Do the Ayes Have It?

This referendum campaign has been long and hard. The election of the Scottish National Party in 2011 ensured that we would get the referedum that we wanted. Three years on and I’m becoming slightly weary.

Don’t get me wrong. My commitment to a “yes” vote is still there, and is probably stronger than it has ever been. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered so much engagement with politics in my life. I’ve had discussions in the pub about this and that in the past, but everyone is talking about the referendum.

97% of the electorate are registered to vote, apparently. How fucking good is that? Naturally, that doesn’t translate into turnout on the day, but it’s a fair indication that this is about more than just your average election. It’s not about policies, nor about parties; it’s about deciding whether or not we — the people of Scotland — should seize the opportunity to determine our own future and vote to become an independent nation.

Why? Well, quite frankly, it’s about Freedom and Democracy. We (the UK) went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq on that very premise. Whether or not you agree that we should have been there (and I don’t), the underlying theme was the protection of democracy and the rule of law. Yet, when a part of the UK, one which has had a devolved government since 1999, decides that it wants to determine its own future by becoming independent, suddenly the rules change.

The United Kingdom is still a Monarchy. We have the Queen as head of state and a bicameral parliamentary system: members of the former (House of Commons) are elected under the first-past-the-post system; members of the latter (House of Lords) are either appointed (Life Peers) or are there by birthright. That’s right — they are there simply because they inherited a title and their fathers, father’s fathers etc held that title before them. That’s not the way to run a modern country.

In many cases these same “Lords” own and control vast swathes of the countryside while the rest of us (if we can afford to buy property) put up with rising house prices. According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Lords#Current_composition) there are currently 780 peers. That’s considerably more than there are in the elected house. Is this democracy?

I say “no”.

No to unelected people making decisions on matters that affect my life. No to an electoral system that prefers a simple majority and ignores the views of others who don’t share those views. No to private healthcare. No to tuition fees. No to nuclear weapons being based on my nation’s soil. No to the demonisation of the unemployed and the disabled. No to the wanton destruction of our — my — environment for your corporate profits.

That all sounds a little bit negative, though. Let’s change that. Let me say “Yes”. That will be my answer to the question that will appear on the ballot paper on 18th September: “Should Scotland be an Independent Country?”

Yes, I want to see a brighter future for my country. We have many resources. We have oil, but I want see our reliance on that particular resource decline as we invest in technology and develop better ways to harness our renewable resources. We can do that by investing in education and ensuring that everyone has the right to education based on their ability and not their economic background. For those who choose a vocational career, there should be apprenticeships and proper training schemes. For those that choose the academic path, there should be no tuition fees to deter them, no matter what their background. There should also be no barriers to switching paths should one make the wrong decision. “Every day is a school day” is not just something we should laugh about; education is a life-long process.

Yes, I want to ensure that we live long and have productive lives. We shouldn’t be ready to give up the ghost by the time we retire. Our healthcare system has been, and should be, the envy of the world — why destroy that now? We have one life to live, and we should be happy and productive. If it means moving over to let the next generation come through when the time comes — so be it. We can utilise the skills that we have learned over the years to mentor and coach and use our remaining time to do those things that we never quite got round to doing when we were forging a career or bringing up kids.

This is not just about us. In parliamentary terms, life is but five years. What kind of future do we want out sons, daughters, grandchildren, nieces and nephews to have? What will the future hold for them? Would you prefer a lifetime of fear and austerity — or do you prefer a more hopeful, optimistic vision?

I’m saying “Yes” to the latter.

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