Politics Next

Following the disappointing result on Friday (if, like me, you fancied an Independent Scotland) there has been a vast amount of reaction from all ends of the spectrum. I knew that defeat was a very real option (see If It Is A No) but I still had a little glimmer of hope that I had backed the winning side. Of course, we know now that I hadn't, but my city, the one I voted in, voted Yes which was nice to see. It also had the lowest turn out too, which confused a lot of people. It amazes me actually that with a 85% turn out nationwide, there was 15% who didn't care to vote (who were registered, of course), but in my city, 1 in 4 didn't turn up to vote, which blows my mind. The most important decision in my political life time, and some of those folk just didn't vote.

I conceded defeat at 5.46am, just before I got up to go to work with a simple tweet.

I then followed that simple tweet with a few more that were less flippant and more confused and disappointed, before tweeting:

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I realised shortly afterwards that that tweet said more than just a throwing in the hands in the air with despair that had created it. It spoke to the core of my politics, which were prior to the IndyRef at an all time low and basically non-existent. I don't mean my internal politics, the ones that make me feel and think about the world and the country I live in, but my engagement with the people and processes that govern us and those that we vote in.

The last time I voted was earlier this year in the European Elections - those disconnected "I don't even know what we are voting for" elections that even after I tried to explain to Connie what they were (and failing), I read up about them (and decided who I was voting for) and even then I still didn't quite understand the system in which I was voting, or how it was going to run down. 

I remember being similarly disconnected from the first time I voted, back in the 2005 General Election, when I didn't know who I was voting for, and didn't read too much about it. It felt like a bewilderingly nonsensical approach to the way the country should be run, and I failed to see how me and my vote could make a difference. The thing that energised me and many other voters in the IndyRef was that it was pretty explicit the two options. There was no middle ground, beyond not voting.

That, and there was something to "play for" - you were either going to be lead down the path one way or the other, and a good chunk of Scotland was going to be annoyed. That is the paradox of democracy - if I believe that the majority should get their way, how can I be annoyed when the majority vote against my own views and win? It is a difficult one to stomach, and one that "Yessers" all over Scotland have been having to deal with since Friday morning.

One thing that has been particularly hard to stomach is the feeling that the IndyRef was hard done by, even if you think that it might have been a fair fight. One statistic that was intersting was that the older voters, the above 55s, voted resoundingly as Nos, when the younger voters voted as Yeses. This lead to some saying the younger voters are less wise and more optimistic (imagine being that arrogant and that dismissive) or that the older voters were scared into thinking their pensions were in danger (which is a legitimate worry, if it weren't for the fact that it was a blatant lie by the No campaign). The ins and outs of the two sides and the campaigns will make for a wonderful study project for students in the future, that's for sure.

The reaction to the vote amongst my friends was varied too - one No voter actually said "Ya fucking dancer!", whilst others were quietly defensive about their choice to vote either Yes or No. In the days that followed, others that had voted No with the promise of more devolution and reform in the back of their minds felt dismayed at the lack of process and the bending of the promises made. The resignation of Salmond was celebrated by a select few who thought he was the head of the Yes campaign, and bemoaned by a few others who mourned the loss of a true politician that was principled and steadfast.

One thing it is clear that has survived is the engagement in the country. I have constant re-tweets, shares and posts still appearing on my social media feeds with folk paying close attention to the way the Westminster Parties are negotiating the next few days. A General Election is there to be won (or lost) and the little speed-bump of the IndyRef has been negotiated successfully. The problem is that something changed in Scotland, and something also changed in the rest of the UK too.

The main parties have backed themselves into a corner that might not be easy to get out of - for the Conservatives, they have said they'll give Scotland further powers as long as England gets them too, which is fair. However, that gives Cameron the power to delay the Scottish changes which isn't what was promised (rightly or wrongly). Milliband has an even bigger issue - he said that Scotland should get extra powers, but disagrees that England should be able to stop Scottish MPs voting on their policies. This is an untenable position, and he's pretty fucked - either he refuses let England decide on their own reform and face a backlash there, block the Scottish powers entirely too and face an even bigger backlash, or agree to Cameron's  proposals and lose the Scottish MPs at Westminster, Labour's big powerplay, and probably the only reason that he was against Scottish independence in the first place.

And that's before you even consider that some die-hard Labour voters that I know of are never voting them again due to their alliance with the Tories, their lies about the NHS (last week it was the NHS is safe if you vote No, and now it's We'll Save the NHS, and generally the fact that the party doesn't stand for what it originally stood for.

On Wednesday the 17th last week...

On Wednesday the 17th last week...

...and then Monday the 22nd.

...and then Monday the 22nd.

As Harold Wilson said, a week is a long time in politics. Maybe not in the memories of Scottish voters, mind.

