choosing between fear and opportunity


The people of Scotland will vote in a referendum on 18th September this year to determine if they wish political separation from the United Kingdom. This vote is being framed as a Scottish nationalist rejection of England, and the decisive swing vote will most likely be determined by who can demonstrate where the financial advantage lies. I’m personally not happy with any of this and hope the discussion can be reframed into something more meaningful by the time the vote comes around.

The history of how the United Kingdom came to be formed over 300 years ago is complicated enough that most inhabitants are unaware of the difference between Great Britain and the United Kingdom, and few of us know the full list of countries, territories and dependencies of which it comprises. Scotland has always been a distinct country within the union, and has always had separate legal, education and healthcare systems. In 1999, a Scottish Parliament was created and since then ever more powers have been devolved from Westminster in London to Scotland.

why I won’t vote for independence

  • I have no interest in the feelings of irrational nationalism that fuel much of the push for independence. Mel Gibson shouting ‘Freedom!’ with blue paint splattered on his face has never, and will never, stir my loins. All political histories are messy, bloody and unjust. I’m part of the human race, not a randomly carved section of it, and any form of tribalistic nationalism dismays me.
  • We’re currently in a stable political union that has resulted in a country of relative peace and prosperity. If it ain’t that broke, don’t try to fix it.
  • If we do separate from the United Kingdom, Scotland will undoubtedly become pettily fractured between the two major cities – Edinburgh versus Glasgow, with heightened tensions over rural versus urban. There’s always another unit to blame for our problems, the next ‘enemy’ to imagine.

why I will vote for independence

  • The political system of the United Kingdom is disturbing and embarrassing. Imagine any new country, on the basis of our current understanding of representation and democracy, setting up a political system like this.
    • The head of state comes from an inherited monarchy.
    • The upper house is not elected but most are appointed for life by politicians, often based on how much they have donated to the major parties; some seats are still inherited; and there are 26 seats for the hierarchy of one religion exclusively, which counts only 20% of the population among its affiliates. (Plans to reform the House of Lords and make it mainly elected seats were dropped in 2012. Seriously!)
    • The electoral system is first past the post.
    • Over one third of members of parliament and half the Cabinet go to privileged and exclusive private schools, compared to 7% of the population.
    • Less than a 25% of members of parliament are female; and less than 15% of the Cabinet are female.
  • There is no change on the horizon. It suits the two big parties to continue taking turns in power. Politics should be about representation – our current system in the UK is disgustingly archaic and out of touch with today’s society. I view any opportunity to bring about change for everyone as golden.

Like many of my fellow Scottish residents, I still don’t know how I’ll vote on 18th September. But I do know that if I finally choose to vote for independence, it won’t in any way reflect a sense of superiority or pride about being Scottish; it won’t in any sense suggest I don’t want to share political space with the people of Wales, England and Northern Ireland.  I fear nationalism and I fear change on this scale. However, if I do vote for independence, it will be to send a message to the stale political authorities of this union that our current joke of a system is not good enough for the 21st century, and a leap into the unknown is a rare opportunity for advancement that can’t be missed.