Across the Great Divide

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Our time on this little old planet of ours is relatively short, but some smart cookie made sure it was packed full of questions. Music in particular, throws up more than its fair share.


 Is this music?


 Should I stay or should I go?


 Could it be magic?


 Well, yes it is music, and thoroughly enjoyable it is, too.


 You should clearly stay because if you go, your problems will increase twofold.


 And if spirits are moving you every time you're near me, I suggest you stop sniffing glue and return to normality.


 Yep, some questions are easily answered. But some aren't. And the most simplest of answers to a more difficult question have become the first words on everybody's lips recently.


 Yes or No.


 Should Scotland be an independent country?


Let's get one thing out the way - this isn't one of these 'My emotional journey from a No to a Yes' pieces that seem to be quite common these days - it's more of an honest observation, rather than a tug at your heartstrings.


 So, with that in mind, I'm a Yes. Let's get that out the way now, shall we? No big reveal at the end, no soppy story as to why.


But I'm not a Yes simply because of where I was born or I think it's in my blood or my family just have always done so. I don't get that way of thinking - "I've always been an SNP man, like my father before me and his father before that" - I find it quite odd. Can you not think for yourself? It seems to be quite common in Scotland, with decades of Labour voting, no matter what the policies are, seen across the length and breadth of the country, too.


 It's important to make up your own mind. If I voted the way of my grandparents, I'd be out marching with the Orange Order and firmly voting Conservative. And boy, am I pretty glad I can think for myself.


 Yes, I'm a Yes, but I'll be honest with you - I'm scared. I am utterly terrified that I get it wrong. I am so filled with dread that, although I know this could work, it could all blow up in my face and instead of making my children's future brighter, I'm sentencing them to a life of far bleaker, darker prospects. And that chills me to the bone.


 I don't have blind faith. I can't join in with the theory that everything will be great simply because it will. There is no magic wand. Things won't become better overnight. But I'm afraid that too many people believe it will. I've seen articles, blogs, tweets, status updates, all with the message that with one vote, we sort out all of our problems.


 Sadly, anyone who thinks that food banks will disappear, poverty will be eradicated or our MPs will suddenly become Saints are kidding themselves on. There is no quick-fix. And the UK's problem with poverty is not exclusive. Norway, commonly used as an example of what we could be, has food banks. So do most other European countries. To promise that our poorest wouldn't rely on handouts post-indy is quite a bold statement.


 But my cynical attitude seems quite rare. I'm often questioned because I question. I should embrace this moment and enjoy it, apparently. I'm a Yes, so why then am I not sharing in the moment? Why am I not involved in the campaign? Why am I not shouting from the rooftops about it? Well mister, I don't believe it will be all rainbows and unicorns, that's why.


 But I'm not all doom and gloom. I feel invigorated and refreshed by they Yes campaign. It is one of freedom and positivity, more a movement or a will of the people than one of politics and spin. But there's the dark side to it, too. The conspiracies, the violence, the vandalism. 


 From either side, I've heard some of the stupidest things in the history of ever. MI5 are involved. Everybody is biased and has an agenda. No voters are being told that if they don't cast their ballot, that counts as a No vote, so they don't have to do it on the day, thus ensuring a Yes vote. No, I don't follow, either. Oh, and please remember to take your pen when you vote. We all know that there is an army of angry Unionists being trained for the 18th, ready and waiting with their erasers of mass deception. Luckily, stories of violence and aggression have been kept to a minimum, but the fact that this ugly notion exists on either side of the campaign makes me sick.


 In some ways, it has become a battle. It has been made out to be good versus evil. Ding Ding! The gloves are off, here we go! But it isn't as simple as that. Yes, it's a binary choice, but what leads you to make your decision is far more complicated. There's a lot at stake and a whole Internet's worth of reading is out there. What you will find is not Good v Bad, but two arguments to one question. And it is wrong to intimidate or villify someone simply because they do not think the same way as you. 


 We hear a lot about a fairer society and that's something I strongly believe in. But screaming blue murder and bullying someone who has a different political ideal to yourself is not fair. Other people are free to think however they want. What this campaign has showed us, is that some people are so close-minded, it hurts. 


 Have you seen or heard anything like this?


 "I can't understand how anyone could vote Yes/No"


 Oh really? You are so set in your ways, so deep in that rut, that you can't acknowledge that other people have a different opinion? 


 "There's nothing that you could say to me that would make me vote Yes/No"


 Wow. You truly are a bigot. So, even if I found evidence, a cast-iron certainty that things would be better my way, you would still ignore it, eh? Well, to shut yourself down and refuse to listen to both sides of an argument, simply shows that you are prejudiced. A 'my way or the highway' attitude. It is a truly ugly human trait, one of the worst, and one that really doesn't fit into the world of a fairer society.


 It will be fairer, they say, that after independence, Scotland will always get the government they voted for. It's a strong argument. However, I didn't vote for either administrations, but hey, that's democracy for you. 


