Escaping the babble of Westminster’s Babel – why I’m voting Yes!
Even aged 12 – Edinburgh born, living in England, Scottish Independence made sense to me. 1964 was filled with independence ceremonies: Empires were ending, countries were returning to the natural order of things –taking full responsibility for their own affairs. Why should Scotland be different?
The feeling grew when I returned to Scotland in 1970 – with the dismantling of whatever benefits the country had accrued from its involvement in the imperial adventure. Industries were demolished, skills and crafts decimated, and we were left with poor health, poor housing, and a self belief which was crumbling as fast as our economy.
People questioned the political process – however they voted, the English electorate would decide the UK government. As David Cameron remarked, the Union was ‘the most successful merger in history’ – Scotland’s assets, human and otherwise, had been annexed and used, and over time the junior partner was swallowed by the major, to the point of invisibility.
I considered politics, but my original ambition: to work in public service as a teacher, prevailed, leading to nearly 40 years as a guidance teacher and then deputy head. Instead of working to formulate policies, I worked with those who were affected by them.
Many were comfortable under the system, but I was more engaged by those who had little material wealth, even less hope, and were invisible to those in power. It’s a privilege to work in support of families and children, and to work alongside agencies such as the NHS, Social Work, and Children’s Charities. I may have been a teacher – but it was from the families and agencies with whom I worked that I received my education.
My schools were ‘national average’, demographically; I taught pupils from leafy suburbs, and those whose families were supported by “Save the Children”. I saw the effects of political decisions first hand, and witnessed the steady disillusionment of so many with the system under which they had to live. That the UK is one of the most unequal states in the developed world was made patently clear to me. Scotland, for me, is not about rocks and glens, bagpipe music, or Braveheart; Scotland is about those real brave hearts who face impossible decisions every day, who feel abandoned by the politicians who should be protecting them, and who feel powerless in a world where strength seems to be everything.
So, I’ll be voting Yes to give those people hope, to underline my belief that there can be a better way of operating, that we can have political parties in an independent Scotland who put principles and people before electoral victory; where we have politicians who will stand up for real ‘Labour’ values, not calling the Welfare State ‘the something for nothing society’; where ‘standing tall’ in the world is about how we treat our most vulnerable, rather than our stock of US controlled nuclear weapons; where our international contribution is not filtered through another State, and is to peacekeeping not warmongering; where we get the government we vote for, and where everyone feels they have a part to play.
I’ll be voting Yes to land reform – to get rid of the obscenity of 16 individuals owning 10% of Scotland’s land, and for more power devolved to the Highlands and Islands; I’ll be voting Yes to sovereignty being invested in the people rather than a political or class-ridden elite, and Yes to a country where “What’s in it for me?” is a question for the self obsessed few, rather than a policy driver for political decisions.
I’ll be voting Yes in support of new Scots and all those like my own ancestors who, in coming here as immigrants, will find in an Independent Scotland the inclusive and warm welcome which UK parties increasingly seek to deny them.
I’ll be voting Yes for my friends and family in an England which is gradually being sucked dry by a Londoncentric obsession, and who are being denied the fruits of England’s radical history in the worst sort of meritocracy. A progressive country north of the Border can inspire their struggle for a more egalitarian and inclusive country of their own.
When I vote Yes I’ll be confirming there is a better way, that people deserve a government which represents their needs and views, and signalling that the time is up for a Scotland submerged in a post colonial power which places profit above people, an illusory ‘world status’ above commitment to the most vulnerable, and promotes a ‘Britain’ based on tea towel history and bread and circuses – with not much bread. I’ll be voting Yes too for the values for which so many fell fighting in world wars, and which no longer seem to be on offer.
It won’t be the promised land,– but it will be a land where we take full responsibility and make our own progress, where government responds to the people and their needs. And, yes, my vote does represent the triumph of hope over experience, but does anyone reasonably expect such change to come about through the current system?
Scotland’s voice, the voice of its people, has been drowned out for too long, we need to free ourselves from the babble of Westminster’s Babel.
That’s why, after a lifetime of consideration, I will be proud to vote Yes.