Saturday, 31 March 2012

Make me vote “YES”.

It’s time to fuel the independence debate. The polls vary with a trend increasingly in favour of independence, but it’s broadly working out at 40-20-40 as a YES-Undecided-No vote in this spring of 2012.

A full 60% of the electorate waits to be convinced on the benefits of independence. Some never will be. Looking at the results of the last referendum on devolution where over 70% of those who voted supported the motion, the question is how to get there again; how to even exceed that number.

Those sitting on the fence need a convincing argument, they need a positive message that the parties of a Union persuasion cannot match. Across the entire British Isles the electorate is fed up and feeling disenfranchised, less so in Scotland perhaps due to the stability of Holyrood, but the feeling persists at various levels. It can be no other way as we live under the same umbrella social-political system.

That level of dissatisfaction was most recently expressed in Bradford, the electorate is certainly ready.

Vague promises are unlikely to work for much of the 60%, they’ve all heard it before. For many, apathy rules and there is no incentive to vote.

Telling the 60% that they’ll be better off in a future Scotland is unlikely to work, it will continue to be hard to get the message out against a hostile media.

Informing this tranche of the electorate that they are wasting vast swathes of their resources through bad government at Westminster might have an impact; again the message will struggle to gain traction against media spin.

A leaflet campaign might work, but it too will fight against the London dominated media. Leaflets often end in the bin, frequently unread.

Any message that is promoted on behalf of Scottish independence must resonate, it must be visible in as many homes as often as possible, and it must be clear, concise, brief and understandable. Above all it must be a message that Westminster can’t match or usurp, that the mainstream media will find difficult to undermine. It should be one that is already fundamentally a Scottish government policy. If such a message can be found and used it will force the opposition to fight on Scottish ground and it will make those who might dismiss independence examine all the issues.

One possible solution to achieve widespread dissemination might be to put it on fridge magnet, get it into every home. Every time the fridge is opened the message is seen at some level.

It will make even the vast majority of the 60% consider the “YES” vote. It will destroy the ability of any “dirty tricks brigade” to be effective.

In discussions with individuals, in reviewing government policy, in examining the national accounts and looking at what might be affordable or what might not be, to me, the answer appears clear and obvious. The answer already being promoted.

Before declaring the answer, people in Scotland need to know what they’re voting for. People in Scotland need to know that they will not simply get a “mini-me” Westminster system in Scotland. They need to know, and it needs to be a foundation of the referendum that there will be transparency at all levels of government, that the nation will have a balanced budget, that any debt the nation assumes will be for fixed reasons and have a set pay off date.

Furthermore, Scots need to know that their government will never allow the situation that presently exists in Westminster or Washington, where generations of children are born indebted. They need to know that this incredibly resource rich land of ours will be there for all our children, they will have a secure start.

To know all of these things, and more, Scots need to be motivated to accept the information that will make it possible. Scots fed on a diet of BBC misinformation and Union spin must be put into a position where they are ready and willing to accept information that may be contrary to what they’ve been spoon fed and accepted for generations. They must want to find the truth.

This tool and a key to our future appears to lie in the policy of Scotland’s government to push for a fuel price regulator.

The independence platform states Scots would be over £500 a year better off after independence. It would be appropriate to use some of that £500 to cut taxes on fuel, to put money back in the national pockets from day one, to stimulate the economy and truly provide the energy to kick start all our tomorrows.

With government data showing each Scot travels over 8,000 km/year, and knowing that most is by road - 77%, then we have about 1.81 billion liters of fuel consumed. If fuel duty was cut by 50p a litre the cost to the Scottish government in lost revenue would be about £775 million a year. That’s approaching to £200 per person in direct tax cuts every year. About half of what we overpay right now, or less than half of the defence under spend in Scotland.

It is very affordable.

The fuel duty cut could be reflected in two ways, a 40p per litre cut at the pump and 10p per litre put into a ring-fenced green energy development fund. Invest in our universities as they work for tomorrows’ technology.

The effect of an immediately apparent 40p tax cut linked to a fuel duty regulator would be inescapable. Industrialized life requires energy. The cost of haulage would drop significantly, bringing the haulers’ in on the side of independence. The cost of energy to the manufacturing sector would drop making our country more competitive, business would be inclined to support independence. The motorist will see an immediate benefit; the motoring public will have concrete reasons to support independence.

Westminster with its insatiable and spiraling need for cash cannot match this policy without accelerating the destruction of the social framework through budget cuts to such an extent that it is possible a form of political anarchy would prevail. At the very least it would be a wake-up call in London.

There may be issues with people crossing the border from England in order to fill up vehicles, but this would not be an issue for Scots as those revenues would also accrue to a future independent exchequer.

