Once again I am indebted to "Arbroath" for pointing me in the direction of a Scotsman article which is worthy of a read. Not often I can say that!
Of course we are all aware of the difference between the standard of living in Norway and that in Scotland, but somehow when it is laid out in print (particularly in a newspaper with an editorial policy that would have us believe that membership of the UK holds the best future for Scotland), it knocks it home.
For me it is a feeling of frustration and anger at the opportunities we have missed to be like our Nordic neighbours, to whom, it seem, I feel more closely related, than I do to London, which I have always felt was pleasantly "abroad". London has much more in common with Paris than it does with Edinburgh... the temperature, kind of natural vegetation, insect life and the lifestyle of the population seems quite alien to one who lives in a cool sub-Nordic climate zone. In contrast Edinburgh and Oslo have much more in common than Edinburgh and London.
We had the same possibilities as Norway, but instead of following the sensible government style of a small and relatively unimportant (in world terms) northern state, which both Scotland and Norway are, the UK used the oil bonanza to deal with massive problems built up because of poor government in the 70s, and to pay for Thatcher's devastation of industry in the 80s.
The UK simply will not lie down and accept that it is not, and can no longer afford to be, a world power. Its power came from how widespread its empire was (and from the vast monies accrued from the exploitation of that empire's resources). That empire now consists of a few scattered islands, which cost the UK more money than they bring in ...but of course are handy for hiding vast wealth from the taxman, and must be kept at all costs!
Oil wealth has also been squandered on the nuclear race. Since the late forties when Britain was snubbed by America because it did not have its own nuclear programme, vast amounts of our taxes have been diverted to ensure that we obtain weapons of mass destruction, which we cannot ever use (not least because the Americans do not trust us with the firing codes).
Successive prime minsters from Winston Churchill and Harold McMillan to Tony Blair and David Cameron have spent money that might have been saved, or at least spent on our crumbled infrastructure, on this vanity project, because it was more important to them that the UK remain a permanent member of the Security Council, than that old people have heat and kids have schools... or even worse in some ways, that soldiers they send to war on behalf of this quest to remain important, have equipment that works.
One of Cameron's reasons for Scotland stay in the union, as articulated in his Edinburgh speech, was that we "punch above our weight in military terms"... Wow, I'm impressed, but the roads are full of potholes. A recent "No" campaign leaflet pointed out that the UK has well over 200 embassies abroad. Wow again. I'm overwhelmed, but, just what does having an embassy in Côte D'Ivoire do for me? Wouldn't it be better if aged relative (and one day me) didn't have to stay in bed in the winter to stay warm?
The UK's mad privatisations policy meant that, when we finally did set up a state oil company (following the Norwegian example) it lasted a few years in public ownership, was sold off into private ownership, as was Mrs Thatcher's wont, and shortly afterwards bought by BP... Big business wins again. 'Twas ever thus!
Norway now has an oil fund of £330 billion. Scotland on the other hand, has an oil fund of £0.
With 59 MPs at Westminster out of a total of 650, even supposing we could get them to talk for Scotland instead of for their various bosses in London, we wouldn't get anywhere with the notion of an oil fund, despite us being the only oil rich country, or region of a country, in the West that doesn't have one.
Well, it's never too late. In 2014 we can, for the first time, make sure that our politicians speak for us.
Let's not waste it.