I went to Glasgow Pride on Saturday and it was amazing. I saw ghostbones and had a really good time. I was wandering the stalls while I was waiting for Pip and a very nice young man from the Yes Scotland stall tried to convince me to not be a undecided voter anymore.
It's true I'm undecided but I lean pretty heavily towards the "Yes, Scotland should be independent" side, so, bias ahoy.
I come from a mixed background - my father's American and my mother's Scottish but we've lived in Scotland for over ten years and I have a British passport (also have an American one) and I feel that I'm from Scotland, more than I'm from anywhere else in the world. Scotland's my home. And I consider myself to be Scottish, not to be British. I remember watching an English comedian preforming in Glasgow and him crashing and burning because he was trying to set up a joke by talking about how great it was to be British. The English are British. We're Scottish. I have a lot of them and they're not all coherent but here are a selection of my thoughts about Scottish Independence.
1. The Economic POV
Whenever you read articles or arguments campaigning to keep the union together and against Independence, the economic argument is usually one of their strongest. Scotland isn't economically robust itself to be an independent nation, they say, and staying in the union is the best for the people of Scotland because it means they'll keep their jobs and their cushy western Europe lifestyles.
I think they make this argument for a range of reasons but there are two main ones: a) it's difficult to argue with Scots about Independence in a cultural or ideological way because one of the core tenants of our cultural is a hatred of the English and b) it holds some legitamete weight. However, I believe that the decision of independence should not be made on the basis of economic argument.
We should not become an independent nation because we believe we will be better off. Our country become part of the UK because England agreed to pay our debts. We were sold once already, why sell ourselves again? We should become independent because we truly believe in an independent Scotland. Because we believe we are culturally different and need an independent nation to fully realise those cultural differences. because we believe in the unity, the ingenuity and the future of the Scottish people.
However, I'm not sure Scotland can go it alone. I mean, our own history points the road to ruin. Scotland joined the union not because of any democratic agreement but because Scotland was bankrupt and desperately needed English gold to pay off debtors. Our history is dotted with famine, starvation and the suffering of extreme rural poverty. There was an outbreak of cholera in Glasgow in freaking 1957. People tell me that this was before the discovery of oil in the North Sea but then I front you the terrifying exampe of Clydeside in the 80s. Or, in fact, what about all of Scotland in the 80s? My mother lived through that and I would put money on the fact those years are seared in the collective memory of Scotland. Do I think we can make a go of it as an independent nation? Yes. But I worry that we will be poorer and the poorest of Scotland will struggle and suffer unneccesarily in an independent Scotland.
2. THE OIL
I'm from Aberdeenshire, the area of Scotland actually with the oil, and life here revolves around that. This area's economy turns on oil prices and the behaviour of oil companies. It has sheltered the area from downturns in recent times but we are frequently reminded how fragile our wealth is. Aberdeen has one of the highest costs of living in the country outside of London. But Shell reorganises? The number of students at my school hits a record low and my parents' jobs are on the line.
The Scottish National Part (SNP) and other independence groups say that Scotland would keep the oil. But how much longer can Aberdeen produce oil revenues? Estimates vary between 25 and 40 years. Alex Salmond, our first minister, points towards Norway's example but Norway's had a lot longer to save their oil revenues. Much of our oil revenue has already gone to Westminister and the oil companies. What about the companies? You can bet they'd see independence as an opportunity to re-negotiate their contracts and they have demonstrated in nation after nation that they do not care about the survival of the country they extract their oil from. And remember, even if we get to keep the revenue, there isn't that much left. We can't use it as a crutch because we've got, at best, a handful of decades before its run out.
(In independence's favour, Scotland is making great strides in renewable technology - wind especially.)
3. Our History
Our national poet and hero wrote this about the union:
"We're bought and sold for English gold - Such a parcel of rogues in a nation."(you can read the whole poem here)
Our national narrative is traditionally told in opposition of the English. I'm wary of mentioning colonialism, since it's a bit rich coming from a Western European nation full of white people, but you'll notice that the Union is made up of countries that didn't consent to it. (Scotland did, technically, consent. but I feel we can all recognise the difference between friendship and doing what you have to in order to survive.) Scotland, at the very least, draws bragging rights from the fact we were never militarily conquered. (The Welsh, bless them, were.) Our history is full of battles against the English and our national anthem (Flower of Scotland) actually celebrates the (I think only) time we militarily bested the English. (The English, at least, had the decency to take out the verse of God Save The Queen that talks about crushing the rebellious Scots. no really.) Our second national anthem (Scots Wha Hae) ACTUALFAX has these lines: "Lay the proud usurpers low/Tyrants fall in every foe/Liberty is in every blow/Let us do or die!" and refers to the approaching English army as "chains and slavery". So yeah, we have absolutely no centuries old deep cultural practice of hating the English. Not at all.
