Over the last few days I’ve been undecided. Luckily not about how I’ll cast my vote in September, but rather, undecided about whether independence is about starting over, remaking Scotland out of the crumbled walls of the union we’d break by leaving it. Or about a blank canvas, a fresh start, full of potential.
The somewhat messy conclusion that I’ve come to is that it’s a bit of both, and that both metaphors need work.
I’d been operating on the basis that independence – a yes vote in September – is our chance to remake Scotland. To rebuild. To reshape. But none of those words quite worked for me. They didn’t feel powerful enough or inspiring enough. They didn’t personify the change that I and so many others desperately want to see. So I turned to a book full of words, my mum’s old thesaurus and looked for alternatives and inspiration there. What I found couldn’t have been further from inspirational.
Under the entry for “remake”, I found “repetition” and “reproduce”. Hmm, no thanks. Puzzlingly I also found “film” – and realised of course that remake is also remake – it’s that dodgy modern version of a classic, lacklustre and fake.
So I thought, ah, what about “recreate”? We’ll be starting over, creating anew. But no. For recreate, read rectify, and for rectify read modify.
It doesn’t really do it for me. No, for me independence is about the chance to do things radically differently from how they’ve aye been. It’s about a new culture of confidence and caring, a common weal society based on solidarity not selfishness and a democracy that lives up to its name and gives power to the people, away from queens and crowns.
That’s not a reproduction or a recreation. That’s a new nation with it’s feet firmly planted in the past, yet facing the future, fearlessly.
I believe an independent Scotland could be a pioneer, an inventor and experimenter, as we have been so often in the past. The Scottish Green Party, Common Weal, National Collective and Radical Independence all have a raft of ideas ready and waiting to float and set sail. Ideas on reforming democracy to bring power out of not just Westminster but also Holyrood, into communities, industries and institutions. Ideas on free childcare, free education and the freedom to pursue what matters most to you.
We could establish a citizens income – a basic income for all, covering the essential costs of living, available to every man and woman in the country. It’s affordable, even now, and could be the bedrock of an independent Scotland. A symbol of a nation of people who protect each other through genuine social security and a nation that looks beyond financial wealth to social and cultural wealth.
Imagine the possibilities for individuals, for artists, if you could afford to simply make and create without battling with the job centre, the taxman or the council in order to eat. Imagine the possibilities for our communities if we recognised the social and cultural worth of creative endeavour instead of constantly trying to put a price on it.
These things are possible with an independent Scotland where we’re not constrained by the oft repeated narrative of the UK; that we’re better together in a world where we’re intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich in the hope that wealth will trickle down. Stuck in a context where that story is retold so many times that it becomes the irrefutable truth, we are bound to simply modify and rectify, to reproduce and repeat.
What independence offers is a blank canvas. A terrifying, oppressive blank canvas filled with possibility and responsibility in equal measure. The possibility to make marks but the responsibility for them to be the right marks. I have, like many creative types, mixed feelings about a blank canvas or a blank page. Fear and trepidation mixed with excitement and wonder at the possibilities. Of course there’s no guarantee that what we write or paint or draw or build will be a phenomenal work of art. We have to bring all our knowledge, experience, ideas and creativity to the fore and use the resources at our fingertips to create it. But I truly believe we have the talent, the passion and the means to do just that. And that’s why I’ll be voting yes.