This September, the people of Scotland will vote in a referendum to decide if we should leave the United Kingdom, and become an independent country. There are many questions about what would happen to Scotland and the rest of the UK (rUK) in the event of a Yes vote. Questions that nobody can definitively answer. I expect I will vote Yes, in favour of independence.
While visiting London over the past couple of years, I've had several conversations about the referendum with colleagues and acquaintances. Since having these conversations, I've found it's easier to articulate what my vote will not be about, than what it will. Below is a list of what my vote will not be about.
As far as I'm concerned, the vote is a political one. That the legalities of independence involve dissolving an agreement made in 1707, and that Scotland happens to have border at all, is more or less a convenient coincidence. The border could be moved a few miles north or south. Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester would all be welcome. The new country could have a new name, a new flag, a new national anthem, I wouldn't really mind. What matters are those people who make up the society, wherever we're from, and what we do with our new found self-determination. As much as I cheer on (or commiserate over) the Scottish football team, nationalism and patriotism as ideas seem a bit silly to me.
My vote will not be about romantic notions of bagpipes; thistles; whisky, or Rabbie Burns.
I will not be voting because I dislike English people, or to rid Scotland of the Auld Enemy. Nor will I be consumed with a sense of vengeance for injustices or oppression that happened hundreds of years ago, whether given the Hollywood history-distorting treatment or not. Over 400,000 thousand English people currently live in Scotland. They're more than welcome. They'll be eligible to vote in the referendum. That's a good thing. I dislike the way the south of England votes, that's entirely different from disliking English people.
My vote will not be about anti-English sentiment.
I don't have especially strong feelings about Alex Salmond. Which is rather fortunate, since the referendum is not about voting for Alex Salmond, or the Scottish National Party. In the result of a Yes vote, about six weeks after the transition is complete, there will be a Scottish general election to vote on the first government of an independent Scotland. I might vote for the Labour Party, the Scottish Green Party or The Pirate Party. Maybe the Conservatives, as a protest vote, or to be ironic. The point is that our choice in independence is separate and distinct from the choice of government that will follow.
My vote will not be about Alex Salmond.
As prime minister, Margaret Thatcher became a figure of hatred for the working class, and after introducing the Poll Tax, for the Scottish working class particularly. Some of the hatred is deserved, some of it is misdirected. As the opposition leader, she battled against the first referendum for Scottish devolution back in 1976. Perhaps I do enjoy the thought of the Milk Snatcher spinning in her grave after Scotland finally “wins one”. But that's a petty mindset, and I choose to think in more positive terms. She's dead, how she felt about Scottish independence is irrelevant. What's more relevant is that I can hear faint echoes her cruelty in what the Conservatives are enacting today. When it comes to marking a ballot: don't hate the politician, hate the policies.
My vote will not be about Maggie Thatcher.
If you're left-leaning and live in the rUK, you may have been told that Scottish independence, and the resultant Labour seats that will be lost, will forever consign you to Tory rule. You're perhaps hoping that your Scottish comrades will show you compassion, stick around and spare you from endless Conservative governments. That theory has been debunked. Although for a long time Scotland has contributed way more Labour than Conservative MPs to the House of Commons, those seats very rarely cause a change in government. In the few cases where Scottish seats made the difference, the governments that formed didn't last. As a general rule, the party that rUK votes for is the party that Scotland gets. rUK is quite capable of electing a non-Tory government.
My vote will not be about preventing Tory rule.
There's an oft-repeated ping-pong match in independence debates: “The UK subsidises Scotland!” one side volleys, “No, Scotland puts in more than it gets back!”, the other side returns (usually citing hypothetical oil revenue). The argument that's picked is the argument that supports whatever point the person is trying to make. Lies and statistics and all that. I tend to split the difference and assume that we get back in spending what we put in, and if there's a difference, it won't be big enough to matter in the long run. That is also to say, we're self-sufficient, and would continue to be under independence. We appear to be able to support ourselves, and even if we're worse off, I am prepared for me and my family to be poorer in the pursuit of a fairer society.
My vote will not be about subsidies, from oil or anywhere else.
Scotland has it's problems. A worse health record than the rest of the UK, and lower life expectancy, than most of Europe. We have our share of social issues, such as sectarianism and alcoholism, that conspire together in such a horrendous way that the reports of domestic abuse dramatically increase in the evening following Celtic playing Rangers in a game of football. Scotland is not a socialist paradise that is besmirched only by the influence of a Thatcherite Westminster. Our current devolved parliament is not magically immune to bureaucracy and corruption. Voting for independence will not solve these and the many other challenges that Scotland faces. Independence is not the silver bullet, but I believe that in governing ourselves, we are better placed to tackle those challenges. For me, independence is merely a step in the right direction.
My vote will not be about thinking independence magically solves everything.
Hopefully I've given an insight into part of the thought process behind deciding which way to vote in September. While I work on articulating what my vote will be about, at least I can share what it won't be about.
Graham "Grundlefleck" Allan is a Software Developer living in Scotland. His only credentials as an authority on software are that he has a beard. Most of the time.