 I'll tell you what isn't democratic, though: "Vote Yes and rid Scotland of the Tories". I would be delighted to live in a Socialist paradise but I'm afraid this isn't a reality. It's completely undemocratic. The right-wing vote is alive and well in Scotland, and although I disagree with absolutely everything they say, I acknowledge their right to be here. I know that for my opinions to exist, then so do the opposite. That's a democracy. That's fair. 


 Let's be honest, a Yes vote won't rid Scotland of the Tories, it will increase their power. Under the UK's first past the post system (FFP), the Conservative Party's representation, or lack thereof, is skewed north of the border. They received 16.7% of the vote in 2010 yet only have one MP out of fifty-nine representing them. This isn't fair. It just goes to prove that FFP is broken and doesn't represent how the people vote. The Additional Member System (AMS), currently used by the Scottish Parliament, provides a far more just election method.


 So, an independent Scotland would have more Tories than pandas. Who'd have thunk it? But don't let the SNP fox you into thinking the Tories have no support. In 2010, the SNP only received 3.2% more of the vote than the Conservatives, but you don't hear that number being casually tossed around. But I suppose a figure that's fudged is just enough to give a Nat a treat.


 I'm uncomfortable with the anti-Tory rhetoric. It comes from the the leaders of Yes Scotland all the way down. But don't confuse this sympathy with support. I detest the Conservative Party and all that they stand for. But I don't dislike them simply because I'm Scottish and that's what we do. I'm thirty-six and ever since I was wee, Thatcher was a swear word. An entire generation has grown up knowing that they hate this woman, her party and what she stood for. Except they don't know what she stood for. Too few have taken upon themselves to investigate. Scotland now is full of people that wouldn't dare vote Tory despite them pretty much agreeing with the vast majority of their core values.


 I dislike them not only for their past, but for what they stand for now. They are wrong with the Bedroom Tax, they are wrong with their policies on immigration, they are wrong to privatise everything and anything, lining the pockets of their pals while they do so, they are wrong to give tax breaks to married couples, millionaires and corporate machines, and they are wrong, so, so wrong with their constant vilifying of the poor and cutting the benefits of those who need it the most. But it is also wrong to dislike them simply because of their background.


 It is wrong to say "Vote Yes to get rid of those Bullingdon Boys". Their upbringing has nothing to do with it. How one is raised should not come in to how we judge them as a human. Both ways. It's just as wrong to say 'council scheme scum' as it is to say 'Tory toff'. Class should not come into it. Criticise them for what they do, not what they are. My wife's grandparents always told her "In life, you may often meet your equal but never your better."


 The Yes campaign have been wrong to target this. They have been wrong about many things. This 'Team Scotland' thing is bloody awful. Are people who vote No not Scottish? It is childish and petulant. Also, portraying the people of Scotland as completely different to the people of England. Who the hell thought of that one? We're no different at all. All polling numbers suggest there is no difference between Scots and English when it comes to opinions on current affairs. And anyway, where does this change start? Is there a sudden, massive swing as soon as you step over the border? Or does it gently phase in, thus explaining those awful Borderers support for the Tories? 


 It is ridiculous. The English are not meaner, we are not friendlier and to suggest so, well, sometimes you see what you are looking for. You visit England and someone was rude to you - see, they are different! No rude people in Scotland. We love everyone. Except people who disagree with us.


 So, Salmond has got it wrong. But wait... did I... just criticise Alex Salmond? Oh dear God, I am simply not ALLOWED to do such a thing! He is infallible! He is our leader! He cannot be criticised, and if you do, then a terrible fury awaits you!


 He enjoys, a strange, cult of leader worship from his followers usually enjoyed by despotic lunatics and dictators. This is despite a long list of broken promises, some questionable ideas and some toxic company that he keeps. Everything he does is amazing. He can do no wrong and anyone who suggests so is a hater. For example, I recently saw a picture of him giving an elderly woman a hug. The premise was that this is why he is amazing and nobody else could do this. Well, I've seen lots of people showing octogenarians affection, I'm pretty sure this isn't a one-off. And as I recall, I used to give my own grandparents a kiss and a hug on leaving their house. Maybe I'm leadership potential.


 But it is his policies I take most issue with. Portrayed as left-wing, they are anything but. 


 Free education. Hurrah, nobody has to pay tuition fees. But wouldn't it be great if those that could afford it, did pay, ensuring that more money went in to education, therefore improving our system further.


 Free prescriptions. Hurrah, medicine is available to everyone. But I want to pay for my prescription, Goddammit. I can afford it, I want my money to go back into the system so that we can afford more expensive drugs that are made available to those who need them most.


 Council Tax freeze. Hurrah, it's the same as last year. Aaaarghh. I can afford a few quid extra a month, so can many others, and I want to pay more so that it can help the less fortunate. Every single one of these policies is a tax break for the wealthy, dressed up as Socialism. Well, not in my book.


 It's not all about Alex Salmond say the SNP, whilst making it all about Alex Salmond. It isn't all about Alex Salmond says Alex Salmond while in the same breath he calls a Yes vote an endorsement of the White Paper. But why should we trust him? Are these things another example of broken promises? Class sizes of eighteen, for example. And I certainly do not want any leader of my country holding hands with the likes of Rupert Murdoch. Salmond is in good company with Nigel Farage on this shaky ground.


