I’ve held back quite a bit from the independence debate. Not because I wasn’t sure of my opinion or confident in the argument, but just because with a baby on the way, looking for a new house and a lot of pressure at work I’ve had more than enough on my plate without launching headlong into the campaign as well. However with just days to go to the biggest political vote in my lifetime I thought I should at least write down my thoughts on the referendum.
When it comes to independence, I’ve always been a yes voter really. Since I was old enough to participate in the democratic process I’ve only ever voted for parties that advocate an independent Scotland (which doesn’t mean I’ve only ever voted for the SNP). Up until now I guess you could say that was a romantic ideal, I felt very strongly that Scotland should be independent but until 2011 it was something I never thought I’d see. My belief in independence didn’t stem from Hollywood nonsense like Braveheart (as much as I enjoyed it at the time) or kilts and shortbread imagery. It’s simply that I believe Scotland is a country, distinct in its own right and as such should be run as a country by those who are best placed to make the decisions on behalf of that country – the people living in it.
Since the date was set I’ve had two years to reflect on my belief in independence and if its right for my country and for my family. Through that time I’ve been confident, scared, excited, amused, angry, depressed and defiant. Sometimes all at once. But I still believe that an independent Scotland is the logical, natural choice for our country.
Before I go on let’s just take a moment to amuse ourselves with how we got here. That the referendum is actually happening and that we have got to this late stage with the Yes campaign within touching distance of victory is a minor miracle, but the real miracle happened in 2011 when the SNP won an overall majority in a Scottish parliamentary system designed specifically to prevent the SNP from getting a majority. It was supposed to only ever deliver Labour majorities or coalition governments (with Labour as the largest party). That’s how the Labour architects of devolution designed it but no-one could have foreseen the total collapse of the Lib Dems after the 2010 general election and their coalition with the Tories.
So we have a referendum, the SNP suggest a 3 question ballot – Independence, Devo Max, No Change being the options. At this stage I was hugely disappointed that Devo Max was on the ballot as I figured it would give the No campaign an easy win. They could make a piecemeal offer on further powers (we’ll return to this later) and it gets massive majority or at least does huge damage to the yes vote by sweeping up swithering undecideds for a No victory. Either way end result is no independence. Then the government decided to be fucking idiots and demanded a 2 question ballot.
I still don’t know if it was suicidal arrogance that they’d win in a straight fight or just blind stupidity that led them to do that.
A simple question – Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes or no. Two years of campaigning. Game on.
In two years the Yes campaign has reached escape velocity from the SNP machine and a real grass-roots movement has formed. Groups like National Collective, Radical Independence, Generation Yes and Business for Scotland have built up their own campaign networks, often with very little resources and had an absolutely huge effect on the public consciousness. It’s not just undecided and no voters that have been reached by these groups, but existing yes voters like myself. This campaign has made me think long and hard about the nature of my belief in independence. I’ve questioned everything about it even going as far to asking myself if I really did want an independent Scotland or if I should change my mind.
As I write this, days away from the vote, I’m now more sure than ever that Scotland, not only could be independent, but should be independent for the good of everyone that resides within it and who will come to live with us in the future.
I believe a vote for Yes is a vote for prioritising our people over our global influence. It’s a vote for spending money on education, health and infrastructure instead of spending billions on a nuclear deterrent that will never be used.
It’s a vote for a representative, independent parliament that’s accountable to its electorate and which can offer a real choice to voters rather than 3 different flavours of the same centre-right policies. An independent Scotland can revive the Scottish Labour party and make it relevent again, freeing it from having to toe the party line and it’s pointless obsession with hating the SNP above all else. Real power will sit with a proportional parliament where your vote does matter!
Yes will be a vote for hope over fear. Progress over austerity. Equality over elitism. Real public services over market forces
I know it won’t be perfect. I’m not naive. We’ll stumble, we’ll make mistakes and our politicians will be inept and corrupt. Westminster doesn’t have a monopoly on that.
But as a small country we can make the sort of meaningful changes that a UK government will never be willing to make without sacrificing it’s infatuation with “global power”, illegal wars and nuclear weapons.
I wanted to try to focus on my hopes for a Yes vote and the kind of Scotland I’d like to see emerge from the shadow of Westminster. However I have to also face my fears for what kind of Scotland we’ll see if there’s a No vote.
I’m terrified to wake up on Friday to a No vote and be facing a general election choice of austerity or more austerity, increasing UKIP influence, a referendum on EU membership and yet more vast swathes of cruel cuts to public services. Promises of increased powers will evaporate on the wind like previous campaign promises not to reform the NHS in England or impose tuition fees on students. Westminster will continue to focus on the needs of marginal swing seats over the rest of the country, safe in the knowledge that because of the first past the post system most of them are guaranteed to keep their seats and they can keep claiming more and more expenses and be unaccountable for their actions.
Instead of using our vast riches to improve jobs and infrastructure where it’s needed in Scotland our money will continue to flow towards London and the South East, that massive plughole where cash and resources disappear never to emerge. Used to pay for hugely expensive schemes like HS2, which will never benefit Scotland or vanity projects like the Olympic Games.
I don’t want to wake up to that Scotland. Is this really as good as it can be?
We can be a vibrant, exciting country. Rich in resources, wealth and culture. A fairer country that works hard for all it’s citizens, not just the elite. We can be less concerned about pandering to commercial banks and work to eliminate the need for food banks on our streets. We can actually make a change for the first time in generations. Something that matters.
I want Scotland to finally be the country we all think it can be. I want to vote Yes not just for me but for my children and their children so they can be proud of the choices we made on their behalf and know we made things better.