Keith McIvor (Optimo): Independence Offers The Possibility To Start Again


There have been endless pieces online about people’s “journey” from being a No voter to becoming a Yes voter. The internet probably doesn’t need any more but I’m going to write one anyway as my journey was perhaps longer than most and took around 30 years.

I have never been in favour of nationalism and I made my mind up that I would vote No to independence pretty early on. It was probably some time in the mid 1980s. Since then i have had countless, usually good natured, but on occasion very heated arguments about it. As I got older my dislike of nationalism only grew, until it is probably fair to say I could be described as ultra anti-nationalist and i would have been very happy to appear in any imagined “top 5 Scots least likely to vote Yes” list. I still think of myself as opposed to nationalism. I think the notion of nations is an outdated historical anomaly that seems out of step with the the world we live in and the world I spend a large part of my working life travelling around and experiencing. However, a bit over year ago, after much thought, soul searching and engaging with the debate I did a u-turn and am now very much a Yes supporter. In fact I find it very hard to come up with a single reason why voting no makes any sense to me anymore. I managed to overcome being blinded by nationalism. I still don’t like the SNP but I no longer scream abuse at the television any time Alex Salmond appears and have developed a very grudging respect for him. I will however almost certainly not be voting for his party in an independent Scotland.

Having lofty ideals is all very well but perhaps the one benefit I have accrued from getting older is being less dogmatic and more pragmatic in my view points. To some my views (which seem very tame and benign to me) might seem extreme; I’m of a federalist persuasion and believe central govt. is inefficient, doesn’t address the needs of the people, is wide open to corruption and abuse of power and is ultimately undemocratic. I believe that communities know how best to look after the interests of the people who live in them and thus government should be decentralised as much as possible (in this regard, independence doesn’t go far enough for my liking but is at least a step in the right direction). I am opposed to our current voting system and was very disappointed when the (flawed) UK Alternative Vote referendum failed in 2011.

For me, independence offers the possibility to start again with a new, more democratic, decentralised govt. that does away with the first past the post voting system and the totally undemocratic House of Lords. I’m not naive enough to think it is going to be perfect and I will probably remain cynical of politicians motives for all my days. But again, it is a start and a move in the right direction which for me has absolutely nothing to do with nationalism, flag waving or Scotland vs. England. I love England and the English and we will always have a shared history and culture. To me it is like people who have shared a flat together for a long time wanting to live in their own place but still remaining great friends.

I actually have to give thanks to the Better Together campaign for helping me get to this point. Their very name is what made me really think about this all on a completely different level. Are we better together? If so, why doesn’t it feel as if anything is getting better, or even vaguely feel that it might possibly get better somewhere down the line? It seems fairly bad to me. Our present government is at war with the poor, at war with the very idea of a welfare state, we are becoming increasingly xenophobic and insular and we have the rise of the anti-multi cultural UKIP with their false nostalgia for a Britain that never really existed to begin with. I used to argue that independence was a short term solution to this but really, how long am I expected to wait for a good government? The vast majority of my life has seen terrible government I didn’t vote for in power. My vote in UK elections just feels worthless.

Politicians and the media do their utmost to instill in us a sense of dread and fear at every turn. Better Together have used fear as their primary weapon of choice. They have tried to make us think that we Scots aren’t smart or capable enough to look after our own affairs; a nonsense! They have tried to convince us an economic maelstrom is potentially just around the corner. I’m not an economist but I do have an economics degree, so am able to appreciate that a lot of what they say in this regard is pure speculation. Nobody knows what the future will hold. There will always be completely unpredictable forces at play and it is thus also impossible to predict what possible economic maelstroms might also hit us if we remain in the UK.

I believe independence will be good for the Scottish economy. At present we have one of the lowest levels of entrepreneurial activity in Europe. Independence will hopefully bolster our self confidence and lead to a huge increase with that regard. It will also hopefully help stem the brain drain to London which sucks out so much of our talent. We are a smart people with one of the most highly educated populations on the planet. Modern economics was born here along with a host of world changing philosophies, ideas and technologies. The very idea that we are not capable of doing this is laughable.

