reflections on the referendum

I have kept quiet about the Scottish referendum so far. But now that the result is out, I can confirm that I am happy but slightly uncomfortable.

So why did I keep quiet about it? As a Scot living in England I did not have a vote yesterday. And I believe this is entirely right. While I would have liked a say, I gave my right to a say over the administrative running of Scotland when I chose to live in England. And although a ‘yes’ vote would have had an impact on my life, this would not be as significant an impact as on those currently living in Scotland. To assign votes on bloodlines would have been not just difficult but genetically ‘dodgy’, and on birthplace may have excluded some Scottish residents, for whom the outcome was clearly more important.

Moreover, as a rational human being, born and bred in Scotland, living in the very southern most southerly area of England, I did not want to look too deeply into the arguments for or against, for fear of becoming rather bitter at my lack of vote. And I therefore did not want to ‘lecture’ on my own particular views given that they were just that – my own views. (Not that lack of information, dubious origins of personal views, lack of intelligence or lack of any sort of forward thinking plan prevented politicians, Scottish citizens, Scottish residents and every other facebooking, twittering, blogging numpty from spewing forth their own particular diatribe). But hey, I like to think I’m different.

Why am I happy? Personally I dislike nationalism. Being proud of your ancestry is one thing; drawing on a mutual dislike of an ‘other’ is to me another altogether. I also see no need for a nation to be state based. Borders cause wars: in today’s globalised world we should be taking borders down, not reinstating state borders that have existed quite happily as administrative, accent lines for several hundred years. If world peace is achievable, it will be through global governance and international cooperation that it is achieved. Not through inward focussed nationalist sentiment. No good comes of borders and Scotland has proved over the centuries that national determination can exist without statehood.

Why am I uncomfortable? 1. Scotland might not be the most cohesive nation: a) it is divided along religious lines – I have heard that the ugly orange face of sectarianism has reared its head more than once during this debate; b) it is divided along class lines – what school did you go to? is a political minefield in itself which can reveal both of the aforementioned unmentionables. But Scotland has always been united around being Scottish, and now I feel that 45% of the population is looking at the other 55% and accusing them of being un-scottish. 2. It raises questions about the quality of our democratic legislation – the referendum itself was a surprising 50% majority vote – most global institutions would require a two thirds turn-out and two thirds majority to change. Scotland could wiggle its way out of one of the greatest Global Institutions of all time, the UK, with only a simple majority. 3. Not only have the coalition government have proved themselves to be useless (not surprising at all really) and sent ex-politicians and opposition politicians north to speak on their behalf, but Westminster has shown itself to be incapable of governing over the whole of the (not very) United Kingdom. 3. Following a NO vote, the major parties are all promising to stand by their late-in-the-day pledges to increase devolved powers, excuse me, but what part of NO do they not understand? What about the 55% of the population who thought they were voting for the status quo to be maintained? Are they just trying to get rid of Scotland now?

So why am I writing this? On a personal level, my children speak with a Kent accent and are therefore part of the ‘other’. I don’t fancy becoming a foreigner, a migrant worker, an immigrant, one of the daily mail’s refugees in a country I have always thought of as much mine as Scotland. Perhaps the other side of my ancestry shines through here – a fear of nationalism, a distrust of those who wish to separate you from those you see as countrymen, a tick in the undisclosed box under ethnic origin. What happens now will be interesting; change is definitely coming. But at least what happens now will happen without stronger borders, because, really, who needs that.


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