Saturday, 20 September 2014

#IndyRef

Have you ever seen that movie with Jim Carrey called 'Yes Man'? I haven't, but the basic premise of it is about a man who decides to say 'yes' to everything in life. I kind of feel, at this moment in time, a lot of my generation has adapted that premise in regards to Scottish Independence. Blind positivity and faith.

I've been a 'Better Together' supporter right from the get-go and while the 55% result in favour of remaining part of the UK would indicate that I am with the masses, my Facebook news feed definately suggests that amongst my peers of similar demographics, ages and social backgrounds, I stick out like a sore thumb. 

I'm half Scottish on my mum's side and half English on my dad's. Not that it matters. I don't think ones opinion on independence (Scottish or elsewhere) should have anything to do with the nationality which they define themselves as. I'm Scottish. I'm English. I'm British. Yep, all of them, because they are not mutually exclusive.

I'm not really sure why I'm writing this post. I don't think there is anyone in Scotland this weekend who isn't full of opinions and I wanted to put my 2 cents (or pence) out there into the world. You don't have to like what I have to say and you don't have to agree, but it'd mean a lot if you read this and I hope that we can all be, at the very least, respectful and open-minded. 


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Holyrood vs. Westminster

What everyone wanted from the independence referendum, regardless of the end result, was a Scotland that would be of more benefit to themselves and the people they care about. Correct me if you think I'm wrong, but I don't know anyone who's voting motives were almost entirely selfess. Whether we were a Yes or a No, we all wanted the same thing as the end result - a better future for Scotland - socially, economically, politically, environmentally and so many more 'ally's' if you will. We all want to benefit more from what's happening in our country and that's not selfish, it's human nature. 

I definiately think that Scotland is a truly unique country. We are small, compared to the rest of the UK (population alone, we are <10% of the size of England) as well as internationally, making up only a mere 0.0007% of the worlds population. Yet, without us, there wouldn't be things we take as givens in our everyday life - the telephone and the television are of course the headliners, but if that doesn't do it for you, imagine life without Biffy Clyro or whisky - now that is a bleak thought. Scotland is a blend of strong history, well loved cultural roots and an enevitably bright future. It's for that reason that the political debate regarding it's independence is so unique as we're all aiming for the same thing, we just believe in different ways of how best to achieve and maintain it. 

However, although we have a lot going for us, we have some baggage too. We have poor health, low life expectancy, widespread drug and alcohol problems, high crime rates, an even faster increasingly aging population that the rest of the UK and rapidly dying traditional industries. Some of these problems are worst than other and some affect certain parts of Scotland more than others, but if we are to look at Scotland as a whole, there's no hiding from any of these. We can offer a lot to the world and we have a lot going for us, but it'd be ignorant, in my opinion, to think that we could, at this moment in time, thrive without the help of the rest of the UK. That being said, it's very much a two-way street, we give a lot to the rest of the UK too, so it's a partnership and that's what the 'Better Together' campaign means to me. We don't claim that this partnership is perfect, but that it's simply more beneficial for all involved to remain as one than to disband. 

Now, the issues that have arisen the most through the Independence debate are very widespread and only some effect me personally at this stage in my life. Without going into too much finite detail about my politcal views and the reasons why I hold them (that is not why I am writing this most), issues regarding career prospects in the UK as well as the EU, health care and the sustainment of the NHS and economic stability for young people are what I personally want most from my country and I believe that a centralised UK government can provide stronger and more resilient opportunities for communities individually as well as our society as whole, to flourish.

The UK has what I believe to be a very unique mix of unity and individual heritages. That being said, we also share a lot of our resources - educational, medical, judicial, media, business and banking to name a few and surely separation would incur huge financial costs to establish each of these again for each nation, and probably substandard versions at that? Take for example, Great Ormond Street Children Hospital in London. It provides expert care for children with some extremely rare and specific medical needs. As this is what they specialise in, they are well equipped with the latest medical technology and some of the countries most experienced doctors to treat their patients. If Scotland (or Wales or Northern Ireland for that matter) were to become independent from England, there would be a serious likelihood that we could forfeit our access to such resources as we would be, in theory, a foreign nation. That isn't 100% certain, but it would definitely be a high possibility.

Finally, I know a lot of Yes voters who claim that Westminster have too much of a say in Scottish matters, but I would strongly oppose that by saying that a huge amount of the finances to allow Scotland to function comes from the London wealthies - it's at large thanks to the Eton elites that communities in some of the poorer parts of the UK (whether that be Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or other parts of England) are able to survive. They may be unpopular but it's their mega taxes that contribute hugely in funding our roads, schools, hospitals and leasiure facilities. That is a fact.

