"I am so saddened by what I am seeing in Scotland, a country that I love. We seem to be dividing from within, when we should be uniting ..."
"Real independence - being independent as individuals, having our own thoughts, making our own choices, not being dictated to by arrogance."
If any of my writing below is flawed? It is because I am flawed. Human beings are flawed, and I am a member of the human race. Please do not judge me merely for that.
I am writing this because I care about Scotland and the United Kingdom. I care deeply about this country, from John o' Groats to Land's End, and all the bits inbetween. Therefore, this may be quite a long article. If you are unable to read all of it, all I ask is that you take a look over the key points, and the sections of highlighted text. Even if you don't want to read it, for whatever reason (and I respect that), all I can ask is that you give it a glance, and maybe watch the videos too. Remember, at the end of the day all of this is just my own opinion (rightly or wrongly), and I would never force that on anyone.This article is long for one reason alone - because I care, whatever you may think of my viewpoint. I am not an expert, in any sense of the word. In fact, I hugely distrust the word - expert. I don't have all the facts, and I don't have all the figures. What I do have are my thoughts, after two years of reading, watching and listening to the referendum debate, and contemplating as much as I can. It is my thoughts that I am sharing now, and nothing more. It is a collection of what is going on inside my head. Some of that is naturally disjointed, but I've organised it as best I can.
If there is one thing I hope I have learned from this debate, it is the importance of having tolerance and respect towards other people. There are plenty of Yes supporters and No supporters who conduct themselves respectfully, and have something deep and abiding in common - a love, and a passion, and a caring heart for Scotland. Let's unite for that, and not divide. We have a common goal, just different opinions on how to get there. And our differences are just as valuable to us as our similarities - as long as we use them both wisely and sensibly. I firmly believe that forging a United Kingdom is the best way to achieve that. Let's not be defeatist that our United Kingdom isn't working, let's be positive that it has a diamond foundation, and be optimistic that we can improve it's structure and make it better.
Two things that I read had a big impact on me (amongst many). The first was a post on Facebook. A fourteen year old girl writing about her own worries, and those of her friends. The worries that they have for their future, if Scotland votes yes for independence. Worries for a variety of reasons (benefits, banks, jobs). She said something in her post that really made me sit up and think. She said that their opinion doesn't matter, no matter how well informed they are, or whether they are on the 'right side' or not, because they are only fourteen years old. She said that all she can do is hope. My reply to her was this - 'jjjust because you're fourteen years old, don't think that your opinion doesn't matter. It does matter, very much so. I, for one, value your opinion. More should speak out.' I realised that I have to vote no for people like her and her friends - those who have a voice, but do not have a vote yet. Has anyone else asked what our youngsters think? The young are often wiser than we might believe, they are often very surprising. This is their future too (perhaps more so), and it is important that we listen to their opinions, their concerns and their very real worries. The second was a piece of writing that I read in 'The Evening Express' newspaper (The Evening Express, Wednesday September 3, 2014, Page 4). This is a snippet - it said "who wants to be part of a silent majority? I would rather be on the side of those who are proud, passionate and fully engaged with an idea they believe is worth fighting for." Firstly, this isn't about taking sides. Secondly, I am proud, passionate and fully engaged with an idea that I believe is worth fighting for - the idea of unity, working together, and not dividing. And thirdly, and lastly, the reason that I have been part of 'a silent majority' is that I don't believe shouting and bluster is the way to go, I do my best to show respect and decorum, even when I greatly disagree with someone (I'm sure I'm not always successful, I'm only human after all, but I do try). I can stay silent no longer.
"I'm proud to be British and Scottish. We should embrace what's similar, yet unique, in all our cultures - be that English, Scottish, Welsh or Irish."
Yes we don't always get everything right and no, I don't agree with everything about modern day Britain (the Iraq War, the current Government in Westminster, the closure of RAF Kinloss, the closure of RAF Leuchers etc.). But like all families that bicker and argue, and fight and disagree now and then, we can and we should work out all of our problems together. Build more bridges, don't build walls, no matter how thin or how thick they are. We should never walk away from any part of family. I am Scottish, and it isn't in my nature to ever give up. I'm just not ready to give up on the United Kingdom - to walk away from a Union of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It would be a sad day to see it go. It would break my heart. I love Britain. I love the similarities we share in our cultures, and I love the uniqueness that we offer each other too. I say this. Share our similarities. Offer our uniqueness. Embrace our differences. And promote a United Kingdom of many, amazing, cultures to the world.
"I am positive and happy, with lots of faith in Scotland, and the United Kingdom - a United Kingdom that we can make even better!"
I have no doubt that Scotland has the heart, and the soul, and the potential, to prosper as an Independent nation. But there is that word - potential. And then there is that other word - if. The most powerful word in the English language? There are too many 'ifs' in independence I don't see any 'Bitter Together', 'Project Fear' or scaremongering. Only reasonable questions being asked. Questions that need to be asked. Yet I don't see the answers from the nationalists. 'Scotland's Future' certainly doesn't provide the answers. I only had to read a little of it, and glance through it, to know that it is terribly written. That's just my opinion, of course (which may be horribly wrong), but I haven't just stated it without thinking long and hard first. Searching within my soul.
