Unbeknown to most Danes, Denmark is becoming increasingly linked to the constitutional debate that is taking place within Scotland. It is not only the talented Emmelie de Forest that many Scots admire, Denmark’s social welfare model is becoming a driving force for advocates of Scottish independence.
The debate in Scotland is still in its infancy, with many questions yet to be debated and answered. However it is not to the streets of Edinburgh that Scots are looking for answers, but rather the streets of Copenhagen. Although our two nations may speak different languages, there is one area that we share a commonality – protecting the poorest in society through a sufficiently funded and resourced welfare system.
We only need to examine the very different economic paths being taken by the UK prime minister, David Cameron, and Denmark’s Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Cameron and his neo-liberal administration are carrying out wave after wave of devastating cuts to the public sector that are having a disproportional effect on the poorest in society. This in contrast to Thorning-Schmidt, who is working with her left-wing counterparts such as Enhedslisten to create new initiatives aimed at having both responsible government spending and socially responsible policies. Although it is evident that some government cuts have been very unpopular such as the reform to student grants, the Danish welfare model is still in a much better position than that of the UK.
You only need to take a look at the notable differences within the UK itself to see the differences in aspirations between Scotland and its neighbours. Thanks to some devolution to Edinburgh and a centre-left government, Scots have been shielded from some of the most savage welfare cuts inflicted by the Conservative-led administration in London. Much like in Denmark, the Scottish government has prioritised education by abolishing tuition fees for students – this is in stark contrast to England, where a degree will now cost around £27,000.
The constant debate within the UK is that taxpayers want Scandinavian-style public services but with US levels of taxation. It does not require a degree in economics to know that this model is unsustainable. With a tradition of voting for centre-left parties, it is clear Scots value public services and the benefits they bring to society as a whole. This is in stark contrast to England, where the low taxes mantra resonates with many voters.
For advocates of independence, Denmark offers answers to the numerous questions being put forward by Scotland’s unionist campaign. The scaremongering around the supposed global influence that being part of the UK carries is nothing short of an ideology from the imperialist age that is no longer relevant. Denmark shows us that it is possible to be a small nation as well as carry influence on the global stage. In an interconnected world, size no longer matters. Furthermore, as an independent state, Scotland can focus on ensuring that its populous receives the best start in life through a properly funded education system as opposed to spending millions on renewing a nuclear missile system.
Next year, Scottish voters will have a once in a generation opportunity to change the course of history. Independence offers so many opportunities that are currently not at the disposal of the devolved Scottish parliament. Supporters of independence are looking across the North Sea to nations such as Denmark, where being small is not so much of a hindrance but an asset. Decades of right-wing administrations that have disassembled the welfare state in the UK brick by brick can be washed away by embracing the Danish
The debate on independence offers two possible futures: the continuation of successive neo-liberal governments that would continue to privatise public services and deliver economic policies targeted to suit big businesses, or an independent state that can prioritise public spending, ban nuclear weapons and stand on its own feet on the international stage. A no brainer, surely?
The author is the head of Scotland’s Air3Radio and a youth board member for Oxfam GB