear.
Views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.