There are no clear Plan B's (particularly in relation to currency), one week before the referendum, and there should be. It's relying too much on certainty that particular things will just happen, and that is too much of a bluff and a gamble. Most of what I've heard from 'Yes Scotland' has been wishy washy, and 'too good to be true'. It sounds alarm bells ringing in my head, it tells me to be cautious when considering anything that they say. Who can you trust? On either side even? Sometimes it really is 'better the devil you know'. No matter how unpalatable that might first appear. There is a positive case for independence, with answers that are as clear as they can be (and they'll never be completely clear, because we're living in an uncertain world), but we have not seen that positive case, and we have not seen those answers. I know that I haven't, or I wouldn't still have questions - big questions.
I don't feel at all negative about Scotland. Not at all. I feel hugely positive about my country. It's just that I am trying my best to be realistic. And I believe overwhelmingly in uniting. Independence, particularly in this instance, does not unite. It is dividing us. Even within Scotland. Between Scotland and the United Kingdom, independence would be a separation and a divorce. To whatever extent you want to look at it, you can't hide that, no matter how much you try to cover it up. There would have to be a separation, the building of a new relationship, and relationships sometimes fail. Between people. Between nations. It takes two to make a relationship work, so what sort of relationship would iScotland and rUK have? We simply do not know. It could be good or it could be bad. It could be terrible and bitter. And then there's the separation within Scotland itself, between us here. Small or big, it is sadly happening. Scotland and the United Kingdom will have to heal a lot at the end of this referendum.
It doesn't even sound like proper independence is being offered to me. So many contradictions, so many uncertain promises and so much false hope. We don't want a political union, but we do want a currency union? We'd allow a foreign country to be in charge of our currency, pulling all the important strings? The economy, education, jobs, pensions, the NHS - all of these are uncertain under independence, much more uncertain than if we remain part of the United Kingdom. We'd still be a member of the EU - no control from Westminster, but control from Brussels instead? How long would it take us to meet the lengthy criteria allowing entry into the EU - months, years, decades? Why would Scotland be a special case for EU membership? We are an existing member through the United Kingdom - but it's a United Kingdom that we would be voting to leave! We would still be a member of NATO, a nuclear alliance - isn't that hypocritical, if we are so vehemently opposed to nuclear weapons? (I don't like nuclear weapons much myself, to be honest, but I grudgingly admit that we probably have to keep them, at least for the moment. And disarmament needs to be multilateral, with the world working together - not unilateral, with one country working alone). What is NATO's stance on Scotland's membership? What about the rest of their members? Questions. Answers?
Defence is an important issue to me. It is a dangerous world we're living in, and we need a defence capability. The threat is always there, even if it's manner is constantly changing. Terrorism, belligerent countries, rogue states etc. The list doesn't stop there. Where will the next threat come from? It is essential to have a strong intelligence service, a strong army, a strong navy, and a strong air force. We have those now. I'm the last person to agree with all the elements of the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. But it is a damn sight better than what independence would give us, building up our forces basically from scratch, all over again. Over 5 years? Over 10 years? With the focus in almost every discussion leaning on the removal of Trident - moving a nuclear deterrent from one part of the British Isles to another won't help nuclear disarmament.
The nationalists offer 'Independence Light'. It is 'having your cake, and eating it too'. It's a case of 'I want to move out, but can I keep all of the good bits, namely the ones that benefit me?' That is what they are asking. That is what they are offering. It is a wish list that sounds too good to be true, and I have seen right through it. By reading. By watching. By listening. And, most of all, by thinking. By myself. There is information out there, for you to find for yourselves. It is up to you what you make of it. I would only say this - search through as much of it as you can, with your own eyes and ears, and using your own mind to decipher it's meaning. Don't allow power corrupted individuals to spoon feed you, or manipulate you. And always think first.
"Too many questions on the viability of independence. Not enough concise, believable answers to any of them."
We can build a strong Scotland, within a strong United Kingdom. The framework is already there - over 300 years of Union! Why start from scratch, when you can work to improve what already exists? That won't be easy, but independence is no instant utopia either, not for us, not even for our children or our grandchildren. It is a gamble, it is a bet that is not guaranteed to turn out well. Then the true cost of independence would be much more, and much worse, than just money alone. We might end up with a severely broken economy, and a broken country. One that is even harder to fix. Please note the word might - it isn't a certain outcome, put it is a possible outcome. I am not going to pretend that I know all the 'ins' and 'outs' of economy, or that I have any definite, intimate knowledge of what will happen. I simply do not know - any more, or any less, than anyone else. The one thing that I do know, that I am certain of is this - it is a bet that we really don't have to make. We could, and we should, build on the existing infrastructure and make it better - for Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. All of us. Promote that to the world. That is no less a positive thing to strive for - for me, in fact, it is something much more positive to aim for. To build a political and social union, made up of such distinct and unique cultures. That's an impressive idea, why throw away 300 years of that potential, of that groundwork? The question is not 'can Scotland be an independent country?', the question is 'should Scotland be an independent country?'. And I believe that the answer to that question is a very clear, a very firm, and a very respectful, no thanks.
