Thoughts on Scotland, Scottish Independence and what it is to be British
Today, Scotland decides it’s fate. It’s an occasion that deserves to be marked.
Just under 7 percent of the population of the UK, over 4 million people, will have the opportunity to cast their vote. Do they think Scotland is better as part of the United Kingdom, or as an independent country?
Tomorrow, the other 59 million of us will find out if we are saying goodbye to our long-standing compatriots.
Will they take the 32% of our Kingdom that is theirs and rule themselves?
The wait feels nervous and exciting… like Christmas to a child, but with the very real possibility of lumps of coal.
Yay, or Nay?
In the last couple of months, I’ve seen and heard many good arguments – both to vote Yes and to vote No. I don’t get a vote, which in some ways is lucky, because I’m still undecided what’s best for Scotland.
My initial instinct was No, let’s stick together and be better through collaboration. Then I started to swing Yes, because the arguments for change and social justice are emotionally compelling, and I can relate.
Allow colourful characters Max Keiser and Frankie Boyle to rattle your head on the basics if you haven’t heard them already.
Starts at 11m45s in the video but tune in from the 9 minute mark for other bits about Scotland’s currency and oil reserves;
Voters for No are pragmatic and wary. Voters for Yes are tenacious and brave. How anyone can be decided though, is amazing. The deeper you get into the arguments, the less solid information there is to go on – politicians can’t agree the facts, and both sets use questionable logic when it suits them.
So I’m back to being undecided. No voting-day deadline for me, a Brit south of the border.
Will all Scots vote?
It’s surprising to realise who will be making the decision. It’s not being made solely by Scottish people – that is, people who were born and/or raised in Scotland, who identify themselves as Scottish. You have to physically live in Scotland to vote, which includes some people who don’t identify themselves as Scots.
And Scotland, like it’s Celtic cousin Ireland, has a larger expat population than it has living at home. There are 800,000 Scots in England alone that don’t get a say in the Independence Referendum.
It seems a little stingy to diminish eligible voters like this, not least because many of their citizenships will be affected. Jon Kelly wrote a great article considering The formula of Scottishness for the BBC.
Brian Cox, the actor, has been a Yes campaigner, despite having given up his citizenship to live in America. But in a TV debate a Scottish born and bred professor, who teaches at an ivy-league university in the US, was totally against leaving the UK – he felt strongly that he was not just Scottish but British too.
Living in the US but still a Scottish citizen, he was very clear that he won’t hesitate to take the US citizenship he has been offered in the event of an independent Scotland. Not a threat, but a stance, and one I can understand.
Where are we from?
Having lived most of my life in England, people often refer to me as English, but it’s a term I never use myself.
I’m British, and proud to be. I use the term British because it’s more inclusive. I have Scottish and Irish family, so growing up I spent time all over the UK and Ireland. I have nothing against being English, but it’s just not all we are, and it’s not all I’m proud of about my country.
When people ask me about ‘food where I come from’, British food, I talk to them about curry. Seriously. Yes, it’s different to curry in India and other places, but that won’t stop me enjoying the curry mile in Rusholme, Manchester. Things like the Balti, were invented in Birmingham I believe. It’s ours and it’s British.
Here’s something I often share with people from abroad that can’t understand our boundaries. We Brits are complicated, socially and politically.
Is Yes the beginning, or the end?
So what next for Britishness if Scotland votes Yes? Is Wales going to go it alone? Maybe the North of England?
Will Northern Ireland follow in Scotland’s footsteps and unravel the Good Friday Agreement? A worried Iain Paisley Jnr thinks it is a possibility, in a piece that Channel 4 produced early in the year. The intro is even a mock report from the future of a post-Yes-vote Scotland.
The poster above from the 1998 referendum that led to the Good Friday Agreement even bears striking resemblance to the Scottish Independence Yes campaign now. Maybe the Yes campaign are copying a winning formula. Scotland is setting an example for other minority regions of countries that want autonomy too.
I met a group of young travellers from the Basque region of Spain in the summer of 2013 – they were already talking about ‘doing what Scotland is doing’ 15 months ago, becoming independent.
There are of course countless opinions, and the hours upon hours of debate on television have illustrated how differently even people on the same side of the argument see Scotland’s future.
In an ideal world
What I’d love to see is a fourth option. Not ‘please vote Yes or No and decide the country’s fate today’ based on so many unknowns.
And not the third option of devolution max, which nobody can vote for even if they want it (politely ignoring the ‘No is a vote for devo max’ argument). Well played Cameron by the way! Not. For a professional politician, he really underestimated the politics of Scotland, especially when the question is to side with the English or not…
No, the fourth option would be that in the event of a Yes vote, once the machine has started to grind, once 18 months of hard work has been put into the mechanics of an independent Scotland, once facts are established and terms become clear – then, voters get to choose again whether they want to step into the new country taking shape after all. When you can see and feel it, and understand what the prospects will really be.
It makes sense to me, where voting on vagaries does not.
I’ll certainly feel sympathy for the Yes voters if they don’t get to take the chance of creating something better. It will feel like their dream has been stolen. The message in this video from a father to his unborn son is undeniably moving, and I thought that even while I felt No was the better option.
Russell Brand wants independence for the rest of the UK too, not only Scotland. I tend to agree with him somewhat. Could a change in Scotland be the start of something big for us too? Could this be our comparatively orderly and muted Arab Spring?
Oh how very, very British if it is.
Tonight I shall drink a few drams of finest Scotch whisky in tribute to you Scotland! And Auld Lang Syne will ring in my ears while I wait to hear what you have collectively decided tomorrow.
Whether you vote to stay with us, or for independence,
I hope that together, as all the people of Scotland, you can make it better.
I’ve posted a few bits about visiting Scotland in the past, including some nice videos. You can see all of it on Travel Unmasked here.