Barry Hutchison: Let’s Decide What Kind Of Change Is Coming

20140726-191939-David Officer

This article was originally published at

So, in case you’ve missed it, the people of Scotland will be voting next month on whether or not to break away from the UK and stand alone as an independent country. Generally speaking, I don’t tend to pay too much attention to politics beyond rolling my eyes and sighing at the antics of whoever happens to be in government at the time, but being Scottish and living in Scotland how could I not be interested in the referendum?

Back when it was first announced that the vote was to take place, I had every intention of voting “No”. I thought – by and large – things were working fine as they were. If I’m honest, I was scared, too. What if we went independent and it all went horribly wrong? What if independence didn’t just break the union, but Scotland itself?

Over the last six months, though, I started to become uneasy with my decision. The rise of anti-immigration parties like UKIP, and hate-filled racist groups like Britain First began to terrify me. I watched, helpless, as the current coalition government set about systematically punishing poor people for being poor, and the disabled for being ill.

I read the horror stories about the state of the NHS in Britain, and about the chilling possibility of a future without it. I saw spending cut after spending cut after spending cut which only seemed to affect the most vulnerable, while the rich and privileged became steadily even more so.

From a selfish point of view I still clung to my No. As a Scottish author it’s hard enough getting bookshops in England to stock my books. How much more difficult would if Scotland became a foreign country?

Besides, we still had it pretty good up here. Free prescriptions, free university education, many of our important decisions made in Edinburgh – I convinced myself that sticking with the status quo was still the right thing to do.

About four months ago it hit me, though. A realisation that completely changed my view on the referendum:

There is no status quo.

The suggestion being tossed around by the No campaign and the media that if the country votes against independence everything will go back to the way it was is a lie. There is no “way it was” there is only Future A and Future B. In one of those futures, Scotland votes Yes and becomes responsible for its own decisions, with the freedom to win its own victories and make its own mistakes.

In another of those futures, Scotland remains part of the UK, but without its trump card – the threat of independence. Make no mistake about it, the Scottish Parliament was a bribe from Westminster – a bribe designed to stop us taking the ultimate step towards independence. Scotland was able to negotiate for it, and to steadily increase its powers, because there was always that threat that we might go independent hanging over discussions.

If we vote No, we give away all our strength. All future negotiations will be entered into from a position of weakness. Westminster will have the power to shut down the Scottish Parliament, and there will be nothing we can do to stop them. They will have called our bluff and we will have given them our full permission to do whatever they want to us, whenever they like.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a staunch nationalist. I don’t believe Scotland is inherently better than any other country out there, and I certainly don’t dislike the English, Irish or Welsh. This isn’t about “breaking up the family”, it’s about moving out of the family home and into our own place right next door where we can set our own rules and pay our own bills.

And yes, it’ll be difficult, and yes there may be days we wish we hadn’t, but we’ll be responsible for our own future and will no longer be under the control of a group of people we never voted for based several hundred miles away.

Change is difficult, but however the vote goes, change is coming. The question those eligible to vote need to ask is whether they want to have a say in making those changes, or whether they don’t. Personally, I do want a say in my country’s future, which is why come September 18th I’ll be saying Yes!

Barry Hutchison
National Collective

Image from David Officer