I have never seen myself as British or a 100% Scottish Nationalist; I’m 46 years old and was brought up on British (English) History in an education system that taught very little to me about my country. The knowledge I gained about Scotland was not passed on by an enlightened teacher, but by me trying my best to learn about it in my own time. I am a Liberal Patriot first and foremost; I want the best for people no matter their colour, nationality, religion or sexuality. My politics were shaped by my experiences in Thatcher’s Britain and what I saw around me every day and much of that continues to this day.
I am also a Community Education Worker, by nature a very left-wing and Liberal profession, and in many ways a calling. Community Education, like Liberalism, is partly a belief that the individual/group knows best, the individual/group provided with equal opportunities and fairness can succeed where the role of the state is in facilitating an environment for the individual/group to empower themselves. Simplified but something I believe to be true. It’s not rocket science, its federalism devolved to the lowest possible level for an individual if that makes sense.
Now as I have said I don’t see myself as a nationalist in the narrow, often horrible ways that Scottish Nationalists are portrayed in the media and by some unionists, I see myself more as a Scottish patriot. I don’t have that many issues with the SNP and the politics that they promote around a more socially just Scotland.
I am not even saying that all Liberals, Labour and Conservatives don’t fight for Scotland, they do but they do it within the very narrow confine of Britain and what that means for them. There are of course also those that only see Britain first over all else. The Liberal Democrats say they believe in federalism and I believe they do but it doesn’t go either high enough or low enough, it’s a type of federalism that I feel allows a minority to continue to dictate the terms by which the rest of us live our lives. It’s a federalism that accepts the unelected Head of State and unelected House of Lords, which for me means that if you accept that as being federalism, true federalism can never be achieved, you are maintaining a small elite that are unaccountable to the people therefore untouchable by the people.
The referendum for Scottish Independence was an opportunity for Britain to change, but the unionists played games with both their approach of fear, and the vagueness of the language they used so it could mean whatever they wanted it to mean after the no vote. They have continued this game with both the Smith Commission and the current debate around the Scotland Act. Their refusal to give up any real power in Westminster displays a real fear about their belief in the strength of their argument. The Britain they believe in is some historical novel where people not in their club are there to be told what to do, told what to believe. They have not only let Scotland down but the other parts of the United Kingdom also by demonstrating that we the people are not really that important when put up against their status and the control they feel they have.
This is not to say that the YES side got it all right, they didn’t. The YES side painted a picture of a Scotland where we would keep the pound, the head of state, the structures and the systems. They did not present a vision of Scotland that was very different from the Scotland that people saw around them everyday. Yes they talked about a fairer and more just Scotland, a fairer and more equal Scotland, but one that appeared to be wrapped up in a British comfort blanket. The narrative for many was not that different from the narrative they were living every day, it just lacked more devolved power. What the YES side really were arguing for in my opinion was devo max or federalism; the argument was not independent enough for me although I voted YES as it was the only option that delivered the power that Scotland needs. I argued that we needed our own currency, central bank, and that any head of state had to be decided by the people and no unelected second chamber.
However, what the referendum did do was educate the Scottish Electorate in politics to an extent that would never have happened without it. We are probably more knowledgeable now about how our country is run than we have ever been in our history and this is showing us how narrow and undemocratic our democracy actually is. I suspect that many within the unionist movement not only curse the nationalists for even asking the question of Scottish Independence but curse them more for educating the electorate to the point of understanding how unfair and unjust Britain is. People now understand what they see around them everyday, what they live in and experience everyday, and many have decided they don’t like it.
For my party, the Liberal Democrats, the independence debate means that we have to step up to the plate and define what we mean by federalism and we have failed badly so far. The educated Scottish Electorate can see that Smith and the Scotland Act are not federalism or devo max, they are a grudged devolving of slightly more responsibility on how we spend money but continues to maintain the real power at Westminster. As long as there is no appetite for electoral reform at Westminster, as long as there is no real appetite for federalism as I understand it to mean then I will continue to vote for whatever brings the most amount of power to Scotland.