“Independence, independence, independence”, no not a new Channel 4 property programme, but the rhetoric drummed into the Scottish electorate during the independence referendum campaign of 2014.
For me, and for many others, the ideology of Scotland functioning as a self-governing, self-sufficient nation was daunting. How could a country which has been part of one of the world’s most powerful unions for over 300 years, never having to fully rely on itself to survive, function out in the global landscape?
“What currency would we have?”, “Would we stay in the EU?” (ironic), “Are our defences strong enough?”, “What would happen with the oil?”, “Would we keep the monarchy?” The list goes on. For me, the uncertainty was simply too prevalent — why fix something that’s not broken? Like many others, I picked up my copy of the official ‘white paper’, I read up on the facts from both sides of the argument. I watched the TV debates, listened intently as Salmond faced off against Cameron and Miliband when matters such as currency and national defence were canvassed left-right-and-centre — for some reason the facts just weren’t enough. I can’t speak on the behalf of the remainder of the electorate, but for me, the messages coming from the Better Together camp were just too pressing.
For starters, the knowledge of having a strong and stable government (it resurfaces yet again) behind Scotland’s back was comforting. Rumours of a hard border with England came into circulation, as well as physical and financial barriers for businesses and industries. Images of potential toll booths came to mind— border controls, passport checks, the lot. As far as the opinion polls were concerned, both sides of the argument increased their support through the months leading up to the vote, with the yes argument noticeably strengthening through the month of August which allowed the gap to narrow.
Coming from a family of both Yes and No voters, it was considerably difficult to make an informed choice about the future of our country as a newly enfranchised 16-year-old, with voices from either side trying to sway your judgement. At the time, my constituency was the only Conservative seat in Scotland, which ended up having the third largest share of the No vote in the country. This, in itself, made it very hard for Yes voices to come through. A bourgeois area, dominated by agriculture and conventional opinions; hardly an environment for the Yes campaign to thrive.
When it came to the arguments against independence, I for one, was apprehensive when unforeseeable projections were laid out. Many of the arguments relied heavily on estimation and assumption — a lack of legitimate evidence—echoed by the Better Together campaign. We were also explicitly told that by voting Yes, we would be effectively removing ourselves from the European Union, only now can we see how inaccurate that argument was.
So why the change of heart?
Since the vote in 2014, my support for the Yes campaign has only grown. Much of this support came following Nicola Sturgeon’s assumption to office in the latter half of the year, who brought a fresh image to the Scottish National Party. At this moment in time, I see no prosperous future for Scotland within the United Kingdom. A damaged union headed by a weak minority government set to make their departure from the EU, hardly the picture of Britain painted by the so called ‘Better Together’ campaign. The very party who, at one time, criticised the SNP for “relying on unknowable future circumstances” is now the very party removing the country from the world’s biggest customs union without an ounce of a plan.
Left with nothing but more ‘token gesture’ powers for Holyrood, Scotland remains in the same situation it has been in since devolution began in 1997. Being ruled by a government we did not vote for, propped up by a Northern Irish party we couldn’t vote for, and removed from the EU against our will, what reasons have we to stay in the union? Why must we be at the will of a centralised government to make our decisions for us?
Although the SNP effectively lost 21 of their Westminster constituencies in the 2017 General Election, I do not believe the support for independence is “dead”. Along with the other devolved nations of Britain, the support for independence is always there. Yes, Brexit is a pressing issue and should be a priority of the SNP at this time, however an attempt to block a vote on Scottish independence at the end of the process would be both unlawful and undemocratic.
If Scotland wants another chance to vote on our future, let us. If we vote no, we vote no — but I’m voting yes.