The point I'd make, to wrap this wash-up post, is that the electorate have changed, in my eyes. I still have politics being discussed in my WhatsApp chats, five days after the vote, amongst people who said before hand that they were "going to be glad when it is over". The Scottish people, the 45% of the population that voted for Independence are going to be watching the UK system like hawks, and the 55% who voted for either the Status Quo or the furthering of devolution, will also be paying close attention.

The UK is going to change. It feels like it has to. If the Westminster parties renege on their promises, the SNP will probably go to the Scottish elections on the mandate of a second referendum following their broken promises. 

As for me, I am considering joining the Scottish Green Party, because they align with my own personal politics very closely.

Scottish Independence Part II - Why I Am Voting Yes

I've read a lot of Why I Am Voting Yes posts (naturally, as some one who was undecided until recently) as I sought out either a killer reason to vote Yes or a killer reason to vote No. It has made me realise that the most important thing is the main reason you're voting yes or no.

If your main reason is because you like Salmond - you're making a mistake. If it is because you dislike David Cameron you're also making a mistake. It also doesn't make sense to read each independent reason on it's own because that can easily be taken apart via nit-picking. You need to make sure that your main reason, your motivation, is solid - the rest can follow through.

This realisation came when I decided that the vote for Independence wasn't for Scotland being it's own country necessarily. That sounds crazy, but if you've lived in the UK for any length of time you'll understand that quantum nature of the nations that make up the UK - we are both countries on our own and also not at all, being just one part of a larger nation. That confuses many, and many might even disagree with it, but I think it's the best way to describe how I feel Scotland is - it's a country on it's own, and it's also not.

The vote is actually about self-governance. I believe I am Scottish despite actually being British, despite your definitions of nationality. So to make Scotland on it's own is not that important to me - what is important is that we get to be in control of our own affairs. This means becoming independent - it means becoming a nation on it's own. 

The question is actually Do You Think Scotland Should Be Able to Self Govern? and the answer to that should be for everyone a Yes. We should - the democracy we have at the moment isn't very fair, not to my eyes, and it certainly isn't fair to the rest of the UK either. Why should Scotland be able to control certain parts of it's finances and healthcare, where Newcastle is set about by the same rules and changes that affect the rest of England? That is for a different post, of course.

Instead, I am voting Yes to make Scotland fairer so that we can enact change that we want. I know that we might not get the governments that I personally vote for, but that's the point isn't it? The rest of Scotland would have voted for them, not swayed by elections of other folk in England or Wales - a true representative Scottish parliament in control of everything we do voted for entirely by the people that they work for. We'd be accountable for our failures and our successes, which is the entire point.

There are other implications, so here we go - the usual run down of the other reasons. These have been considerations I have ratified over several months of discussion.

- Oil

The big one here - there is no doubt it's going to run out, and there is also no doubt that it's dwindling. But the thing is that for the short 30 to 60 years we still have left it would be ours. We'd save the money we make and use it to fund the future. Norway, or neighbours on the North Sea and in oil, have saved $500 billion since 1990 and in the 1990s the price of oil was 1/5th of the price it is now. We can use that oil revenue, however it goes, to better our country, and to suggest otherwise is a nonsense.

- NHS

We control the NHS spending in Scotland already (and have done since it's inception, actually) but we don't control the funding of it - the money allocated to us is limited by what the rest of the UK spends on it which is a big problem, seeing as spending on the NHS in England and Wales is in decline (despite what many people are saying).  To make sure it's safe we need to have complete control over it, and at the moment we don't, and that actually terrifies me.

- Defence

We don't need an army. We don't need Trident. We certainly don't need to spend billions on it. We will be members of NATO and the UN (even if it takes time) which means we will be as safe as we are now, and you could even say we could be safer, being able to control what wars we do or don't get involved with and what countries we do or don't piss off. 

- Nationality

This one was the final point that I had to reconcile and it's because Connie and I are currently in the progress of becoming a UK citizen. It would mean that she could, in theory, be a triple nationality in the future, as would Joni - she'd have the UK nationality by birth, become a Scottish citizen in 2016 (in the case of a Yes vote) and then she'd also be a Canadian (her birth right). However, this fluidity makes me less worried actually, because it shows that it doesn't really matter in reality.

- Currency

No need to write too much about this one; iScotland will be using the pound no matter what the rUK suggest. Either in a currency union or as a transferable currency. This actually boils down to getting our fair share of something that is as much ours as it is England's, Wales', or Northern Ireland's - we deserve to have our share of the Sterling. Calling it the Bank of England has always been a bit of a misnomer in recent years, but the important thing is that if we don't get the Union of Currency (and the power and safety that that gives us) we have no reason to take on the debt. 

- England, Wales and Northern Ireland

The rest of the UK should be watching with envy, not annoyance, because we are getting to do something that they too should be getting to do - to work towards a better UK. A friend of mine stated that he'd prefer it to be a No, with better powers, and then help the rest of the UK to build a better government and system. I agree - but that's more fantastical than the Scottish Independence. Why? That because of the institutions that it upholds - a class system, an unelected representative system, systems that are outdated by even the democratic voting on the X Factor. The strange thing is that Scotland going alone would be better as a blue print for major reform in Westminster. Imagine we did it, and it worked - what is to stop Wales, Northern Ireland... or even "The North" doing the same?

