My journey to a Yes vote in September starts once upon a time, like all stories begin, in a newly built house on an Edinburgh council estate. My parents had already fought a few battles in their then short lifetimes, to finally land on their feet with two kids in the Wester Hailes area on the very edge of the city.
Each square was now home to a growing number of families, and a community was born from a feeling of true optimism. My brother and I quickly found a legion of friends to spend our days mucking about with, and for a while we were blissfully unaware of the sores of the world. You can say it was rough around those parts, but really it’s just life, something you get on with and think nothing of.
As the years went on, the cracks began to show and the families started moving away. Fights broke out all over the place, and it no longer felt safe to walk the streets alone, or too far from your own patch. In my early childhood I came across local gangs, drug dealers, addicts and even children not much older than myself becoming involved in some very adult activities.
Within my home and on the streets I was confronted with addiction, joblessness and illness. I was also blessed with parents who saw the importance of education, reading and debate. I had a liberal upbringing that was blighted by some harsh realities, but what I saw in my family was strength in the face of adversity.
The one house I remember quite vividly was the home of my then best friend. His dad had a giant SNP flag on his upstairs bedroom window. When I enquired as to what it meant he told me of his belief that Scotland should be its own independent country, because we are more than able to run our own affairs. I’ll be honest, I was 7 years old and thought he was a mental – which was a feeling held by many of the neighbours as we entered into the age of New Labour and the young, charismatic and seemingly liberal Tony Blair.
Finally we settled in Fife, a part of the country that has its own strong identity that they fight to preserve, and rightly so. Living in a tiny village, my curious mind was filled with stories of our heritage and culture at home, in the classroom and through public talks in the village hall. This was the quiet life, so quiet in fact our police station was twinned with the post office!
My friends and I were already politically active in our own way. I fondly remember building placards to protest the way in which women were portrayed in the media, and marching around our sleepy coastal village. Our ‘Say No to Make-Up and Fakery’ wasn’t exactly revolutionary but it did coincidently become the basis of a popular BBC show…. But, it didn’t matter that nobody took heed; we thought we were making a stand, and it meant something to us, even if nobody else took us seriously.
One day, I was home from school sick when the normal barrage of vacuous daytime TV shows were interrupted with images of a burning skyscraper. Of course, we all remember watching it as it happened, the utter disbelief we felt and knowing there wasn’t anything we could do except to watch the horror unfold. From then on the world changed, and my eyes were opened.
Post 9/11 I had moved back to Edinburgh, and during my high school years I took part in the ‘Stop the War in Iraq’ marches and joined the Amnesty International club at school. Once you begin to look around, it’s hard to be ignorant of the injustices that take place both at home and abroad.
As the years went on I began feeling that the UK government was increasingly out of touch, full of blundering idiots and entirely ‘London-centric’. Through this I started to see what my friend’s dad meant. He saw strength in a nation, and as I grew older I witnessed that strength in the communities I lived in, in my family and in myself. We have a rich, cultural background. We are a country of great thinkers, scientists, entrepreneurs and champions of social change.
Some might try and convince us otherwise, but we shouldn’t look the other way and stick our fingers in our ears, while singing ‘la, la, la, la, la’! The reality is we just don’t know what will happen in the face of a No or a Yes vote, but I would rather we fought for the things that are important to us than sit idly on the emblematic fence and be constantly disappointed with the decisions made in the halls of Westminster.