LAST night, in the final minutes of BBC Question Time, I was given the opportunity to articulate my position on Scottish Independence. I suspect many viewers were surprised with my answer. I was born and raised in North Yorkshire. All I have ever known is a United Kingdom. My personal identity and position on independence represent what should be irreconcilable positions .
In school we learn about the long and fractious relationship between Scotland and England; about the wars fought with swords rather than monologues on Question Time. During the 2014 independence referendum I was mostly oblivious to the political battle engulfing the UK. I remember feeling very confused when my Scottish-born French teacher admitted that he had considered voting for independence; how could anyone not want a United Kingdom? What happens if they do vote for independence? Questions quickly forgotten when the lunch bell rings.
It took four more years for me to be confronted with the prospect of Scottish independence. A four-year gap filled with austerity, national elections and Brexit. I study social policy and politics at the University of Edinburgh and some of my peers are Scottish. It didn’t take long for the independence zeitgeist to be brought up in seminars, lectures and, of course, the pub.
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Initially jumping at the opportunity to defend the Union I slowly began to question my own beliefs and sympathise as my Scottish pals explained why secession from the Union is such an exciting prospect. There are many parallels between the Scottish experience and the experience of many in the north of England. Both are dictated to by Westminster, which prioritises London above all else.
The divergence of politics between Scotland and the rest of Britain during the late 20th century substantiated the argument that Scotland is being governed against its will. An assertion that should resonate with those who voted for Brexit on the basis of self-determinism.
During the Thatcher government era, issues like welfare reform and the poll tax faced fierce opposition in Scotland and laid the groundwork for the constitutional claim for independence. The Scottish Act of 1998 was intended to appease the Scottish desire for independence. However, the continuation of Scotland’s preference for left-leaning politics and the increased platform of the SNP sustained calls for a referendum.
Brexit highlighted that, despite the result of the 2014 referendum, there is a fundamental difference in the vision English and Scots have for the future and, with 62% voting Remain, the SNP can legitimately claim Brexit is being forced upon them. Additionally, the disastrous management of the pandemic by the Conservative Government offers the SNP an increased mandate for another referendum.
Young Scots overwhelmingly support independence and Westminster is failing to ask why. They are the next generation of business owners, policy makers, politicians and voters. They see the opportunities available to Scotland outside of the UK. They see a future filled with ambition.
Compare Johnson’s “Build back greener” with Scottish efforts to increase green energy production, like the establishment of the Just Transition Commission. Scotland is poised to become a renewable energy leader, a diversification that amends an economic overdependence on North Sea oil production and establishes sustainable jobs for future generations. Johnson’s pledge appears archaic in comparison.
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On Question Time, Miriam Brett raised the important issue of labour market reform, “banning zero-hour contracts and routing out precarious work”. The Conservative Government is unlikely to enact these essential reforms and amending the existing vulnerabilities in our economy. Broadly speaking, full control of all fiscal, economic and monetary policy would give Scotland the ability to enact important reforms and pursue its own destiny, free from the tight grip of Westminster.
I don’t hate the Union and I love England. In my heart I love the idea of a United Kingdom, a union that treats all its members fairly. Where each member works in tandem to make the whole stronger. However, the political reality is that this has not been the case for decades. England, or more accurately London, has stacked the cards in favour of the south at Scotland’s expense.
Finally, despite the popular narrative, us young folk are not naive. We understand there are significant barriers to Scottish independence. Questions around currency, military, trade and borders need to be answered before any withdrawal agreement can be reached. The Brexit withdrawal fiasco is an important warning to the Scottish not to rush out of the UK with a “no deal”. However, an exodus that effectively considers all elements of economic, social and political life represents a future that I, and all my Scottish friends, can really get excited about.