Coffee Talk: Thoughts On The Scottish Referendum

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pretty Confused Coffee

In case you didn't know already, although you would probably have to be living in a cave on the moon not to, tomorrow the people of Scotland vote on whether we want to become an independent country. This would mean leaving the United Kingdom, which we have been part of for 300 years.

I umm-ed and ah-ed a lot about whether I wanted to post about it, but in the end I thought it would be really sad if I didn't talk about it here. This is one of the biggest decisions the people of Scotland will have to make pretty much ever and no matter what the results we have the chance to make huge changes to the way our country is ruled, to get truly involved in politics. 

In the spirit of transparency I should let you all know that I will be voting yes tomorrow. This isn't a light decision. If you had asked me even six months ago I would have said that I would vote no. Scottish independence and the SNP have always been on the periphery of my political consciousness but I always dismissed it, and them, as unnecessary. The Scottish Parliament opened in 1999 when I was just starting High School. I can only barely remember, and definitely didn't care, about politics prior to that.

When the SNP came into power in 2011 I think my reaction was surprise and bemusement. Their policies all-in-all aren't too bad - some even made sense to me but I wasn't particularly happy being ruled by any party with the word 'national' in the title. Since getting into power they have actually done quite well, in my opinion at least, but as I said, even at the start of this year I thought a referendum was a waste of time. I wanted more powers for the Scottish Parliament definitely, but Independence just seemed so radical I never even considered it. If devo-max was on the ballot I wouldn't have even had to think about how to vote, but it's not.  

The Scottish Parliament has done some amazing things since it's creation - banning smoking in public places, legalizing gay marriage, getting rid of tuition fees for students and banning fox hunting. All these are things I feel strongly about and in many cases, we were the first part of the UK to introduce them. They aren't SNP policies in general, they are policies that the people of Scotland felt strongly about. Our parliament has shown itself to be forward thinking, to care just a little bit more than even the last Labour government did - not to mention the shocking treatment of the poor and vulnerable by the Conservatives in the last few years. I want this forward thinking to expand across the whole political spectrum, for the Scottish Parliament to have full powers over taxation, to break away from the Department of Work & Pensions, to be able to protect the NHS and keep it staffed by permanent employees.

But at the core of the issue, for me, is that I want to live in a country where I feel like I am well represented and I don't feel that way with the UK government. It doesn't particularly matter to me who is in power, I may not like the Conservative party's policies in general, but whether it is them or Labour who comes in next time makes no difference. I feel like I am better represented by the Scottish Parliament for one huge reason - our voting system. The Westminster Government is still made up with the antiquated first past the post system. This means very simply that whoever has the most votes in each constituency gets a seat, whether they have 1 or 1000 more votes than the opposition. Scotland's voting system isn't perfect - 73 seats in our parliament are still chosen by a first past the post system. But our remaining 56 MSPs are made up using a completely different system - proportional representation. These list MSPs, 7 from each of the 8 'regions' in Scotland, are chosen by the proportion of votes they get. This means that every person in Scotland has 8 MSPs who have the responsibility to represent their interests. It also means that smaller parties such as the Scottish Green Party and people who run independently have a higher chance of being elected. This system isn't fantastic but it is damn more fair than Westminster Elections and most importantly it represents me, and every person in Scotland, better. 

Gaining independence from the UK isn't a cure-all, in fact there is a good chance the Scotland will face a very difficult couple of years as we negotiate our way out the Union, develop our own government infrastructure and adjust to being a country with a population of 5 million instead of 63 million. That doesn't even cover the EU, NATO, Oil Revenues, the deficit or any of the other buzzwords politicians seem to be throwing around at the moment. Of course it is dangerous and scary, but so is life. I've let fear control me before, my anxiety getting so bad that I couldn't walk up the street to buy myself something to eat. I won't let myself be paralysed by fear now. Breaking out and learning how to cope is something I've managed before - I'm confident that with time we can do it as a country. 

This post has been very personal, and a lot longer than I had planned. I never thought I would change any minds by posting about this and I would definitely rather that the comments section didn't turn into a free-for-all. I know that this is an issue both sides feel incredibly strongly about and I have so much respect for the ordinary people involved in both sides of the campaign. I'll be going along to vote tomorrow with friends I know are voting the opposite way from me - and that's ok. The most exciting part about all of this for me is the participation. In the last Scottish election just under 2 million of the 4 million people registered to vote did, this time around 97% of the eligible population are registered, the highest it has ever been. So whichever way you want to go - if you are in Scotland, take that chance, make your voice heard! The polls are open from 7am until 10pm so really, there is no excuse. Oh, and remember, don't accidentally ruin your ballot! As much as you may want to write on it and make a statement it doesn't count if there is anything outside that little box. Put your x down and then go get yourself a wee dram of whiskey, I think we all deserve it after the media circus of the last few weeks. 

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  1. This is a beautifully written post. It makes me so happy to see so many people thoughtfully voting yes with positive reasons for doing so and holding the hope for a better future. You're completely right, nobody should let fear influence their life or their vote.

    Sorcha x Bright Field Notes

  2. Fantastic post, Alice! For me, there was never any swithering -
    Westminster has a track record of tearing apart the things which I hold
    important (free education; free healthcare; support for the most
    vulnerable in our society) and the Scottish Parliament has a track
    record of protecting those things. It was always going to be a yes vote.
    I think it's a credit to our country that so many people are prepared
    to weather a few tough years to make life fairer for everyone.

  3. I LOVE THIS! So much. times 100.

    I know there's risks, but the snp have answered as much as they can and I am happy with the answer I have found. I don't see the UK getting any better and I am quite frankly wanting out and I'll take all the risks in the book - and to create a progressive and liberal country!

    Morag x

  4. So brave to write this!! I have steered clear of it on my blog. One thing i will say is regardless of anyone's politics surely everyone agrees that the scaremongering from Westminster has been disgraceful. Scotland can and will decide without propaganda x

  5. What a well-spoken opinion :) I'm so glad you posted about it, I was totally oblivious. I hope you post on it again after some time has passed. Sending you well wishes towards it, thanks for being brave!


  6. I love this post and all of your reasons for voting yes and I couldn't agree more with you. For the past few months I've been worrying that I'm letting my Irish perspective cloud my judgment on voting yes but you've articulated all of the strands of arguments, and then some, that have been floating around in my head.
    It feels like Christmas Eve times 100 with all the anticipation :) Roll on tomorrow!


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