I imagine by this stage in the Scottish independence debate most people have placed their stack of chips either on Yes or on No. However there are those who are poised with indecision, awaiting for the 18th September when the referendum croupier will shout ‘no more bets’. It is for those people that I find myself deviating from my bread and butter of music blogging to write this article.
I haven’t experienced a Journey to Yes, because I’ve been sat here waiting on everyone else as long as I can remember. You may say that blinds me in a way to this whole argument, that I’m one of those vile cybernats, or a staunch nationalist with tartan glasses on. Neither is true. I’ve just always, always, held the belief that a country should be in charge of it’s own affairs. Scotland is a country. The Union, in this sense, has always troubled me.
But while I’ll admit I’ve always viewed an independent Scotland as something I’d desire, with age and experience comes pragmatism, and my ‘X’ in the Yes box on 18th September will not be placed by dewy eyed patriotism, or by dislike of the English, it will be placed because for me there is more to be gained by voting Yes, than there is to be by voting No.
So what will I, along with 5.3 million other people living in Scotland gain?
In an independent Scotland I, for the first time in my life, will be able to live in a country which does not harbour nuclear weapons. I, and more importantly my children, will not be within a radius of 35 miles from 64 warheads which are, individually, 38 times more powerful than the bomb which killed 140,000 in Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. I will be able to say I am a citizen of a country which does not support unethical weapons of mass, and indiscriminate, destruction. And I will also, as a tax payer, no longer be contributing towards the cost of approximately £250 million per year to maintain and ultimately replace these weapons. The argument for nuclear weapons is non-existent. They will simply never, ever be used. And by retaining them, it is the international equivalent of the school ground bully having a big strong mate behind him to show off his strength and to ward off potential challenges to his reign. Better Together talks about co-operation and sharing, but on an international stage, Britain, and other nuclear nations, threaten, bully and intimidate backed up by the ULTIMATE threat. I’ll say “no thanks” to that please.
I’ll also gain a much fairer and democratic system of government and representation (or lose the more un-democratic parts of our current system if you prefer to see it that way). No longer part of the UK, Scotland would no longer have the House of Lords which houses 779 unelected men and women; 92 members of them sitting in their seats through no other qualification than birth, and which also grants Church of England bishops a seat purely because of their position as bishops. It is an archaic institution, not befitting of a democratic society and has no place, in its current form, as part of our legislative system. Add to that the First Past The Post system which contributes to the democratic deficit in Scotland, that has meant that in the post WWII era, Scottish votes; a country of 5 million people remember; have only made a difference to the outcome of a UK general election on three occasions, and that for a total of 65 of the last 69 years votes in Scotland have had no impact on the government we have had. The way our MP’s are elected, and the fact that many constituencies are so entrenched to a particular political party, mean that in actuality only a few key constituencies matter in general elections. Such a set-up leads to our politicians realising that they only have to convince those voters to vote for them to win. On 18th September 2014, for the first time in a long time, my vote will actually count.
Perhaps the most important thing we will gain is control of our own country. Our own affairs and our future. And sure there will be bumps along the way. Mistakes made, politicians who screw us over, and times when we may think that further change is needed. But we’ll stand or fall by our decisions. And that is what self-determination is all about.
I’m no economist. Currency, exports, central banks. These things are important sure, but can I pretend to know which side is being completely and utterly truthful with the facts? No. And actually neither can anyone, because all of these things, they are hidden in the future and remain to be seen.
Really all I can do, all any of us can do, is make a judgement on how we think things will turn out. I started this article with a reference to gambling, because despite what Better Together may have you believe, each outcome is a gamble. And as I look at the two options, Yes and No, placed out in front of me, I can’t help think that staying a part of the union is a far riskier bet. Labour have pledged to continue on the track of austerity, the Conservatives plan an EU referendum, which could very well result in Britain leaving the EU, UKIP have a growing support base, the NHS is being rapidly sold to the highest bidder, and the UK government actually want to leave the European Convention of Human Rights. Add to that continual pouring of UK money to London-centric investment (HS2, new London airport) and lack of clarity or purpose of additional powers for Holyrood, I fail to see how it is in the best interests of Scotland to remain part of this union. I’ve heard the arguments of collective pooling of resources, and I’ve heard the stories which warn of a diminished return (read loss of BBC, read border controls, read loss of NATO membership) and I just don’t buy them. I won’t spend time addressing every point or scare story that is out there; but my point being is that once you do probe the claims being propagated by Better Together, I’ve found there is no substance to them.
Someone told me recently that by showing we are voting Yes, we can help those undecided people realise that there is no reason to be afraid, that there is strength in numbers, and that they will not be alone. I also find myself writing this article, with that thought in mind. I’m writing this because it is important. Because it matters, and it matters more than music.
But please, don’t change your vote, or make your mind up based on my words alone. Those who say there isn’t enough information out there are wrong. There’s plenty of information, most of it I believe will lead you to complete your journey to Yes. So go, do your research. Don’t be led or swayed by fear. And join me in telling people why you are voting Yes. Because together we can make this country a better place for us all.
This post was originally published on Neil’s blog Scottish Fiction here.
Image from David Officer