Quarto ato: Voting Yes


Philip Burton, PhD candidate at Manchester University

Researching International Organizations and its modern concepts

  I’m voting Yes because I want Scotland to take responsibility. I’ve grown up in a country where there is always someone else to blame and I want that to stop. I’ve grown up in a country where political conversations fall on deaf ears and I’ve grown frustrated. Over the past two years, since the announcement of the referendum on Scottish Independence, I’ve been witness to a country rousing itself from a slumber – I’ve watched my country grow up. 97% of people eligible to vote in Scotland have registered to do so in the referendum. If the sun shines on Thursday as many as 90% of them may turn out to vote. This is democracy on a scale which has not been seen in the UK for 50 years. On the eve of the referendum, with the polling too close to call, I would like to share the reasons I’m voting Yes. I’m voting Yes because I think small is beautiful. One of the major claims of the Unionist movement is that together we are strong, together we are powerful. Well, I don’t want that. I think strength leads to complacency, I think power corrupts. A strong state does not need to listen to those who disagree, a powerful state does not need to build compromise across society. Strength and power are futile in the face of alienation and I think alienation poses the greatest risk to our way of life. I prefer small, and sensitive. Clearly power and strength are useful in terms of protecting material wealth but I believe that in an open, engaged society less can be made to go further. Across Europe the highest ranked states in the human development index are small. I like human development. There are a lot of arguments against independence and many are unanswerable. I think independence certainly means embracing a lot of uncertainty, but one thing that I am certain about is that the future does tend to be uncertain. In many cases, the ferocity of the claims made against independence make me wonder how it’s possible for any small nation to exist, let alone thrive. But while I go on wondering, small states go on thriving. To take one example, we are told that all the banks will leave Scotland if it becomes independent leaving us without a key source of revenue. Once they have left and inevitably fail, bailing them out will bankrupt us. This doublespeak is pervasive in a debate where all the major UK political parties and all the major UK news-outlets maintain a united front for the Union. To their staff, the major financial institutions say they have no plans to move operations (jobs) but will move headquarters (liability when things go wrong). This is not meant to undermine the seriousness of the challenges that lie ahead. This is not meant to convey an uncritical belief that the grass will be greener with a border in between. Choices must be made. Independence will mean making a trade-off between a progressive and inclusive immigration policy and keeping border control as flexible as possible. It will involve striking a balance between removing nuclear weapons from Scotland and maintaining defence jobs which play an important role in our economy. Independence will involve accepting that the fruits of change may take a generation to ripen. Many people living in Scotland today will not live to see the benefits and I doubt if I’d have the courage to risk a lifetimes worth of personal investment in a state, in a society, on the chance of a better one. But, in an independent society hard decisions must be made. I believe these few are far outnumbered by the young Scots, the unborn Scots, the Scots who live far away and do not yet know its name, but will one day call Scotland home. I don’t believe a vote for an independent Scotland is the same as nationalism. My vote is not for isolation. Nor do I think Scotland should be independent because its people are somehow different from those I’ve met from the rest of the United Kingdom, Europe or indeed the world. It is partly because of this innate similarity between human beings that I am unhappy that we do not possess a written constitution which defines the relationship between citizen and state (one of four states globally) and elect our government by the so-called ‘first-past-the-post’ system which disregards proportionality and renders millions of votes meaningless (the only country in Europe to do so). I also am unhappy because I don’t think either of these systems is fair. And I don’t think that the people of England, Wales or Northern Ireland deserve these institutions any more than Scots do. Despite this, over history the apparatus of British governance has demonstrated itself to be extremely good at two things: ruling an empire and resisting change. I don’t think either of these is a virtue. A Union only in name, an Empire confined to its shores; I do not hold any great hope for change to be achieved from the inside. I believe that a vote for independence is a vote for greater connections with the wider world and could serve as a catalyst for change from the complacent, ’island’ mentality which envelopes Britain presently. I believe that fewer certainties at home will lead to us placing greater faith in the international. I believe this because as a Scot, a Brit, a European and a human I can see as clearly as any that identity is never absolute, nor is it ever the answer. And because identity is never the answer and because so much is yet to be resolved, there is a lot to be afraid of. Anyone who says otherwise is daft. But, this is how it should be – independence is not a destination, it is not a promised land. Independence is waking up each day and making the world we want to live in each day and taking responsibility for our actions each day. This is a terrifying prospect and my respect for those who wish to preserve the unity, security and traditions of our present state remains undiminished. But, if you don’t feel afraid when you think of your place in the great project that is the human race, you’re probably doing it wrong.

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