In two weeks, on September 18th, my home country of Scotland holds an historic referendum on independence. The voters will answer a simple question:
‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’
In other words, should Scotland leave the United Kingdom and the union with England that began in 1707? The result of the vote will have far reaching consequences, whichever way it goes.
At the moment Scotland has its own parliament with limited powers but much of the running of the country is done from the British parliament in London. I remember where I was when I heard that Scotland had voted ‘yes’ to have its own parliament in 1997. I recall cheering as I watched the result on the BBC in a hotel in Luxor, Egypt (to the slight bemusement of my two English and one American friend).
Although Scotland has been part of the United Kingdom for over 300 years it’s always been quite separate in some ways. It has its own, separate legal and education systems. The educational qualifications I hold are different to those I would have if I’d grown up and gone to school in any other part of the UK.
I left Scotland when I was a teenager so I’ve spent more of my life living outside the country than in it, most of that time in London. Although I love London, Scotland is where most of my family still live, it’s where I grew up and it will always be home. As I travel and people ask where I’m from I say ‘Scotland’ not ‘London’. I have a Scottish flag on my backpack.
Fear? Or Hope?
If I lived in Scotland now I would vote ‘Yes’ to that simple question above. I would vote ‘Yes’ because I hope for a fairer and more equitable society. One which educates it’s children well, takes care of its sick and poor and elderly. One which doesn’t involve itself in illegal foreign wars. One which is not a military base for the nuclear weapons of a Westminster government.
I know the society I yearn for is not guaranteed to develop in an independent Scotland. But I firmly believe it’s guaranteed never to develop under the present system.
I believe a ‘Yes’ vote will show the triumph of the politics of hope over the politics of fear (as practiced by the Better Together campaign, supporters of a ‘No’ vote). In every aspect of my life I prefer hope to fear. I hope the people of Scotland do too.
My childhood friend, Billy Riley, explains his reasons for supporting an Independent Scotland, almost identical to my own, in an open letter to his friends and does it better than I could:
”I moved to England in September 1983. I was 16 and a half years old. I have served in Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. Seven years in the Royal Corps of Transport. In those 7 years, I met some fantastic people. Lots of different ethnicities, lots of different characters and lots of different temperaments. I regard many of those people I met as friends and some of them as close friends.
I met my now wife, Sharon whilst I was in the army and she was the main reason I left because I didn’t want to be posted away from her. So I left in 1990 and I stayed in England. That’s where Sharon’s family are and she did not want to leave.
That means I’ve lived the longest part of my life in England. 31 years up till now.
I can also easily say I’ve lived the BEST part of my life in England. The times I’ve had here could not be surpassed.
So I’ve lived in England more than I have Scotland.
However – Scotland is, and always will be, my home. It’s where my heart is.
When and if I post anything regarding Scottish Independence – please do not take it to heart. It’s nothing to do with a hatred of the English or a hatred of anything to do with the UK or Great Britain. Any of you who know me know that’s not the case (your rugby team – yes ok – but as a nation, no…definitely not)
The reason I am for Scottish Independence is I actually believe what it says in our national anthem…that we can be a nation again….not one piggy backing off the successes of the UK or Great Britain, but as a proud independent nation. It’s about trying to introduce a new style of politics. That could be rubbish….but Scotland has “second guessed” itself for centuries; which is why it’s been piggy-backing off the UK.
I’d like to see something other than right and right of centre in Westminster – but it seems we’re all stuck in a Conservative party/Labour party turntable there. And it means Scotland gets Conservative governments in Westminster that it never votes for. That doesn’t mean Scotland is going to pull it off. It doesn’t mean there will be a new political system or that independence will work, but I’d like them to take the chance. It doesn’t mean it will be a utopia. It might be the same old stuff just a different set of faces.
What I would like Scotland – my home – to be, I simply do not believe Westminster can help with. And notice that I am speaking about Westminster – not England – not the UK – not Great Britain – but Westminster. Wanting independence for my country does not mean I wish bad for any other part of the UK.
If Scotland does get its independence I will not be going “home”. Currently, and for the foreseeable future, my home is here, in England, with my British wife and my British kids. And I do not resent being here.
If any of you think any less of me for wanting something different – something better – for my country, then I really can’t help you. If any of you think it’s through some deep hatred of the UK, Great Britain or England, then you really, really don’t know me anyway.
I’m going to retire one day and at that time in my life, should I make it, I would like to retire to Scotland. I would like the Scotland I retire to be a different Scotland to the one I left.
That’s why I want independence for Scotland.”
So, at this incredibly important time in Scotland’s history, I will be watching closely, from afar. I will love my home no matter what the outcome but I will be sad if next time I return it’s not to an independent Scotland.
With special thanks Billy Riley for letting me reproduce his letter.