I’m Voting Yes?

[Note: This post was not written with the idea of proselytizing. I am not interested in trying to police others’ political choice in this respect. The issues are not black and white, and I respect people voting either way. There are so many factors to weigh up and how each person prioritizes these issues will be different.]

With only one month to go until the independence referendum, and after a while of being firmly in the No camp, after a long, long time weighing up my options, I’ve finally decided that I’m going to vote ‘Yes’. After a while, the increase in grocery prices and the decrease in research grant money couldn’t make up for the shitstain on humanity that is the Tories, and their increasingly Toryish competitor, Labour. The choice of Tory vs. Baby-Tory governments isn’t something I would like to continue, if I can help it. And there is a way I can escape it, so I will take the chance.

I’m tired of the history of Scottish votes being meaningless (we would have had a Labour government up here a lot more often if we’d had our way). I’m tired of disabled people being treated like shit on the government’s shoe and effectively being murdered by the anti-benefits system. I’m tired of the anti-immigration and racist rhetoric that spews like vomit from more and more politicians’ and citizens’ mouths. I’m tired of living in a country that doesn’t seem to want to do much to champion equal rights. I’m not putting all my faith in the Scottish government to sort out all these problems miraculously post-independence, but at least we’ll have a chance.

I’m still not absolutely sold on the idea, I must admit. The burgeoning problems that are bound to arise in the wake of a massive political decision like this will most likely affect people like me first and foremost, i.e. those of us who already struggle with money. It will be a tough time immediately after the plans are all put in place, and maybe at first it might not even seem worth it. But in other aspects of my life, such as when I was debating leaving a job when my prospects were unclear, or when my twin brother and I were deciding whether to live separately or together when we went to university, I tended, although anxious and afraid, to take the “well, you never know until you try, even if it turns out bad” sort of attitude, so in its own way I’d feel a bit hypocritical if I didn’t adopt the same mentality with this. Those two plans went wrong, incidentally — I quit my new job after two weeks and went back to my old one, and after spending night after night calling my brother crying that I missed him we ended up living together again anyway — but I can’t regret that I made the decision to see if they worked out. I wouldn’t have wanted to play the “what if?” game the rest of my life. Of course, the independence question is a whole lot bigger than those examples, but the principle remains the same.

There’s a lot I haven’t appreciated during my decision-making process. Those who have not entertained even for a second the notion that it’s not been a easy, snap decision for all Scots. Those who have not only acted like someone voting No — because of uncertainties or because they feel it’s too much of a risk in this current climate or that we’re simply not ready — is a turncoat, but those who have actually deigned to call me one when I was explicitly voting No. Now, I’m not a hardcore patriot, but my pride at being Scottish doesn’t mean I thought we were ready to be independent, particularly when I didn’t have many facts coming from the Yes side at all. When I say (like in the above paragraph) that I’m not 100% sold on the idea, it’s not that independence as a notion is something I’ve never fancied. Even when I was going to vote No, it wasn’t the idea of independence putting me off completely, it was other factors. I wasn’t going to ignore the risks I felt were present. Hey, I’m not a gambling person, clearly.

But now that anti-immigration, anti-Europe, anti-anyone who isn’t a rich, white, cis, straight male Eton-educated politician, basically, sentiments are all on the rise within the UK, and now that Labour have determined to be just as stringent if not more so than the Tories have been on welfare cuts, and now that I’ve discovered that the PM did not allow the SNP’s proposed 3rd ballot option — more powers, or something along the lines of devo-max, which is something as a No voter I was supporting as a kind of compromise — well, I can’t quite make the remaining risks feel worth it when everything a good country should be is simply not present in what the UK (or more specifically, London) is offering.

It’s not been an easy ride, and I’m not looking forward to the problems that will inevitably present themselves (particularly for us poorer folks, not really for the big rich politicians who are selling us the grand idea), but if I don’t vote Yes, I’ll be asking myself “what if?” for the rest of my life.

Thoughts on the Scottish Independence Referendum.

So, Scotland’s independence referendum is edging ever closer (18 September 2014), and I, like a good many Scots, I presume, are still wavering and unsure what decision to make. Like any political move, both sides of the equation are full of propaganda, making it difficult to support either side with a completely informed mind. Both sides, as expected, also have a list of pros and cons that don’t necessarily supersede the other; certain aspects of each stance seem desirable, and others seem wholly unappealing.

