Thursday 23 January 2014

From Yes (before the question was being asked) to No and back again

To put in context my attitude to the referendum on Scottish Independence later this year, you really have to understand my life as a nine year old.

That year, my primary school class undertook a project on the Scottish Wars of Independence, and I met my first English person of an age with me.  We didn't get on.  At all.

The combination of these two things, and a trip to the old Bannockburn visitors centre, at which I emphatically took brass rubbings and felt massively ripped off by a statue of Robert the Bruce that looked nothing like as impressive as he should have done, and a 1987 election in which Scotland's votes yet again were not reflected in the UK Government we got, fed into a very xenophobic, anti-English form of Nationalism, which it took me some time to overcome.

For all that my mother will tell you otherwise, I was a pretty horrible child.  Well, certainly to the girl who would grow to become Dr Catherine Birchmore.

It took me a while to grow out of that.  Not just the being mean to Cathy thing, the general sense of grievance.

I identified firmly on the left from my mid teens, but didn't really question my Nationalist notions, even as I grew fonder of Cathy, and it wasn't until my early twenties that I really started to think a bit more about concepts of Nation and identity.

I developed at that time an aversion to borders - selectively permeable membranes dividing working people while allowing the rich to pass through at their leisure, and like most who consider themselves leftists, came to realise that those who struggle to keep a roof over their heads the world over have more in common with each other than they do with those who rent them that roof at exorbitant price.

I felt this to be incompatible with my previous desire for an Independent Scotland - that by seceding from the Union we would be (if not necessarily in physical practice - I wasn't that gullible, even as a Unionist) creating a new border, and separating ourselves further still from working people elsewhere.

From a position of ideological purity, I still adamantly dislike borders - were I to be handed the keys to the world and told I'm driving tomorrow, the world would move to a planned economy based upon need, with adequate resource shared the world over obviating the "need" under capitalism for border control.  If people wherever they are have what they need, people would not feel the pressing need to migrate for any of the reasons that currently compel economic migration and encourage workers to be set against each other in a  race to the bottom.

I'm entirely open to being handed those keys, but just in case that doesn't happen, I've had to think about how things might be made better for others using what limited power my individual vote gives me, and quite frankly, an individual vote in an independent Scotland would be proportionately more powerful than an individual vote in the UK currently is.

One individual vote is still a tiny fraction of a fraction of a fraction of votes cast, but it is still a bigger fraction than my vote in a Westminster election, and that amplifies when you consider the effect of engaging with friends and colleagues on issues of importance - the small circles we move in are suddenly proportionately ten times or more bigger in their clout than they are in a UK context.

I want a fairer world.  I don't think an Independent Scotland will instantly result in that, but I do think it will be easier to make Scotland fairer.

There are no facts about what WILL happen if Scotland votes Yes, other than that negotiations on what happens next will commence, and they won't be easy.  If you think that we'll be living in a land of free heavy beer and pie suppers in the sky the minute we vote yes, you're an idealist whose naivete I can honestly say I envy.  We can speak of probabilities, but the one hard fact is that if we vote yes and become an independent Nation, the votes of Westminster constituencies outwith Scotland will not directly determine the party make-up of the Government with responsibility for all those matters currently reserved to Westminster.

But likewise, anybody convinced that there are more facts about what WILL happen if Scotland becomes Independent is just as naive - there are probabilities, just as there are probabilities if we vote Yes.  But what WILL happen, we don't know now - there could be a thermonuclear war two days after a No vote (not as a result of one - correlation does not imply causation) that wipes us all out.  Improbable, but not impossible.  We could stay in the EU, we could secede from that Union.  We could go to war, the banks could collapse again, the NHS could be sold off lock, stock and barrel to the highest bidder.

There's a lot more I could say, but I want to keep it short.

I'm voting yes, because much as I respect many of my friends and comrades who advocate a No vote, I see the probability that the very best we can hope for if we vote no is an ongoing cycle of Westminster being marginally less evil and marginally more evil.

I'm voting yes, because I have hope for an independent Scotland that I don't have for the UK as it currently stands or is likely to stand.

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