Monday, 15 September 2014

The Twentysecond Post : Could Scotland Be A "NEW" New Zealand.

During a rain break in the Scotland v New Zealand “A” game recently the upcoming referendum on Scottish Independence had me thinking .... “ If independence is gained, could Scotland become a “NEW” New Zealand ?”

There are already many similarities the two countries share. Both have a history of English/British rule. Both countries share a similar look, lush green land due to high rainfalls and glorious countryside in their highlands and mountains (when irn bru needed to film a summer commercial in the depth of the scottish winter they searched the world for a place that most resembled Scotland in summertime ... and found it in New Zealand.) Both share a similar population figure (New Zealand around the 4 million mark with Scotland around 5 million).
Both countries are cold in the winter.

Some of the statements from friends over the last year regarding voting yes have been “How much worse could it be?” or “We couldn't make as big a shambles of running our own country as the English.” and even “ What's the worst that could happen?”
Things could easily get a lot worse than they are under a united Britain. It doesn't seem unreasonable to imagine that within a short space of time and following a few bad political decisions (or some good decision with unforeseen bad outcome) combined with a world credit crunch or a natural disaster, Scotland could find itself a failing economy forcing many of its inhabitants into poverty and economic shackles. The resulting brain drain as those who are able to escape with their career to a more economic rewarding country doesn't seem like that far fetched of a scenario leaving scotland a third world country economically and also intellectually.

As for not making a bigger shambles under our own watch, you only need to point out the spiraling cost and mis management of the scottish parliament during construction and the Edinburgh trams debacle could be two arguments against self rule.
More worringly is the answer to whats the worst that could happen ....something like this seems a little far fetched, so lets leave the doomsday scenarios aside for now. They already exist in the deep dark recesses of every thinking Scottish persons mind as it is.
Instead lets turn attention to a question of equal importance but is often overlooked in what may well turn out to be a vote of “FEAR” vs “HOPE” this referendum may well actually be.
“Whats the best that could happen if Scotland gains independence?”

Clearly, the best that could happen is that all people living in Scotland instantly become billionaires get to live in mansions with free heating and a non stop supply of whatever makes you happy.
But for a realistic view of what's the best that could happen if Scotland gained independance I would prefer to think that scotland could become a “NEW” New Zealand.

Before you scoff too loudly here are a few things that makes being a “NEW” New Zealand something to be hopeful of.

For all the jokes about New Zealand it has been one of the most progressive nations, dating back to before it was even a nation.
New Zealand was once governed as a part of the territory of New South Wales (later a part of Australia). When Australia federated in 1901, New Zealand was offered a place as one of their states. New Zealand refused and is its own country with no ties to Australia (other than trade and commonwealth). A forward thinking new zealand must have asked itself some question like Scotland is asking itself right now and drawn a proficitic conclusion.

An early choice to go it alone without the support or involvement of a bigger (both economically and population) neighbouring country could be something Scotland could look to for inspiration for a similar sized nation who may well be trying to go it alone sometime soon.

But even before the Kiwis refused Australias invitation to join in a union/assimilate N.Z.were a progressive nation.
In 1893 New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections.
Compare that to Britain - 1918 and even then only to “women over the age of 30 who were householders, the wives of householders, occupiers of property with an annual rent of £5, and graduates of British universities.”
or Australia - 1902  ... unless you were black. The right to vote in federal elections was denied to Aboriginal women who, together with Australian Aboriginal men, had been specifically excluded from the franchise in Australia by the Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902. (Indigenous people in Australia had to wait until 1962 before the vote was afforded to them.)
Perhaps this progressive attitude of treating all people as equal despite their sex  is the reason why New Zealand is the only country in the world where all the highest positions have been simultaneously held by women: In 2006, the Queen, the Governor-General, the Prime Minister, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Chief Justice were all women. A case of early forward thinking paying off there.

But even more recently N.Z. have been at the forefront of environmental issues. During my youth whenever there was a story of environmental awareness or protest it was always the Kiwis leading the charge. While the bombing of the greenpeace sea vessel “Rainbow Warrior” (most famous for agitating and getting in the way of french nuclear testing in the south pacific in the 1980s) was not a direct attack on New Zealand itself, the outrage of the new zealand people was reflected by the parliament and  New Zealand was forced out of the ANZUS (Australia, New Zealand, United States) alliance when it outlawed nuclear arms and power. To this day, there are no nuclear power stations in New Zealand, and a change of law would be required before one could be built.
With the pro independence Scottish National Party wanting nothing to do with anything nuclear, which the governing British government seems determined to push onto the whole U.K. (in the form of power stations/ trident submarines/ who knows what else), the hopes of emulating New Zealand are something to aspire to.

Even more recently New Zealand continue to push ahead with progressive attitudes and issues of inclusiveness and equality setting the trend for many others to follow.
In april 2013, New Zealand became the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to legalise gay marriage and the 13th in the world.
(Australia - not yet.)

Here Scotland is not far behind the ball. Scotland legalise gay marriage in February 2014 and received Royal Assent on 12 March 2014 around the same time as their counterparts in England/Wales - July 2013 and came into force on 13 March 2014, (even though everyone is a long way behind The Netherlands who were first in the world to treat all love as equal - 1st jan 2000)

However, Scotland have consistently been ahead of their English counterparts on many issues in recent years including the smoking ban indoors (introduced a full year before England adopted a watered down version) Scotland introduced a ban on fox hunting two years before England (Banned in Scotland in 2002. England and Wales  2004.)
Scotland is also more progressive and ecologically minded than its southern neighbours and wants to have 100% of its energy provided by renewable sources (wind power, wave power, hydro electricity) by the year 2020.
With a more center left outlook politically than gets represented in the Westminster government this trend of being more progressive looks set to continue for some time.