 It isn't and it shouldn't be all about Alex Salmond. But too few think this. I am certainly not voting to endorse him or his plans for an independent Scotland. "But it's like buying a new house," we are told, "you don't like the decor but you can change it afterwards." Yes, but Alex Salmond chooses the wallpaper and is also the painter and decorator. There is a great deal of rising political talent in this country, who put the the people first rather than the other way round, and it is they who should be heard post-indy. But my fear is their voices will be drowned out by the same old Scottish Establishment. Yes, we have an Establishment too, and they're just as bad.


 But it's the chance, however fleeting, that the new voices will be heard, that draws me towards independence. I'm a great believer in the policies put forward by The Common Weal (www.allofusfirst.org). The idea is simple and one I've thought about for a number of years: if another country does something well, how do they do it and how can we implement it? We take the best ideas or most effective policies and we put them into place here. There's a reason why these policies are a success, why wouldn't they work in Scotland? The Common Weal are responsible for a number of splendid ideas. Have a look and see for yourself.


 Independence offers us an alternative to the stagnant, lopsided politics of Westminster. When I was born back in the late seventies, there was a difference between left and right. However little it may have been, the difference was there for all to see. As I grew up and older, the gap had changed, ever decreasing until now all mainstream parties appear to be intersmeshed, all singing from the same hymn sheet and basically being as spineless as one another. 


 There is no other alternative for change. There isn't a Josiah Bartlet-type figure waiting in the wings to come and lead us. The majority of people are so underrepresented at the highest level that people are being turned off by politics. Nobody speaks for them and change is nowhere on the horizon. People are angry at Westminster, and they aren't solely in the Yes camp. A fair amount of staunch Unionists are just as displeased but haven't yet been convinced enough that independence is the answer. 


 We also hear a lot about Trident. We hear that the weapons of mass destruction would be moved after a Yes vote, something which is widely celebrated as a victory. I don't sign up to this sentiment. I wouldn't be happy until all nuclear weapons, on these shores and globally, are completely decommissioned, leaving us in a missile-of-death free world. The fact that they are relocated to, say Liverpool, doesn't make it feel like a celebration at all. Hurrah, the missiles are gone and now Englandshire is a target and more at risk from a catastrophic accident. And in the event of the latter, we'll just die a more horrific, slower death instead of being obliterated in the blink of an eye without any of us knowing what happened. "Ach well, they're England's problem now," is a very uncomfortable attitude indeed.


 The lure of change is a strong one. Is independence a chance for a reboot? Switch us on and off at the wall and see what happens. Refresh us. Something could happen. You may say that I'm a dreamer but I'm not the only one.


 And it's not just the country that needs a reboot. The way we conduct and deal with our politics has to change. These awful, cringe-worthy exchanges at PMQs for instance. Nothing says progress like a bunch of out-of-touch, old grey men in ill-fitting suits engaging in a slanging match across an old-fashioned debating chamber. Why, look at the man in the silly robes. Oh, he's chapping the door with an expensive-looking mace (who doesn't have one of them lying around in the house?). Ah, adressing each other as 'Right Honourable'. It's just like lad's banter down the pub on a Friday night.


 Why is it important that our politicians look like a Ken doll and when did it happen? This Americanisation hasn't been around long but has completely shaped the new generation of politicians, with their tailored suits, nice hair and teeth and slick banter. It's enough to make you vomit. It seems that if our leaders have a mishap while eating a bacon roll, this makes him unsuitable to run the country. Also, if they happen to maybe not look like a Ken doll, this also makes him untrustworthy and unlikeable. When the hell did we become such a nation of bitches that we judge everyone and anyone by their looks and not what kind of person they are? 


 People want change. They want an end to the dishonesty of politics, the lies, the scandals, the say-anything-for-a-vote style. It is outdated and it is irrelevant. Something needs to be done to change it and to freshen it up. And not just the politicians, we must alter ourselves, too. This whole campaign has produced some truly awful examples of how not to deal with each other. We have a duty to accept other people's opinions without spitting fury and losing the rag. We live in a democracy, sometimes things just don't go your way. Thems are the breaks.


 This isn't about my independence journey, it's about how I feel towards this country and how I think a Yes vote will change it. The passionate supporter probably won't like this. I won't win many friends and I'd imagine I'll receive more disagreement than praise. But this is an amazing piece of history to be involved in. It genuinely is a privilege to be casting a vote that carries such magnitude.  So many voices, two sides and a multitude of opinions. There are those who connect with the Union and feel British. I don't. I never have. I have always identified as Scottish and it just feels right to put a cross beside Yes.


 We've been given this incredible opportunity. A chance for change, a change for the better, to better our lives and those of generations to come. This shouldn't be about class or left/right politics. It runs far deeper than that. It is about new beginnings. A chance to start again, a clean slate, a blank canvas. We've been given the building blocks of a brand new, fairer and more just country.


 So here it is. Lego Scotland, 5 million pieces, ages 16+.


 Wanna help build it?