“If we are Better Together, why are we not better together already?”
Twelve words spoken by an astute audience member during the televised debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling. Twelve words which sum up one of the reasons why I’ve decided to vote Yes.
But don’t worry, I didn’t make a snap decision like the woman in that abysmal Better Together campaign film. Indeed, a few months ago I wasn’t sure which way to vote. I definitely liked the idea of certain prospects, like living in a country where my vote would count for something (I grew up in the 1980s, when Scotland was governed by a Conservative government the majority here had not voted for).
Of Scotland being given an opportunity to flourish; making the most of the many benefits this country has to offer, at home and on a global scale, and helping communities become industrious and proud again.
I oppose Trident and Coalition policies such as the bedroom tax. I do not agree with my taxes funding schemes such as the HS2 rail link, which has a £50 billion budget (at present) but zero benefits for Scotland. Voting for independence would offer a chance to be free of all of these and so much more.
But I wanted to weigh up all the possible pros and cons, and make an informed choice. I looked through the SNP’s White Paper, Scotland’s Future, but mostly I turned to national newspapers, television and the BBC website – after all these have been trusted institutions for many years (and in the case of one or two broadsheets, centuries).
But it soon became clear I could not rely on the mainstream media. Over and over again I heard how an independent Scotland would be the worst possible outcome. Headlines in newspapers and condensed news updates on the radio communicated gloomy warnings, and articles and interviews revealed the terrible consequences should we risk everything by voting Yes. The language used was consistently negative and alarmist. Just two examples are that EU membership would be impossible or highly unlikely (with EU president Jean-Claude Juncker quoted as saying there would be no new members of the EU in the next five years, the conclusion being that Scotland’s jobs and economy would be in jeopardy). And without nuclear weapons we could not be a member of NATO, and therefore would lose that protection from terrorist attacks (also apparently imminent following independence). Of course you expect to hear both sides in a campaign like this – but I was only ever hearing one side, from the No camp. The view from the Yes campaign was curiously absent. Occasionally a brief response would be read by the newscaster or added at the end of a story; but so truncated it was almost meaningless.
Whatever happened to unbiased, balanced reporting, where both sides are given an equal say? And why weren’t stories with positive research or remarks about Scotland’s future, should independence be granted, given coverage? I barely came across any.
I felt I wasn’t getting the full story so I started exploring social media and reading articles and opinion pieces on independent websites. And I made many fascinating discoveries.
For example Juncker, in his comments about EU membership, had in fact said that Scotland would be treated as a “special and separate case”, rather than a new applicant. That crucial quote had been missed out, his words twisted to suit the No side, and the distortion was only corrected after the truth was revealed on social media. Oh, and most current members of NATO do not possess nuclear weapons, making that particular argument for No redundant.
A Yes vote is backed by many big names – Tom Devine, Julie Fowlis, Brian Cox, Irvine Welsh, Frankie Boyle and Janice Galloway, to name but a few – but judging by coverage in the mainstream media, you’d think only the likes of pro-unionists JK Rowling and David Bowie had spoken out about the Referendum (the latter pretty lamely, too).
It is quite clear no-one in the Yes camp believes all will be perfect and risk-free after independence, as No campaigners have suggested. It is about accepting the challenges ahead and being prepared to take a step into the unknown, for the benefit of everyone.
I watched the second TV debate last week. A flustered Alistair Darling got completely out of his depth as the discussions veered from the script he was obviously heavily reliant on. The next day newspapers again banged on about the currency issue (I thought Salmond’s answers were perfectly understandable and clear) but why did so few mention the fact that Darling could not name any new job creating powers in the event of a No vote? Why was this not picked up on at all?
The Yes campaign gets pilloried by Better Together (and therefore the largely biased mainstream media) for not providing enough facts about how an independent Scotland would work. But where are all the ‘facts’ about how Scotland would be run post September 18, in the event of a No vote? People wanting promises about their pension and job security might want to ask Better Together if these things are guaranteed and, if so, how? After all, can any of these be guaranteed in a volatile capitalist economy? Judging by the catastrophic economic crash of 2007, with Scotland part of the supposedly safer Union, it would seem not.
It’s clear that voting No means endorsing the status quo – and that means endorsing the imposition of policies like the bedroom tax, keeping Trident, decisions being made from Westminster, where most MPs have little interest in Scotland. So not only is the status quo unacceptable (if you believe in a fair society) but there seems to be no illustration of how things would change for the better.
After the debate came the dire, insulting BT campaign video. A negative woman, slagging off her husband and children, who thinks it’s an awful thing to discuss politics. She made the oft-repeated, sarcastic comment about oil solving all problems (which I’ve never heard anyone use as a sole reason to vote Yes). The next night came the Yes campaign video. It was outward-looking, positive and showed different, articulate people and a variety of Scottish environments, not just a moany woman in a kitchen – and, crucially, mentioned all the resources Scotland has before you even get onto oil. The contrast between the two messages was immense, and reminded me I’m making the right decision voting Yes.
The No campaign, covered extensively by mainstream media and the biased BBC, has been negative, insular and very money-orientated. All Darling could speak about in the debate was cold sterling, as though that is the only thing in life. In sharp contrast the Yes campaign, which I only properly discovered through actively and independently seeking out information, has been positive, informative, wide-reaching and engaging. Yes offers a vision for the future, and the possibility of a better, richer and fairer society.
I could write a whole lot more about our soon-to-come, momentous decision, but I’ll stop here with a thank you to all those on social media who have shared thought-provoking articles and opinions, debunked the scaremongering myths, and given the Yes side a voice.
It seems fitting to end on another quote: “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears” – Nelson Mandela.
Image from Simon Baker