This was the first thing I ever wrote that wasn’t immediately thrown in the bin.
It was written last year for AnyVoice.co.uk, a site which is sadly no longer being updated. It’s a bit long (a bit!) but I had a lot to get off my chest at the time.
If I had to classify my own identity then I guess it would be as an English Scot. Back when I lived in England I used to class myself as British (please, don’t shoot me yet) because I didn’t like how the ‘English’ identity had been appropriated by flag-waving right-wing groups. I’m not sure if this will be an “English point of view” on the referendum, but it’s mine.
Nearly three years ago I moved to Glasgow. I knew the referendum was coming and we had joked that we would move before the border came up and claiming asylum from a future Tory government was required. Looking back it was shocking how little of it had been reported in the news, like it wasn’t a big deal, some small trivial matter happening in the provinces the same way the Holyrood elections were treated.
Unlike most Scots, I never had a “journey to Yes”. It seemed obvious to me that Scotland could – and probably should – be an independent country. My father may have lived in England for most of his life but he always classed himself as a Scot – well a Fifer – first and foremost. Hey, he’s not perfect.
He was never a nationalist but he taught me to be proud of my Scottish heritage. He worked shifts in a factory and so many of my childhood memories of him are us watching the television where he’d be commenting on films saying “he’s a Scot” or “Scotsman invented/discovered that” or “that was built in Scotland”.
Being half Scottish was something to be proud of, I had the opposite of ‘the Cringe’. Then, as I reach adulthood, it was mainly my unusual (maiden) name that brought attention to my parentage. Being called a mongrel thankfully didn’t happen often, and was always described as “banter”.
We moved up to Glasgow in October 2012 and the referendum debate was warming up. I’d always classed myself as being political but being stuck in rural England meant I hadn’t really had the opportunity to do much apart from student demos and boring my work colleagues over various campaigns.
But now we were in Glasgow. Glasgow, Red Clydesiders, the old workshop of the empire. There was so much going on during the referendum campaign that we threw ourselves into it; stalls at the weekend, going to talks by Common Weal, Women for Independence, KILTR. And reading, lots of reading, so many websites and blogs, trying to cram in that one extra fact that could convince someone to change their vote. I have never felt so clued up on such a variety of topics, and the Wee Blue Book from Wings Over Scotland was a godsend because I was close to having my brains oozing out my ears with the amount of stuff that was going on.
All this research had convinced me that I had made the right choice, which the only positive case for the union was in Westminster and SE England’s favour, nothing for Scotland. “Pool and share” seemed to only work one way. I’d hear people say that it would mean abandoning northern England & Wales to the Tories but since when was it Scotland’s job to sacrifice its dreams to save other countries from themselves? I felt that Scotland could show the rest of the UK the ways in which Westminster was flawed and that there were viable, tangible, achievable alternatives to Tories or red Tory late. I don’t know how it was in the rest of the country but last summer was one of the most positive experiences I’ve ever had.
It really did feel like it could happen. Who knew at the time that staunch Labour Glasgow would be a Yes bubble? I honestly felt that the attitude here had to be reflected everywhere else, because we were a unionist heartland. I can see how sometimes it must have seemed like a cult to an outsider, especially as we tended to be so very happy.
Arguing for something you believe in, a better future, combined with the belief that change can happen is an uplifting experience. And I’m not even that much of a positive person; I do have my cynical moments, they’re usually when I’m awake. I grieve for the opportunity we’ve lost to start afresh in Scotland, in this place I now call home. I never saw an independent Scotland as a place where the people would just say to Holyrood “Aye, you just carry on”.
To me an independent Scotland would have a vocal population pressing for change and equality, with a diverse range of Scottish parties and pressure groups. As I look back on the week before the vote, the frantic but joyful atmosphere, the electricity of George Square on the 17th, I remember losing count of how many times I was embraced and declared a ‘true Scot’. I’ve never experienced any anti-English sentiment here. I was welcomed. I was made to feel like this was my home, my country.
On the 18th, I swear I bounced into the polling booth. I could not wait to vote and, judging by the queues, everyone else felt the same. Then came the 19th and the fallout. I still find it hard to describe how I felt. It was the most miserable of days, all that hope and joy snuffed out and then to round it all off we had the unionists “celebrating” in George Square. On such a dark day, a day where I felt drained of hope, of belief, a day where history wasn’t made, it was social media, especially Twitter that helped me cope. Greg Moodie’s #EveryoneCanFuckRightOffDay on the 20th was very cathartic.
If I can take one thing from this campaign it’s the number of people I now consider friends, from both local groups and online – some of the latter whom I have now met in ‘real life’. I know I will not always agree with “Yessers” on all things. This is good because Scotland needs a range of voices to carry on the campaign, but there’s a community there, a sense of belonging, a collective desire for change for all of us.
I don’t know what the future holds but the next stage, set-up by 56 SNP MPs now residing at Westminster, looks set to be as exciting and exhilarating as the referendum campaign. I’m very proud of my new MP, and he knows well enough that we’re keeping an eye on him. The next few years will be difficult under Conservative rule, although I do not think Cameron will have as easy a ride as he is expecting.
The one thing you can always rely on is that Tory backbenchers like to make life difficult. Labour are heading into yet another period of navel gazing so the SNP have the next few months in which to make a positive impression on the UK. It’s good to see them cut through Westminster like a breath of fresh air, they have hundreds of years of tradition and inertia to battle, but I hope that they will continue to chip away at this anachronism of a political system. Who knows it may be, as joked at a recent WFI meeting I attended, that we clean up the UK before moving on. What an amazing leaving gift that would be.
We may not have reached the destination we wanted to but maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe we’re just taking a longer path than we thought we would. We’ll get there in the end.