- Tax

Imagine being in control of tax. We'd be able to raise taxes if we needed to, cut them where we felt the should be cut, and then use the funds exactly as we want to. The new powers being offered in the Scotland Act 2012 allow us to raise the taxes but only at the same rate for every band of tax. Want to raise the top level of tax? You have to raise the bottom level of tax too, which is mental. Don't be fooled by the Devo Max options - they are giving us just enough rope with which to hang ourselves. But that, too, is for another post.

There are loads of other small points, but this post is already massive and meandering - I'm voting yes to give us control of our nation to make it more fair and secure place for the future. Our future in our hands, to coin a phrase.

Scottish Independence Part I - A Long Road to Change

Here's the thing - when the IndyRef was announced I was dead against it. I hated the idea that the Scottish government had legislated for it and that there was going to be a vote. That knee jerk reaction changed to an understanding of the need for a vote, but still dead against the idea of an independent Scotland, dead against the end of the UK that I knew and back then I wanted to remain.

Notice the past tense. Since about June I have been pretty set on voting Yes for Scottish Independence. This hasn't been an easy or a quick decision - indeed, quite the opposite. In the next five days I am going to post several posts ranging from my thoughts on the No campaign to the reasons why I am voting Yes. 

But first, here's a post about my road to Yes.

The first place I'd start is in 2009 where I rather amazingly posted this titled "Being Scottish. Is It Shite?" where-in I ridiculed the idea of independence because we are a bit of a "shite" nation, and also was worried about a few things. I wrote some amazing sentences in that post: (and I lift directly) "We are a nation hurtling towards the brainwashed masses voting us out a Union with England and Wales that could ruin everything for all countries involved." and I went even further with "[independence]...is a car crash in slow motion, hurtling towards a long, expensive and pointless program of devolution and independence. Why should we think that we can pull out of the Union when if anything we have been the ones who a benefited most from it?".

Ahem.

Okay, so I have changed my mind. The advantage of this blog having existed for so long is that I can pull back from five years ago and know that at that point in time that was my true feelings. That's what I thought, and for better or worse, that's what I wrote. Am I now having to eat those words? In a way, yes. But I am not apologising for writing them. Actually, here's the things - that last part of the second quote is interesting; it qualifies something - at that point I thought we were getting the better deal. I thought that the traffic went in one way - to us, and we benefited greatly from the Union. This is a key point - because I don't think so any more.

It was around 2010 I think when walking down Buchanan St a friend, his boyfriend and I scoffed at the idea of iScotland. It was then when I truly remember realising with alarm at the idea of Scotland going it alone. I had in my head an idea - one that seemed to suggest that Scotland was doing a bad job. I believed that the SNP government were not doing things correctly. Then several things started to happen.

The first was that I realised that this wasn't about the SNP. This happened shortly after my return to Aberdeen after living in Texas. The second was that the UK Government started to mess with things that they shouldn't be messing with - the NHS, Royal Mail, benefits, and tax. I dislike the conservatives a lot, but anyone who votes either way because of party lines is making a grave mistake. This is bigger than that.

It wasn't until I was describing the current set up to a Canadian that I realised how nonsense it actually is. The Scottish parliament, Westminster, the House of Lord (that bit especially, actually)... it all really doesn't make any sense any more.

We pay our taxes, and they go to Westminster (or Whitehall, a turd is still a turd by any other name) and then they decide how much we get back. We get to spend what they give us in anyway we want on certain things. That isn't the right way it should be. Devolution was a way to give us powers to govern things that needed to governed in Scotland, like health and education, and in my mind we've done a very good job with them. But we are still at the mercy of the Barnet Formula, which is a pretty unfair way to work out our budget for both Scotland, and the rest of the UK.

Additionally, I realised that the question being asked wasn't about "What Ifs" like the No have been suggesting - instead, it should be "Imagine If" - imagine if we had control over everything. Imagine if we voted for the and got our government. Imagine if we could take all the oil income and spend it on us rather than splitting it across the rest of the UK?

There are a lot of great reasons to vote yes, but the one that clinched it for me (shortly after I posted this speculative post titled "Yes?" in February) was why notSeriously - why not? Why not have a go? All of this fear peddled by the No side is because they're the ones scared. The vote was given as an appeasement to silence us - instead it has actually given us a voice... and we're starting to shout.

Later this week I'll explain why I think that even a No vote will change everything in the UK, and not just for Scotland, but in the meantime my journey from a dead-cert No to a optimistic Yes is almost at an end. Yes, I love England. I liked Northern Ireland. I've got nothing against Wales. Yes, my sister lives in the Lake District. Yes, the Union has worked, but it's not working now.

Time to change it up. Time to grow up. Time to take a chance.