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Turn Out & Voter Involvement

How would you feel if I told you that more votes were cast in the final of Big Brother in 2006 than in the UK General Election in 2005? My Higher Modern Studies teacher told me that and that fact hit me so hard that I have never voted in any reality TV show since - and if you follow me on Twitter, you'll know I love a good reality TV show! It's not entirely surprising though, because politics doesn't often aim to appeal to young people, those who ironically, are the ones who often have the passion, free time and occasionally the childlike naivety to believe whole-heartedly in their cause. 

For the Independence Referendum, the voting age was lowered (by the SNP) to 16 instead of the usual 18. Of course this was done because by it's very nature, the 'Yes' campaign appears more pro-active and more revolutionary than 'Better Together' - qualities which young, impressionable first-time voters are stereotypically drawn to. That being said, it would have been so easy for school kids to brush it off as just another boring and unimportant adult matter and most of them not even bothering to vote at all could probably have been understood and even forgiven. As much as I dislike Alex Salmond as a politician, he has the belief in Scottish independence flowing through his veins and while it slightly pains me to admit it, it was by and large thanks to him that so many young people took an interest in this referendum. 



On top of that, voting on an issue that could be the potential of a new chapter for Scotland and the possible end of the United Kingdom as we know it, the Scottish people really have gone above and beyond any expectations that I ever had. Turn out numbers have been nothing short of astonishing with a fantastic 97% of the electorate registering to vote and 86% of those registered making it to the polling stations. To me, that is just amazing. In Falkirk, a polling station even closed it's door early because EVERY SINGLE PERSON who was on their list had turned out to vote. Take a second to absorb that please because that really does bring a lump to my throat.

There's people from every possible background with strong views from both sides and while many will be feeling deflated today, the involvement and passion from such an overwhelming majority shows Scotland in such an inspiring light.

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The Aftermath

On Thursday night, I went to bed around midnight. The polls had closed at 10pm and the votes were being counted but at that time, there were no results yet. I lay in bed, knowing I needed to be up for work at 6:45am but wide awake, too anxious to just roll over and drift off. I lay in the dark scrolling the '#indyref' hashtag in Twitter, telling myself that I'd go to sleep when the first region had announced their results. Around 1am - Clackmannanshire - 53% in favour of No. Excellent. Now I came sleep, or at least attempt to. I did sleep, but not well at all, waking up every so often and refreshing my 'Scottish Independence' Google window to see that the latest was. 

This morning, I woke to what I'd been hoping for ever since the independence referendum was announced. As I said, I've been a firm No since the start but also as I said, the past few weeks on Facebook has taught me that I am in the very tiny minority amongst my peers. 

I walk past Glasgow's George Square on my way to work, and although Yes rally of Thursday night was still going on at 8:30am on Friday morning, there was an eery feel about the city. It felt weirdly still, which, if you are familiar with the morning bustle of Glasgow's city centre, you'll know is rare. You could just tell that Glasgow was 1 of the only 4 regions to vote in favour of Yes. 




Lunch time at work, Facebook and Twitter, people were not happy. Some much more respectful than other but some 'ashamed to call themself Scottish' and branding No voters as gutless, fearful and too lazy to develop an informed opinion.

After work, once again, passing George Square. The No campaign were supposed to be having a celebration rally but things were turning ugly. Police, riot vans, flag burning. As quickly as I could, I was on the bus, home, safe and away from it all but from what I have seen on social media, the Internet and the news, Glasgow city centre was a violent and hateful place tonight, with a tiny minority of No voters painting a picture to the rest of the UK and to the world that we are a nation of racism, ignorance, bigotry and hate which we are, of course, not. To judge either side, Yes OR No, based on this violence is like writing off all Muslums based on the actions and beliefs of al-Qaeda or all Christians based on the actions and beliefs of the Westboro Baptist Church. It's sheer ignorance. 

I know many people (myself included) from both sides who believe that these riots would have happened regardless of the outcome and that both Yes and No camps have small numbers of supporters who, as disgusting as it is, express their political stance (be that victory or defeat) through violence.

This is not a sign of a functional society and it is not a safe or effective way of making a point, political or otherwise. Glasgow has a bit of a reputation as a violent place which it is not, but last nights events have made it ever harder to shake that image.

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I have no doubt that debates about Scottish Independence will continue for weeks, months and probably years to come and whether we'll get another go at it in our lifetime is unknown but perhaps unlikely. You have to be a gracious loser before you can ever hope to be a deserving winner and while I don't think independence is right for Scotland at this time, I'm by no means saying that I don't think it ever will be. For now though, at this moment in my life and in British and international politics, I feel strongly that the proverbial 'building' is a much stronger than each brick involved, England included, can be individually.

I am extremely firm in the opinion that I made earlier on - that both camps, Yes and No, are aiming for the same thing, a fairer, more equal and more rounded country to live in. I personally believe that we are 'Better Together', some believe we are better apart, but we can all agree that what we undoubtably want is to be just that - better, however that may be. 

I welcome any opinions from either side, providing they are the two things I stated up top - open-minded and respectful.


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