I live in Scotland. I am close enough to be ethnically and culturally Scottish. I speak and I have everyone confused as I don’t sound like a Scottish person…except sometimes…certain words…anyway!
Scotland is my home.
It was an amazing place to be in during the Independence campaign. I had seriously started to believe that politics was an idea of our ancestors. Something still practiced among the elite, southern folk, but it’s not for us Northerners.
Growing up, other than knowing that Maggie Thatcher was responsible for ALL the problems in the North before I even knew what her government was, politics was never discussed. It was something that just happened. Elections? Yeah I guess I was aware of them. I never remember any family member voting or talking about voting. There was occasionally that BNP car that would drive around honking with UK flags attached to the car…but they were never acknowledged.
My basic understanding was that everyone in the North voted Labour and the really rich people voted Tory.
So when the Scottish Independence campaign began, it was like nothing my generation had ever experienced before, except perhaps with early Blairism in the 90s but again nothing we could have been involved with.
It swept the country. People from across all demographics, working, middle, upper class, young school kids to pensioners, central Edinburgh to Orkney.
But of course, as most of you will know, the Yes Campaign lost.
Most will agree it lost due to Fear.
There is obvious fear. Fear of the potential dangers like loosing your pension, loosing current benefits having an already precarious economy worsen, the stuff that Tories and Labour essentially exploited in the name of Fear as a method to win the campaign.
But it seems to run deeper than that.
I went along to our local politics office. It’s a little cafe, where volunteers run group discussions focused around the SNP and Yes campaign and the local area in general. This particular night Lesley Riddoch was giving a talk about her book Blossom. I hadn’t read the book but heard good things about it.
It was a fantastic evening discussing aspects of Scottish society I had yet to consider. These were just normal folk. People like my parents, people our age, pensioners. A regular cross section of society. And they were engaged. The Independence campaign may have lost but it has left an indelible mark upon the people of Scotland.
I obviously went out and bought Blossom, which I am still currently in the process of reading. But what has struck me, during the discussion and reading the book, is this idea of Fear. Fear more deep rooted than I had originally thought. Lesley talks about the Scottish people being afraid to govern themselves. Of not trusting themselves and therefore not their own government to have complete control over the goings on and direction of the country. It’s almost as though all those “funny” cultural stereotypes have sunk into the very soul of the Scottish Population and they have come to believe they are true of themselves. What I think is interesting actually about the Huff Post article is that the author comments on the patriotic character of the Scots comparably to the English. Which is interesting, as for all they may be patriotic they still don’t think they can run their own country. Some may disagree with this comment, stating that it is not fear of being on their own but rather preference of being together as one nation that decided the outcome. You only need to type into google some brief searches to find this isn’t exactly a fair deal.
Fear. Fear for me makes sense. It makes sense on a personal level as in uncertainty of how a change in a political regime will affect your own life, then also on a cultural level; Scotland hasn’t been in charge of it’s own people since…well you could say the Union in the 1700s but really it’s been the 1600s when Scotland and England shared a king. So without splitting hairs you’re talking about 400 years in which “other” people have made all the major decisions.
400 years ago. The first line of this article really tells you all you need to know for context.
Our version of society was unimaginable then just as their society is unfathomable to us. We have no recent comparison to refer to. No familiar evidence to look to to show us we can do it on our own. Lesley Riccoh does an amazing comparison between Scotland and the Nordic countries. However this is new, people are only just looking to our Northern neighbours for inspiration…except in Orkney…I think they’d rather be classed as Nordic anyway!
Now I want to come to my main reason for writing this blog. What I want from my country.
I want to live in a country that:
Has free Education to degree level.
Has free medical services and medications.
Looks after the young, disabled and elderly both with financial and community support.
Doesn’t just promote but actively lives the healthier lifestyle i.e. taxes on sugar, fast food, alcohol, tobacco raised.
Support to Scottish businesses and to encourage consumption of locally grown food, and locally made products.
Legalises and promotes alternative medicines such as marijuana and eastern style therapies.
Enforces corporation tax.
Enforces equal pay.
Enforces a minimum living wage.
Devolves power down to a local level for relevant matters.
Local authorities sizes cut down. This is something Lesley Riddoch opened my eyes to. Our local authorities sit at around 140,000 comparatively to Europes average of 14,000, which is just mind blowing.
Has equal rights for all, who aren’t in violation of the Human Rights act (I’m referring to Sharia Law). Including marriages, job opportunities, religious freedom, etc.
Looks after it’s country. Strong environmental laws to combat global warming and also ensure our future is greener.
More Libraries…everywhere…even if it’s library vans.
Promotion of Home/Land Ownership. If you own it you take better care of it and you are more invested in the area.
That’s enough to be getting on with for now I imagine. Essentially my ideal country would tick these boxes plus many more.
Scotland has the ability to become this country. I believe it would be more successful independent of the UK union but it can make a start.
Where ever you live, I strongly urge you to become more involved with grass roots politics.
It’s our lives, our country, our right to have a say in how it is being run. Democracy may have come a long way since it’s initial conception and most days I don’t believe it is still a democracy but for all intents and purposes it is, so lets use it!
If we get it wrong, we will learn from our own mistakes. No-one can do it for you.