I’ve never been more enthused about a political campaign than I am concerning Yes Scotland. I can’t help but picture what a Yes result could result in over the coming decades and those images are always positive.
I’m no starry-eyed dreamer. Indeed generally in life I’m surrounded by a dreich cloud of sarcasm, cynicism and cold hearted, miserable realities. ‘Life sucks, and then it ends’ goes the phrase. I’ve always been a realist rather than an optimist (except, perhaps where Scottish rugby is concerned).
The oddest thing about this debate though, is that realism and optimism go hand in hand for once. My steely-faced analysis of the cold, hard facts allows me to smile about what my country could achieve. No one pretends there won’t be difficulties, no one suggests mistakes won’t be made. The numbers however; they add up. Scotland could be a success, even the leaders of Better Together concede that point. So why not go for it?
It won’t be alone either. Does anyone really think that Scotland would cease trade with the rest of the UK? Would our ancient familial ties to the Irish disappear? Would we stop playing club rugby with Welsh teams? Would the international community shun us as upstarts and non-nuclear troublemakers? The UN wouldn’t have us, NATO wouldn’t protect us, the EU would dismiss us. What’s next, the WHO excluding us from medical research? The WTO issuing sanctions against us? Scotland will take its place with a fanfare at home and very little noise elsewhere, except in London.
It’s not about hating the English or an insular view of nationalism. I’ve spent most of my adult life in one of the most multicultural parts of England; my friends, co-workers and drinking buddies hail from as far afield as India, New Zealand and Canada, across the European continent and even the dreaded Southern South of the country to the South of mine. Nor is it about hating London. As a lover of bustling cities packed to the brim with every splice of human life and culture imaginable, I think London’s a fantastic place. I’m awed when I wander the halls at the Royal Courts of Justice, fascinated when I peruse the National Library, grinning when I shop at Campden Lock and giddy as a schoolkid just thinking about the wonders inside the Natural History Museum. It’s true that I’ve never met anyone who lived there who felt nearly as positive as I did, but as a visiting tourist I think it’s magical.
Indeed having lived and worked from as far North as Glasgow to as far South as London, having holidayed in the Highlands, in Wales and across the Channel Islands, I’ve always counted myself as Scottish first, but proudly British as well. There is a positive case to be made for the Union, but ironically enough given the criticism of the Yes campaign by some, it’s romantic rather than clinical. William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill, Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah, Katherine Jenkins and Gary Barlow are great icons of this Union, for a huge variety of reasons. I don’t want to lose that, do I?
Of course, I wouldn’t. A Yes vote for Scotland won’t wipe out the shared history we’ve all enjoyed together. I wouldn’t suddenly stop listening to Katherine, children in Scotland won’t stop learning about Romeo & Juliet, WWII will not become a forgotten event and I will genuinely treasure my experience of the Olympics as a Brit till the day I die. None of those memories or actions will be lost to me. None of my friends will stop talking to me if I become a foreign national. The British Isles will still exist; Scotland isn’t ‘going’ anywhere. It’s simply choosing to care for its own people.
There are debates about all manner of things including international body membership, nuclear weaponry, oil, division of assets, healthcare, the arts budget, debt and so on. These are valid and interesting. I engage in many of them myself but they are all secondary to the biggest issue of the campaign and one that should be brought up at every opportunity. Scotland will be able to look after its own. Its leaders shall be chosen by the people from among the people. Its policies driven by the wants and the needs of its people, written about in publications owned by its people and all of it, every single bit, done for its own people.
When you consider that simple fact, it’d be tempting to support a Yes voter even if you knew the country was going to be worse off financially. After all, money is important but so is social justice. So is the type of culture we wish to be part of. Eschewing xenophobia for a concept of Scottish nationality that says if you come from elsewhere and embrace us as we do you, you’re one of us. Putting less effort into demonising thousands of public sector workers and celebrating our doctors, nurses, teachers and other civil servants. Acknowledging that a state is only corrupt if you allow it to be so and in a small country where sometimes it can feel as if we’re all distantly related, no such betrayal will be tolerated, and we’ll be able to do something about it.
Of course the numbers do add up. The question isn’t whether Scotland would be rich but what cause it would use those riches in pursuit of. The childcare pledge is a party political one rather than an argument for independence in and of itself, but it’s an option we can’t consider at the moment without losing something else. It’s not the only one. We’re fighting to be a nation with both hands tied behind our back, a ball and chain strapped to our ankle and a blindfold covering our eyes.
There are unknowns. I specialise in international law and I don’t know exactly how the EU situation will play out. I don’t know exactly how much oil is left. I don’t know exactly what will happen if Sweden invades on bobsleighs through tubes on the Internet. There will of course be some difficulties at first; has there ever been a declaration of independence that wasn’t followed by them? Don’t limit yourself to a five year forecast however. Imagine what Scotland will be like in ten years, then twenty, then fifty. As fossil fuels dry up our renewables will be an example to the world. The more liberal, open-minded, creative and welcoming society we’ve already developed as part of the UK could blossom into a flower which is admired around the world. We won’t close our borders to friends of old and we won’t wage wars on ones we’ve yet to make.
If the romance of our Union pulls you more than that of an equal standing tall among friends, then vote No. Don’t do it out of fear though. Don’t give into those who don’t need your vote and don’t understand your needs. Don’t let control of your country pass to those who see it as a resource to be exploited. Don’t vote No because you don’t like a government no one will remember in fifty years. Don’t vote No because you feel we’re not strong enough. Don’t do it because you think we need Westminster’s help, don’t vote No because you worry we’ll be alone.
And don’t whatever you do, vote No because of one man. Your grandchildren may never forgive you.
Choose for them. Choose a happier future. Choose Scotland. Choose Yes.