In Order To Form A More Perfect Union

The polls in the referendum on Scottish independence open in twelve and a half hours, and I will be at my polling station to vote No.

It has not been a simple decision, and over the last few weeks I have swithered from Definitely No to Undecided to Very Nearly Yes and back to No. I probably owe flowers to the poor pollster from Ipsos-Mori who got paragraph long answers to tick-box questions as I tried to work through my own confusion at her. As a concept, independence is not without its charms. To live in a socialist utopia like the one that I believe an independent Scotland could become? I want that. But what I want more is to be a part of building that utopia for everyone.

I love Scotland. I love her people and her mountains and her towns and her culture. I’ve walked the cobbled streets of Edinburgh and run through the green spaces in Dundee and driven the banks of the Clyde estuary. I’ve stood at the very edge of the Western Isles with nothing between me and North America. I have now worked in every hospital in Scotland west of Stirling, except Oban. And I love Glasgow, too, this beautiful broken city, this dear green place that welcomed me with open arms and that I am now privileged to call home.

“Where are you from?” I am asked.

“Glasgow,” I say promptly. And then there’s a confused silence and then I catch up: “Oh, you mean where did I grow up.”

I dare anyone to tell me that my No vote means that I love this country less than someone who is voting Yes.

I want the utopia. But do I want to abandon Wales and Northern Ireland and the North of England to the right-wing rule of the South East? I don’t want that. Or to share a border with the country that England without the moderating influence of Scotland would almost doubtless become? I don’t want that either. And on a globe that is not shrinking but growing, why in any case would I want to erect any new borders? We vote in this referendum at the end of a summer during which the world has seemed more fragile and yet more bound together than it ever has been. It’s a time to start breaking down barriers, and I’m more interested in world-building than nation-building.

Perhaps we could do wonderful things in an independent Scotland. But perhaps we can also do wonderful things in the United Kingdom as a Scottish nation in which the landscape of political engagement will never again be the same.

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7 comments

  1. Very well said, Beth. The decision tomorrow will affect far more people than actually get a vote. It will affect not only Scotland which I love and where I spend part of every year, but England where I was born and Wales where I now live, as well as Northern Ireland.

  2. I think governments need the balance of independent state/regions and united nationhood. Yes, at times I’d like to just be the country of Washington (or better yet, Western Washington), but I not only benefit from things like national postal service or currency, but I also know that marriage equality would not have come to places like Kentucky if not for states like Washington and Massachusetts.

    Whichever way it goes, I hope you all come out on the other side with peace and Scottish pride.

    1. I think there would be far worse things than the UK shifting to a more American model — and there are *very* few things about which I say that. I think that devolving a reasonably significant amount of power from Westminster to Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland, yes, but also to Yorkshire and Cornwall and the Midlands and the North and so on, but retaining Westminster as the seat of our national government, would offer a more complicated but fairer solution for the *whole* country, rather than just chopping it off at Hadrian’s Wall.

      I keep thinking of that bit from Game On. You know, “there are times when we’re fifty states and there are times when we’re one country with national needs, and the way I know this is that Florida didn’t fight Germany in World War One or establish civil rights.”

  3. I’ve had notes from friend, in the last twenty-four hours, begging me to pray both directions — which is why I’ve kept quiet, as I should, on this.

    But just wanted to say that I just hold you all up in light and love and pray that your lovely country, whether nay or yea, manages to make some positive changes and begin to build toward what it could be – whatever happens, I hope this is not the end of an engaged and vocal Scotland. Best wishes to you – both sides.

    1. I note that a mutual friend of ours has said online tonight that she is in favour most of all of voting and that whatever happens we need a reconciliation ceilidh next week, and I heartily agree with both of those things.

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