Air and sea fuel duties could also be adjusted, it would assist in rebalancing the current requirement for most international travel to route through England, it may even lead to resurgence for almost forgotten hubs like Prestwick airport, the only consistently fog free airport in the UK. Even the cost of concessionary travel for disabled and elderly should reduce perhaps by as much as 25%.

The base calculations show that the benefits which would accrue to an independent Scotland were she to implement such a proposal, would be immense. There should be little downside that would not quickly readjust any potential hole in national finances as the engine of productivity truly begins to hum again. With an economic boost such as this, demand will be stimulated, growth encouraged, jobs created, unemployment reduced and the welfare bill lowered.

There will of course be cries of “vote buying” and “electoral bribery” in the union press. Expect it to be a literal cacophony. The response is simple, it is what Scotland needs, it is what Scotland can afford and it will help Scotland’s poor and middle class families most. It will be the first compassionate and constructive act of an independent legislature, it will be tied to an indexed linked fuel price regulator, and it will last at least seven years before review.

It needs to be a focus point of the referendum campaign. It, or something like it, needs to be on the table to fully engage an entire nation.

We need to put our leading economists to work, now, to definitively project what such policies would mean, where they can lead this great nation of ours, and to uncover any other strategies that might be there to help us better the lives and prospects of our children.

Potential Fridge Magnet Design.


  1. Dropping the price of fuel will not play well with Greens.

    Some cycling forums have a lot of green leaning people on them and they do get fed up hearing how motorists are badly treated. There might not be many votes in cycling but it's still something to be aware of. Perhaps if the active transport budget was increased after the Pedal on Parliament demo on April 28th.

    I'm not bothered, I've got cars too which the memsahib uses. I rarely drive one but greenness is only a small part of my reason for cycling.

    1. I agree with you, that's why a percentage must go to Green investment. It will also help make public transport cheaper.

  2. You've got my attention. Here's my take on how to address the green aspect.

    The reduction is guaranteed for 7 years, on condition that overall petrol and white diesel consumption nationwide reduces year on year by, say, 2%. Give everyone in the country an incentive to drive more efficiently, and make inefficient driving socially unnacceptable.

    Set it out as a genuine "we're all in it together" campaign. Produce monthly or even weekly figures so that everyone knows if we're on target or not. Perhaps even increase the discount for the next year if we hit an extra percentage mark.

    1. Should have previewed: just to be clear, next year's discount would be dependent on this year's figures. It wouldn't be a case of what happens 7 years down the road.

  3. Hi Hazel, this is a brilliant piece. For some time now I have been arguing that we must counter the unionist propaganda that permeates our everyday lives, this might just do the trick. There is little doubt that Scots are disgusted by the fact that we have among the highest fuel prices in the world yet we produce the stuff! This might just be the magic bullet. I do hope that John Swinney runs with this as a major policy in the run up to the Referendum as I think it would be a very powerful incentive to vote Yes. Well done.

  4. Brilliant.

    This is the way to do it.

    I was pondering the idea of the nationalist parties selling t shirt reasonably cheaply in their members' online shops, with a message for independence on them. Members wearing them wherever they go (within reason) in the few months run up to the referendum might make waverers see the level of support FOR and as you suggest, some of the practical benefits.

    Of course many others will have idea, and here's no reason why we can't use many.

    We really are all in it together. Even the naysayers!

    1. T-shirts? This is Scotland remember, how often do you get to go out in one?

      And my employer bans any clothing with political or sporting team affiliations on it. I wonder how widespread that is?

    2. You often sit in the coffee shop, or a pub, or on the bus, or with your jacket open... but if you prefer, sweat shirts, hoodies, whatever...

      I wouldn't be able to wear mine to work either as my employer has a 1950s' dress code for men (although she has a very modern one for women, strangely), but I'm not always at work.

  5. As an Englishman in London, this sounds like a pretty good idea. The cost of fuel is unconscionable. I wouldn't worry too much about the greens, as they'll not won over, but they're not the people who have to be won over. If the price was reduced as you suggest, the chances are sales would increase, firstly because people could afford it and secondly because everyone within a certain distance south of the border would be travelling up to take advantage.

  6. Hi Hazel, like the idea of the fridge magnet, should work well.You have good articles on here.Well written and very well discussed.Please keep up the good work.

    1. Thank you for the positive feed back... I shall witter for as long as it takes!

  7. Letting everybody know that we will be getting rid of the most expensive layer of government forever,just might help convince a few.I just thought about that.Getting up at 5.45 must do that for me or the three cups of coffee.

    1. Agree about ridding ourselves of the expensive govt. layer! Westminster is not doing much to make friends and influence people with their corruption, deceit and punitive poverty causing policies, especially in the sick and disabled circles. So hopefully this is doing much of the convincing for us.
      As for several mugs coffee? Yep, that'll get the brain buzzing!

  8. Brilliant Hazel. I've been saying exactly this for some time myself. If we don't do this we'll be missing a huge sitter!