Perhaps Scotland could follow N.Z. progressive example and make sign language one of its official languages and aim to make it the official world language allowing every member of the planet to communicate with each other no matter what tongue they speak with ( New Zealand has three official languages: English, Māori and Sign Language, Scotland could have English, Gaelic and Sign Language.) or even race them to become the worlds first non smoking country.

Perhaps being the best country in the world is beyond Scotland (in the immediate future anyway) NZ was voted the world’s best country in 2007 and 2008 by Wanderlust magazine, but perhaps Scotland could, and should, aim to be the least corrupt nation in the world (N.Z. is tied with Denmark for this honour, according to the Corruptions Perception Index) while also ranking first on Forbs list of the ‘Best Countries for Business’, ("up from No. 2 last year, thanks to a transparent and stable business climate that encourages entrepreneurship. [New Zealand is the smallest economy in the top 10 at $162 billion, but it ranks first in four of the 11 metrics examined, including personal freedom and investor protection, as well as a lack of red tape and corruption"]).
And if Scotland manages to maintain as good a sense of humour as N.Z. has while doing all this (The logo for the Royal New Zealand Air Force is a kiwi- a flightless bird ...) it will indeed be a country to be proud of.
Mind you, the scots may have beaten the kiwis to a punchline on one occasion ... the official animal of Scotland is ... the unicorn !!!

And when all that is done, perhaps, one day, Scotland will be able to play cricket as well as new zealand does ...

New Zealand A visited Scottish shores in August to supplement Scotland’s meager international summer schedule and to give experience to many of its fringe players. With World Cup places up for grabs it was a near full strength New Zealand side that flew into town for three one day games (the only players guaranteed places on the team sheet missing were Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor).
While New Zealand languish near the bottom/mid of the world cricket rankings they are often an underrated team, especially in the one day format.
Nether the less Scotland would have had high hopes of competing with them and perhaps pulling of a victory in the three match series. And if Scotland had not been missing up to eight of their front line players for the series through county commitments or injury (including captain Kyle Coetzer and vice captain Preston Mommsen) perhaps things would have been different than the two match drubbing they received with the 3rd match abandoned due to persistent rain.
Mind you, for the first half of the first innings in the first game Scotland looked to have a grip on the game and an upset looked like a possibility with the kiwis on 5/139 in the 30th over. But the experience of the New Zealanders shone through the gloomy Ayr skies and  they refused to panic after the early inroads Scotland had made before launching into attack mode for the remain 20 overs of the match. They plundered over 200 runs of the remaining 20 overs for the loss of only 1 additional wicket to finish on 347/6 and remove any confidence the Scots had of competing in this game after all.
Centuries to Grant Elliot and B.J. Walting only tell a fraction of the story as Scotlands bowlers had nowhere to hide with only Majid Haq avoiding being carted all over the field.
In return Scotland looked like they were going to attempt to aggressively chase down the mammoth total but early wickets saw things fall apart at the seams and Scotland were bungled all out for a poultry 148, giving N.Z.”A” victory by 199 runs inside 33 overs.

Things didn't fair much better for the Scots in the 2nd match after New Zealand won the toss and chose to bat. They started out scoring quickly, continued scoring quickly and finished scoring quickly too. Centuries from Bracewell, Elliot (again) and 98 from Rutherford set up a huge platform and although the Scots took 4 wickets in the closing overs the damage was already done and the kiwis had pummelled 369/6 out of the hapless bowlers.
Scotland batted better this time round and a composed 82 from Hamish Gardiner the highlight of their innings. A supportive 50 from Berrington kept hopes alive of Scotland getting close to the target but the Kiwi bowlers took regular wickets to keep any run chase in check. By the time Haq made a quality 54 the pressure was off and Scotland’s innings was wrapped up with 2.1 overs to spare and 97 runs short.

A rain interrupted third match was shortened to 29 overs per side. Having won the toss and choosing to bat New Zealand set about wasting no time in racking up another massive total. Scoring at more than 10 an over there was nowhere for the Scottish bowlers to hide and when another massive 6 brought rain down with it the game was abandoned. 45 minutes of play, 8.1 overs, 91 runs and another lesson in world class batting.

The rain had washed away any chance of a result in this last match but New Zealand had washed away any hopes that Scotland may have harboured of showing the world they can be the plucky upstart of world cricket, underdogs that can play better than the rest of the world expects and gives them credit for, especially from a nation with a small population.
A team that plays better than the sum of its parts.
A nation that will always rise to the challenge, never give up and always go down fighting, with pride. A nation of good conscious. Innovative and unafraid to push boundaries where others fail to tread. With an unrivalled sense of fair play, compassion and acceptance for all. To push for doing the right thing simply because its the right thing to do. A nation unafraid to stand up for itself and actually be its own nation in a world full of larger, more powerful nations.

New Zealand has been giving these lessons to the world for a long time already and now they have shown them to Scotland too.

One thing that has become clear during this cricket tour is that Scotland still have some way to go before they can be regarded as a new New Zealand... on the cricket field at least.
Who knows what the 19th of September will deliver to Scotland but hopes of emulating New Zealand on the world stage as an independent nation should be a challenge to rise to.
Assuming the referendum vote goes that way.

But considering that New Zealand has more Scottish pipe bands per capita than any other country in the world, perhaps its worth taking some time to think  very, very, carefully about becoming a “new“ New Zealand.

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