At this time a year ago, my father died and Christmas was a time of closing the door on the world. But the support of family and friends was of huge comfort to me, and as we approach again this normally festive season, I wonder about those who don’t have such support here in Orkney, or are so worried about money that it certainly won’t be a time of celebration. This is the second Christmas we will have had a Food Bank: doesn’t this seem appalling in such a supposedly well-off, caring community as ours, one that according to a poll published earlier in the year is rated as the happiest and most satisfied? There is a long and proud record of Orkney giving to all sorts of charities at home and abroad, yet under our noses there is child poverty, fuel poverty, a rise in enquiries to CAB on debt; we need social workers, foster carers, mental health carers, drug and alcohol councillors; there is the weekly “walk of shame” in the Orcadian.
The reason I came to live in Orkney after living in Edinburgh for thirty years was because as well as being a beautiful place, it seemed to be an island aware of its natural resources and the need for co-dependence; a hard-working community with a possibility of being a rational, fair society with Small Government. If we don’t like the decisions our councillors make, we can question them publicly or ruin their day by bumping into them in Tesco’s.
I would like to see that particular principle of governance extended throughout Scotland. It is just not possible to exert your power as a citizen when the main seat of government is 500 miles away. And I have simply lost faith in the old parties, their constant bickering and our method of electing them.
I am not stupid enough to believe if Scotland became an independent country we would miraculously cure all our ills. Yet I do believe there is a strong correlation between the kind of government there is in a country and the health of its citizens. Orkney imagines itself to be separate from Scotland but it still cannot escape the policies from further south
None of us can escape paying taxes or living with the consequences of how they’re spent. Orkney still seems to believe that the Liberal Democrat party has influence, yet we can’t escape the evidence – not only have they been ruthlessly side-lined, their policies have either been watered down, abandoned or completely reversed since they were in coalition with the Tory party. Just wait for the effect on our postal services in their latest capitulation to privatisation!
In the last election I voted Liberal Democrat. Before that it was Labour. They have all let me down. That is why I believe we must work towards national independence- I don’t believe the SNP have all the answers but that’s the whole point: they have fired us up but are willing to listen. For example look at the Q and A sessions Nicola Sturgeon is running on the internet, most recently on fracking and TTIP. What they are encouraging us to do is to become more responsive and responsible citizens ourselves – to restore pride in the whole country, not just our wee bit; to abandon the culture of misery which holds Scotland’s health back, to believe that it is possible to find a system of government which doesn’t abandon and punish the weak.
Surely we haven’t ALL forgotten how to imagine: “you may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”.