This year is the biggest one of my life, no doubt about that. 2014 will be the year that everything changes for me and my family.
I’m going to be a Dad.
Later this year, just a month or so after the referendum, my wife will bring a new life into the world and we’ll be responsible for looking after it, teaching it and keeping it safe.
Shit just got real.
My wife and I have been trying for a baby for a few years now and despite our problems we still ended up conceiving naturally (so if you’re reading this and going through a similar situation, don’t give up!), though we did also get tremendous support and help through the NHS as well. We’re grateful that we’ll continue to benefit from that support right through pregnancy. I’ve had a bit of time to get used to being a Dad simply because it’s taken us a while to get to this point, but it really doesn’t hit home until you see that scan – if I’m honest, it probably won’t hit home fully until I hold our baby in my arms. What a responsibility this is! I have become the creator of life! At the moment our unborn child has unlimited potential, it exists as both genius and fool, hero and villain, and could go on to change the world for better or worse – it all depends on decisions we make as parents. I think I need to sit down and think about this…
I have a few hopes and aspirations for my unborn child, all parents do I suppose. Should they see fit to share my unswerving support of Aberdeen Football Club, then I’ll be ecstatic and if they also develop a healthy interest in obscure music I’ll be over the moon, but beyond these I just want my child to be happy, healthy and safe. How can we as parents ensure this happens? What actions can I take to create a secure future for my children?
So, here I am, facing the biggest event of my life and taking stock of the world around me. We’ll be babyproofing our house but shouldn’t I also look to babyproof the world around me? Is it really ready to receive our child and help keep them safe? Is the society I have chosen to live in really in the best shape to provide my child with the best opportunities and support, or to simply help develop a well-rounded, good human? I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who can just say yes anywhere in the world. Our societies are constantly evolving, improving or facing setbacks and we will never have perfection – that’s just a facet of the human condition. Some of us are dicks and will ruin things for others. But faced with being responsible for the life of a brand new, straight out of the box human, shouldn’t I at least try and make things a bit better?
So naturally we face many of these chances in our daily lives, but it’s not often we get a big chance to change society, to really rip it up and start again. The independence referendum is an opportunity to look at how things are in the UK and talk about how we can improve them. This is the only chance we are being given to genuinely reform our political system wholesale, not just small token gestures of increased fiscal responsibility (often confused in the media as more powers) but a radical and widespread reorganisation of the whole shebang – if we choose to take it that is. How could I not?
How can I look my child in the eye, knowing I had the chance to change course; to create an improved Scotland; to cast aside the corruption and greed of a political system and class who are only in it for themselves; a chance to vote yes. How can I look them in the eye and say I didn’t try? How can I be comfortable bringing a new life into this world if I’m not trying to change it for the better? Surely that’s the only reason any of us are here – to make things better for our kids. So faced with this chance for change, how can I let fear win and say no? I need to think of the possibilities that come with Yes, not just the challenges.
Saying Yes isn’t the final step. It’s the beginning of a vast process of change, where we get to start over. I don’t want a small scrap from the table, I want the whole turkey. We need to change democracy in this country to make it accountable and workable, a real change from the Westminster system stuck with First Past The Post and the House of Lords, a system that was devised to protect the landowners not the landworkers. We get to wipe that board clean and look at what we can change and do better – serious, radical land reform would be a good start. This isn’t just about currency and the technical functions that Better Together keep hammering on about (despite repeatedly getting answers), it’s about the whole system and how to make sure all the voices in our community are heard.
Already this process is having results. We’ve got communities feeling engaged in politics for the first time since the poll tax or the miners strikes. They want a better future for their families and they sure as hell don’t see it with austerity and UKIP driving the political and media agenda or with Britain’s main parties systematically dismantling a welfare state that was built on the sweat and blood of their parents. They want their voices heard again, not just those of the banks and financiers who have supported the Labour and Conservative parties through the excesses of the last 30 years in return for light regulation and freedom from prosecution. Look at the communities in Scotland, they are joining Yes because they see the chance to speak up again while the corporations side with a No campaign that looks after their interests. Once a Yes vote is secured the work on a Scottish Constitution will start, reaching out to people across the country to ensure the rights of our children are enshrined in law forever and we need to make our voices heard so that independence negotiations focus on the will of the people, not just big business.
A Yes vote is the only option for me as a father-to-be. It’s the only game in town to help reform a society that is obsessed with oil, house prices and GDP, when we need to focus on how to put food in the mouths of every child in the country and ensure there are shoes on their feet. Scotland could eradicate poverty in a generation, if it had the will to do so. I want to vote Yes because I want my child to grow up in a society that has the will to make radical change. I want to see a society that still cherishes the NHS that has supported me on my journey to this point, not be part of one that would rather see it opened to private competition. I want my child to be part of a welcoming, peaceful society for all, that will provide safe harbour for refugees and see weapons of mass destruction leave our land forever. I want my child to grow up in a society that treats the weakest and least fortunate with dignity, respect and care – not suspicion and abuse.
If I vote Yes and Scotland gets Independence then I’ll have taken a step to create a better society for my child. Years from now I’ll be able to talk about the reasons we wanted this referendum and my reasons for voting Yes, and I’ll be doing it with pride and the knowledge it was for their benefit. I don’t see a benefit for our children in maintaining a union which gives us so little voice and builds unlimited power for the Oxbridge educated elite who pass the reigns between them as they steer the country towards greater division, and spur communities on into crippling poverty and tension.
I’m not interested in a race to the bottom, the performance of UK PLC or our place in the global marketplace, I’m interested in creating a better world for my kids. By redefining our goals and how we measure them we will create a better society for all. Let’s measure it on how our children and our poorest citizens are faring, not on how the richest in the country do. That’s the world I want my child to grow up in.
With great power comes great responsibility but, sometimes, with great responsibility you realise that you also hold great power. Use it and vote Yes.
If you want to help make Scotland better for our children, join in with National Collective’s Yestival throughout July and help make it happen