How do we decide which set of cons is the most worth it? Do we choose to ignore the uncertainty over the currency situation, the surely inevitable increase in taxes, the proclaimed necessary increase in VAT of essential items such as children’s clothing and groceries, and fight for what our ancestors fought for 700 years ago against the first two King Edwards? Do we choose to throw overboard part of the academic research money that we are disproportionately receiving in our favor, potentially cut ourselves off from the EU and better chances to live and work in other European countries? Do we make that seemingly obvious decision to shrug off the evil Coalition and England’s constant lack of respect for Scotland, her politicians, and her citizens?

Many, it seems, are clamouring for independence in a bid to get away from the Tories. But here’s the rub: Scotland has Conservative politicians, and the Scottish Tories are far from invisible in our political makeup. Scottish Tories don’t seem overly more helpful to us than English ones, despite being officially nationalist; conservative policies are still able to affect us, and the party will surely not back down despite an independent Scotland being severely on their “do not want” agenda.

The SNP (Scottish National Party, the drive behind the campaign) are distinctly committed to eradicating poverty, but a target like this needs money, and surely it’s the lower classes who will suffer most if the ‘Yes’ campaign is successful? What is the future of tuition fees? Currently, Scottish students have their fees for their first degree covered by the governmental body SAAS – I hope this will remain feasible. Post-graduate students will suffer with the research fund essentially being cut. Will we retain the NHS?

As I still research all of these points, I have one overarching feeling, regardless of which decision I come to make, reluctantly or otherwise – it’s all too soon. It’s possibly transparent, but any camp I have dipped my feet into has been the ‘No’ camp, feeling that there are simply too many risks involved. Nowadays I sit more on the fence, disliking the tendency to propaganda and lack of clarity on certain issues on both sides, and I’m struggling to cement a decision either way. But I feel that the campaign would have gained strength if the referendum had been set for a later date, and if a more detailed plan had been made, with certainties instead of questions. If the ‘Yes’ campaign is successful, then the push for independence is expected to occur in March 2016 – again, I feel like it’s too soon. Immense plans like this need years of proper planning and although the SNP have been geared towards independence since its inception, this particular campaign, in my opinion, needed more to back it up.

Sometimes I feel like Alex Salmond and the SNP are too “Braveheart” about the concept, referring not to those who fought for our independence previously but to those Scots who remain blind patriots who will do anything to get rid of our old enemy, England, to the point where they are struggling under the huge chip that sits on their shoulders. I know plenty of people who are so focused on “I hate England” mentality that they refuse to do any proper research into the consequences of either vote, and won’t even think about realistic reasons to support their choice. They’re not thinking about how they will be supported.

It’s a grand idea, that Scotland should become independent and rule itself; of course, I believe so. But I do enjoy being a part of the UK, bad politicians and politics aside. But there’s the next rub: politics is a dirty, dirty area, no matter the nationality. I don’t necessarily believe we will be any better off in that respect in an independent Scotland; rich politicians will always tend to clamour to support themselves and their pockets, and we must remember that, and take with a pinch of salt their claims that our best interests are in their hearts. I support remaining an EU member, and there has been too much grey area surrounding that.

I like the inclusivity of a united UK; from a purely personal standpoint, I hate feeling walled in, and the thought of being a tiny country that takes up less than half of a tiny island, having only six major cities and nowhere to roam, well, that doesn’t please me much! I like having the opportunity, potentially if not currently financially, to travel and live in different places, and I don’t want those opportunities restricted by visas, passports, and country borders.

I don’t know what the right answer is: politics is never ideal, and governments are not made of money to give the public exactly what it wants and needs. Something always has to suffer or be sacrificed, and citizens will never be 100% happy with how things are run. But I guess, with only seven months to go until the decision is made, I will need to make up my mind one way or another. It seems like I will end up voting ‘No’ partially through unease at the future; we as the UK are experiencing such anyway, and I feel like we might be stronger if we stick together. I don’t necessarily want to take the risk if we are going to flounder. I don’t want to end up a bird in a cage.

Those are my thoughts. As disjointed as some people reckon the ‘Yes’ campaign is, as others reckon the ‘Better Together’ campaign is! I hope that as crunch time nears, my research leads me to feel more strongly about the decision, but for now, I rather dread it.