The EU issue was also instrumental in winning me over. Again, I have issues with any form of central govt. that has a one shoe fits all policy for hundreds of millions of people in different places. But, despite its flaws i am a fervent supporter of the EU, in large part for historical reasons. For me, the most important reason for having the EU is one of the very reasons it exists; to prevent war. Europe has the bloodiest history of any continent and while it seems unimaginable that we could have conflict on our doorstep again, history tells us it isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility and of course we are currently seeing it on the fringes of Europe. Countries in economic union tend not to go to war with each other.  That seems like a fairly simple and good enough reason to remain in the EU. It is very possible the UK will vote in a few years to leave the EU and the idea of living in an isolationist UK outside the EU is not somewhere i would be happy to be.

I also don’t want to live somewhere that has nuclear weapons on my doorstep. I don’t want convoys of nuclear weapons sneakily driving through the streets of Glasgow in the wee small hours. These weapons are abhorrent, mind-blowingly expensive and unnecessary. We do not need a nuclear deterrent. The vast majority of countries on this planet and indeed most of our European neighbours manage just fine without such a deterrent. They have to go. I hope getting rid of them leads to debate in England and they stand up and refuse to have them on their doorstep too. I also don’t want to live in a country that partakes in illegal wars against the will of the people. The UK is a small country and in this era is a minor player that feels compelled to punch above its own weight and have a seat at the top tables. That time is past but the powers that be are not prepared to grasp that fact and are happy to kowtow to whatever US policy dictates.

I have always despaired at the short term thinking of our leaders who never think much beyond the next election.  We need to think what legacy we are going to leave to future generations. We are at the dawn of the post-oil age and Scotland is ideally placed to take full advantage of renewable energy. Renewable energy has to be the way ahead and we have 25% of the potential European wind and wave capacity right here in Scotland. It might seem a pipe dream to some but this could easily become a vast part of our future economy, something we could lead the world in and be a positive legacy for the planet and future generations. Our descendants will thank us.

Solidarity with people in the rest of the UK who also seek change was a major sticking point for me too. However, I don’t believe the rest of the UK is destined to eternal Tory rule and think that what happens in Scotland will have a seismic and positive effect on the political landscape in the rest of the UK. Hopefully the notion of regional assemblies (but with actual powers) will come to the fore again and England will see power devolved to the regions. Hopefully what happens here will help shake people out of the understandable apathy they have to engendering change.

Most of all though, there are two words that make me believe this is the right way forward. I was a great admirer of the late Donald Dewar and he never stopped saying these words. They are of course “Social Justice”. Put together those two words form one of the most beautiful things in the English language. I believe that the majority of Scottish people, no matter what their political persuasion feel strongly that those two words are an important thing, worth fighting for. Our current system acts like they are dirty words worth expunging. We don’t know what our future holds. We may be a little worse off, we may be a little better off, we might not notice any difference, but for me social justice is more important than how many consumer goods I will be able to afford to buy. It is something I’d be happy to pay for as i believe it is beyond any monetary value.

There are mere days left to the referendum. I absolutely think it is possible for Yes to win but I don’t think anyone devoting their time to point scoring or bickering with those on the No side is going to help in any way. How many thousands of hours have been devoted to pointless arguing that isn’t going to make an iota of difference to the outcome of this referendum that could instead have been devoted to the more positive endeavour of informing undecideds of all the facts and perhaps persuading them to vote Yes? If I can persuade even one person to vote Yes between now and the 18th it will have been time well spent. Positivity should always win the day.

This has been an incredible time to live in Scotland. The media may be full of horror stories about how the debate has been conducted but for the vast majority of Scots it has been conducted with great decorum and an incredible vibrancy. Passions have been high but people have had a genuine thirst to be informed like never before. So many people with no previous interest in politics are now deeply knowledgeable about all sorts of issues. The genie is well and truly out of the bottle in Scotland now and it can never be the same again, no matter what the result is and there is a palpable sense that something has changed here, permanently. It can be felt in the pubs, in the clubs, in the shops and in the streets. Even more exciting times are just around the corner.

Keith McIvor (JD Twitch)
National Collective


About Keith McIvor

Keith McIvor (aka JD Twitch) is one half of Optimo. He is a dj, producer, record label owner and former Labour Party supporter.