Less than fifty years after the Union of England and Scottish Parliments, the English government began a systematic approach to wiping out Scottish(Gaelic) culture. Tartan and kilts (the national dress of the highlands, now recognised as national dress of the entire country) were banned and you could be arrested for wearing it. Students were beaten for speaking Gaelic in school for generations. While tartan and the kilt have experienced a resurgance, Gaelic still struggles. (I come from an area where Gaelic was never spoken, even centuries ago. We spoke Scots and Doric, both of which are essentially dead and/or not recognised). Scots is nearly defunct.
Our history is also full of Scottish heros - Robert the Bruce and William Wallace the two most famous, although there are others. Our history is certainly one that speaks to the idea of independence.
4. The Union
The Union is old by now and lets face it, it's status quo, which is hard to change in politics. Many people will vote No because the Union does not appear to be inherently broken and frankly, Scotland's getting a pretty good deal from devolution. We get most of the benefits from a United Kingdom with a lot of the benefits of independence (like not being affected by a lot of stupid laws passed by Westminister, such as the recent cuts, changes to the NHS and rises of university fees..). At lot of people believe that devolution is far enough and that we're well suited continuing as part of the Union. And the Union has done much for Scotland, for all that, as a Scot, the downsides are the parts I can list most easily.
Also, independence would not mean losing the Queen. She's Queen of Scots, just like she's Queen of Canada and Queen of Australia. The crowns were united long before the parliments. (Also, the Royals spend a good chunk of time in Scotland, at Balmoral etc. and Scotland benefits from that, especially Aberdeenshire.)
(Additionally, an independent Scotland would be one without nuclear weapons - pretty cool right?)
5. Devolution & the SNP
Devolution refers to the fact that Scotland has its own parliment that essentially rules itself and passes laws. Laws passed by the English parliment, to which we also send ministers, do not necessarily apply in Scotland and need to be voted on in Edinburgh. Devolution is pretty cool and means that Scotland's been sheltered from a lot, but not all, of the recent austerity programs. The NHS is...well better off, at the very least, although I'm too behind on NHS politics to comment on that one. University tuition is still free for Scottish students (not English, Welsh or Irish but better than England where everone pays tons of money) and the same cuts have not been mirrored.
The SNP and Alex Salmond are well-liked and are the first every party to gain a clear majority in the Scottish Parliment. When Tony Blair's governement negotiated the terms of devolution, it was known that a Parliment of their own would give the SNP free reign to do just what they're doing now - pushing for independence. The Scottish Parliment was designed with a mixture of voting regulations to make it virtually impossible to gain a majority and Scotland was ruled by a variety of coalition and minority governments. Until the last election.
It's easy to see why Westminister is fighting this so hard. No one wants to be the PM that loses Scotland after 300+ years of Union. Cameron certainly doesn't want to go down in history as the PM who ended the Union. But it's not helping that after the failures of austerity, his government is not that popular. The Liberal Democrats are coming away from their partnership with the Conversatives tarnished and Labour is not seen as a viable alternative and while in England there's little else to choose from, it's important to recognise that independence is coming in at a time when people are looking for a third option.
6. The referendum
The referendum is due next year and I still don't know how I'll vote. I want to make the best decision I can and there's still a lot of questions. Scotland would have to negotiate entrence into the EU and maybe NATO. The army and navy would be rehauled and pensions, taxes and the border would be a mess. There are worries independence might cause a mini-exodus of the odd 400,000 English and Welsh who live inside Scotland. Opinion in Scotland is divided and the count will probably be close. (In fact, many polling groups etc. show that the Yes group are in the minority, especially among my demographic - the young.) In the words of my mother: "I'm voting yes but the country will vote no."
I will say this. If Scotland did vote Yes on Independence, it would certainly be interesting times to live in. And as Terry Pratchett so greatly put it.
"The greatest curse they have is thus: 'May you live in interesting times."
(Please ask questions if you have them - the language of British politics is often not super accessible and I know not everyone reading this is Scottish or British!)