Independent from Imperialism – Independent from Inequality – Independent from Fossil Fuels
Mim Black, one of the speakers at Scottish Independence and the Path to Climate Justice, argues that true independence for Scotland would mean “independence from imperialism – independence from inequality, independence from fossil fuels and independence from a devotion to profit above all else.”
2021 is a crucial year for the Scottish climate movement, with the COP26 (26th Conference of Parties) UN Climate Negotiations coming to Glasgow. At the same time, as polling for independence is at an all time high, the Scottish independence movement is increasingly splintered between political party machineries and reactionary elements of the Yes movement, with critical conversations about Scotland’s future not taking place.
The fight for climate justice and independence are potentially transformative moments to radically rethink the systems we live in. Our global political economic system has pushed us past breaking point, where inequality is not only accepted, but indeed required for profit, and those profits (mostly of large corporations) hold vastly more political weight than any needs of the people. The top 1% are responsible for double the emissions of the poorest 3.5 billion people, most of whom do not have access to electricity – the inequality is staggering. And the state-level response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been a game of who can kill the most people whilst making the most money. This is a mere curtain raiser to how we’re currently tackling the climate crisis.
The vision for what Scotland could look like, and in some ways already stands for, is one committed to justice, fairness and equality. To make this vision truly a reality, we must be independent from more than just Westminster rule. We must be independent from imperialism – as both the colonised and colonisers – independent from inequality, independent from fossil fuels and independent from a devotion to profit above all else.
We must challenge the status quo, with the recognition that the global political economic system is deeply invested in maintaining it. While it may seem like there is no alternative, capitalism is only a few hundred years old and neoliberalism only decades. Without changing the systems and tackling the root causes which have created and embedded structural inequality and domination, an independent Scotland will only deliver more of the same, draped in a Saltire. And without systemic change, action on climate change is only deepening inequality, with climate apartheid and ecofascism looming both on the level of the nation state and within country lines.
The fight for climate justice is rooted in the understanding that those who have contributed the least to the climate crisis are the ones who will, and are already, bearing the sharp end of it. The climate crisis does not hit equally: we may all be in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat. While the elites (and richer countries) invest in safeguards, techno-fixes and hard borders to keep climate refugees out, it’s the previously colonised countries of the Global South – most of Latin America, Africa and Asia – who are being treated as sacrifice zones in the boom of extractivist mining for renewables, in the campaign to continue ‘normal life’ in the North. Similar sacrifice zones exist here in Scotland, with poorer more rural areas being subjected to toxic air and terrifying vibrations, as is the case with the residents of Cowdenbeath in Fife, terrorised by the ExxonMobil Mossmorran plant.
Wars are being fought over lithium and water, while tech is built with ‘planned obsolescence”. Richer countries who have the infrastructure to decarbonise (like Scotland) must do our fair sharenow, so that countries which have extreme rates of poverty have more time to do so. The climate crisis doesn’t recognise borders. We are in a planetary crisis, which requires a global, equitable response, accounting honestly for historical responsibility. If Scotland is to be independent, will it step onto the world’s stage as a competitor in the mindset of scarcity, or as an ally to those worst off?
There has always been enough to go round – enough good food, clean air and fresh water, enough warm and affordable homes to live in. Can Scotland commit to really taking the steps needed to be an independent country that makes the deeply transformative changes which both end the climate crisis and work towards collective liberation?
Scottish Independence and the Path to Climate Justice
Part of From the Ground Up #2: Take Action Now, a Global Gathering for Climate Justice to move our thinking towards how we can collectively tackle the multiple crises we are facing.