Comment

Scotland must brave independence

Imagine a world in which Australia wasn't an independent country. Your daily news comes from England, but the London news desk graciously gives you 20 minutes at the end of the bulletin to update you on Australian news. All Australian place names are explained by the presenters in order to disguise British ignorance.

Tax revenue from Australian companies is sent to London and then your government is given some money back to spend on local initiatives. While Britain doesn't have any natural resources, its media - which dominates Australia - tells you that you are "subsidy junkies" for receiving higher spending levels. Any attempt on your part to argue that your country should be independent leads to Crocodile Dundee references, suggestions that you hate British people and a reply that despite Australia's resources, educated workforce and strong exports, your country could never survive on its own.

Of course, this is a ridiculous scenario for Australians to envisage in 2014. This country long ago decided it would stand on its own two feet and make its own way in the world. Yet, this is what is happening to Scottish voters as they prepare for the referendum on independence from Britain. On September 18,  Scotland will be faced with the same choice. Having gained a Parliament with control over policy areas such as education and health in 1999, Scottish voters have backed the Scottish National Party in the last two elections, a party which has campaigned since the 1930s for independence.

In 1974 a confidential report by the British civil service acknowledged that Scotland would be "as rich as Switzerland" were it to become independent, due to the volume of oil that was being pumped out of Scottish waters in the North Sea at the time. Scotland has more universities per head of population ranked in The Times Top 200 than any other country. Plus, an upside to our terrible weather is that Scotland has the best capacity for wind power in the entire European Union. All this wealth only has to go around 5 million people.

Yet, despite Scotland's strengths, there is a fear campaign being waged by the British government, the media and, of course, other Scottish politicians who don't want to cut the apron strings from the Mother Country. The onslaught of scare campaigns would make Dick Cheney blush. Unfortunately the lack of belief that Scotland could prosper does not just exist in the big newsrooms in London. Of the 37 newspapers in Scotland, only one supports independence. This is despite the fact that recent polls put both the "Yes" and "No" sides neck and neck. This is a direct result of a culture Scotland has only started to grow out of recently.

I was perplexed when I first arrived in Australia to hear friends talk about a cultural cringe. It seems strange that a confident country such as Australia could have anything to cringe about. While there was a time when Australia was controlled from afar, patronised and made the butt of jokes, barring the occasional Ashes defeat or the odd dodgy Fosters advert, there is not much that England can throw at Australia now. So it seems natural to me that having battled through the phenomenon of cultural cringe, Australia would support Scotland in trying to be its own country.

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Prime Minister Tony Abbott's recent intervention inthe independence debate, in support of the "No" vote, therefore was a surprise. I suppose anyone who wants to bring back the Honours system and who studied at Oxford is going to have an Establishment perspective, but the question remains; why should any Australian really object to Scotland being its own country?

The attitude of most people I speak to in Australia is usually supportive of independence and our countries make natural allies. The mateship and informal culture of Australia could come straight out of Glasgow. The general disdain for authority and putting on airs and graces is a strong part of Scottish culture. Cultural arrogance, the mocking of how other Anglophones speak, is not Scotland. When you have recruitment consultants in London refusing to hire Aussies that speak with an inflection, you know you have an attitude problem. Australia's fair-go attitude goes hand in hand with egalitarian Scottish values.  There's no reason our countries couldn't be the best of mates on the world stage.

Hesitant voters in Scotland only need to look to Australia to witness how at ease with itself a country becomes when it takes control of its own affairs. We don't need to swallow the lie any longer that we are a poor country. And we don't need an out of touch elite in London deciding how much of our own money we should have to spend. We just need a bit of Australian confidence. 

Pete MacLeod is a Scottish expatriate who works for a Canberra-based NGO.

Twitter: @PeteMacleod84

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