We’re not all haggis eating freedom fighters
CHRIS SIMPSON, founder of ScotSoc, responds to yesterday’s pro Yes argument.
The Scottish referendum is often characterised as a choice between head and heart.
Nationalists, with their “Team Scotland” versus “Team Westminster”, seem to imply that to be against independence is to lack faith in Scotland, to allow fear to block aspiration, but that is not what this referendum is about.
This is not a choice between head and heart. This is a choice between two visions of Scotland’s future.
Many independence supporters subscribe to some sort of dog-whistle nationalism (pricking their ears up when certain key words are spoken like an army of Scottie dogs being given the signal to kill), and they run the danger of caricaturing Scotland and its people.
Sure, we do have a different cultural background and our own quirks; we are slightly different from the rest of the UK.
What we are not is a nation of ginger haired, Gaelic-speaking, Braveheart-watching, kilt-wearing, irn-bru drinking, haggis eating freedom fighters.
We wear trousers, we speak English. What unites us is a lot more than what divides us.
I personally have little doubt as to Scotland’s good qualities and potential: it is a proud nation, full of ingenious, motivated people. Even if there are myriad unanswered questions (currency, EU membership, company movement and many more), and the exact shape of any independent nation is unknown, it is clear Scotland has the potential to exist as an independent nation.
Nonetheless for Scotland to say it could go it alone is not to say that it should go it alone. To say that an independent Scotland could exist is not to say that an independent Scotland will thrive.
The last thing we want to do is be like a crap Harry Potter – abandoning the family home after a tiff with Aunt Marge, only to get to the bottom of the street and discover Knight Buses do not exist and we were actually better off staying where it was nice and warm.
For me, Scotland’s interests are best served by capitalising on the strength of the union. Those strengths happen to be the same as what independence supporters claim they want.
Innovation and justice sit at the heart of the UK; in just over 300 years in a Union Scotland and the rest of the UK have extended the franchise to all adults; we stood in solidarity against Nazism, fought against genocide in the Balkans, created a nation of property owners, opened university education to all, instituted the minimum wage, created the NHS, and that’s just the surface.
As part of the Union, Scots have invented radar, the telephone, vacuum flasks, and anaesthetics.
Our compatriots founded the Bank of England, the US Navy, and even Economics itself. A whole Wikipedia page stands dedicated to our achievements. Independence supporters bemoan Westminster, but it has always been Scots like John Smith, Charles Kennedy, and Robin Cook that have been at its forefront.
Scotland as part of a union can pool its resources to drive innovation. Scotland as part of a union can pull punches on the world stage. Scotland as part of the union can continue to fight for a fairer society.
Most importantly, Scotland as part of a union can be proud of being itself, a unique place with unique characteristics, and simultaneously be proud of taking part in something bigger than itself. The people in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland are not an alien group. A friendly rivalry exists; we may steal Wembley’s goalposts after football games for a laugh, but that doesn’t mean we don’t share your dreams and goals. To secede is to lose that dual dimension to our culture and our society.
Even when things are not going the way we want, we are joined to in our frustration, and joined yet further when together we work to correct them.
On the 18th of September I will be voting No. This is not because I am scared of what independence might bring and not because I am less Scottish at heart than those voting yes.
It is because I, as a proud Scot, believe in the vision of a strong Scotland in a strong Union.