"There's only one side that's negative, bitter or talking about fear and it's not Better Together"
Who came up with the terms 'Bitter Together' and 'Project Fear'? It wasn't 'Better Together'. I would be naive to believe that 'Better Together' and the no campaign have got everything right. They haven't. But that doesn't mean that there is nothing positive for the no campaign to show. There is plenty of positivity - the real achievements of over 300 years of union (science, engineering, the NHS etc.). Look at the role of Scotland in the Industrial Revolution, as part of the United Kingdom, the world would be a very different place today if the Industrial Revolution hadn't happened. Who knows how? Would I be using a computer right now? Would I be online, on the internet, tonight? Scotland and the United Kingdom have done many things that changed the world. If you set aside, for a minute, all of the things that we ever got wrong (don't ignore them, or forget them, or pretend they didn't happen - just set them aside), there are a lot of things that we got right, a lot of things that have done good together. That should be shown. It should be researched. It should be googled. And it should be praised. You have the power to do that, as an individual.
Who has created the real scaremongering, that has now moved on to the NHS? Think about it. Think about who is really bitter and fearful. In some quarters, if not all. Who intimidates. Who is desperate. And who is vindictive. Who?
Maybe this is only a small part of the debate, but it is there. Perhaps by those who don't really care about Scotland, whatever side they've chosen to be on. The trouble is, we don't live in a world where it is easy to say 'so and so is wrong' and 'so and so is right'. Maybe it isn't even my place to judge. Who knows?
I don't condone violent, vindictive, or intimidating behaviour by any individual. On either side. It's heartbreaking that this referendum is causing behaviour such as this, and it is heartbreaking that it's causing so much hatred and division. There's too much name-calling. And a lot of people need to grow up. Who are the adults? Who are the children? A lot of this is getting rather messy.
In the end, these are just my thoughts. I still have hopes, that Scotland has a bright future. But we need to work together, whatever side wins. We need tolerance. We don't need division amongst ourselves. And there shouldn't be sides. This isn't a school playground - with bullies, and those that are bullied. At least, it shouldn't be. The point scoring has to stop. I have to stop. I have to look towards positivity, and a postive thing for me is when people unite, looking towards the future together. I'm not fearful of anything, and I'm not bitter about anything. I just have great hopes that the world can unite one day, no matter how hard the process is or how long it takes it to reach fruition. It's the eternal optimist in me. I do sometimes question, I do sometimes despair, but I always find at least one small reason to hope.
I think you have to make up your own mind, and balance your head and your heart. You don't have to be told (not by me, or anyone). You certainly don't have to be bullied. I believe in standing up to bullies, from whatever side they come from. Do you want to be a sheep that blindly follows? Or do you want to open your eyes, and be an individual? Real independence is being independent as people, and then uniting to work together as nations. Lets be independent people, lets make our voices heard more, and lets unite to cause change together.
Maybe I'm right. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe all of this will make me unpopular in some quarters. But I can only vote from what my own head tells me, and from what my own heart feels.
I believe that the United Kingdom should be together. I believe that the world should be working to be more together. Take a look at the International Space Station - isn't the human race just incredible when it works together? Really incredible, in my view. Shouldn't we be doing even more to work Better Together? I am for a United World. One that has different opinions, and one that has disagreements, yes - that's part of human nature, you can't escape that - but one that doesn't fight and squabble over things that are, on the whole, petty. Is not this beautiful Earth something that we should all cherish, and be striving towards sharing and caring for together? A beautiful home that we can all be proud of?
I am ready to stand up for what I believe in. I will never give up on the United Kingdom, or in working towards a United World - where being a member of the human race is the proudest thing that you can be.
'A POSITIVE WORLD'
I truly believe that the human race needs to find the real values that exist in the world around us. Values which lie in nature, and the environment, and this beautiful Earth. Not in wealth and not in power (although money does have a very important place). We need to learn to look after it all together. To share and respect our differences, as well as sharing our similarities. I think people should be getting closer together, and not getting further apart, as so often seems to be happening in the world today. I despair at the news so often. I am heartbroken by so much that happens in society. And then I find my solace. I find solace in nature. Always. Nature surprises and amazes me all the time. A walk home along by the river, after a long and stressful day, is the perfect solace for me. Let me tell you a true story. A blackbird perches delicately on a branch. It turns it's head, as though to look at me. It's eye blinks gently, and then it starts to sing. To all intents and purposes, it is singing personally to me, and it is speaking to me. Natures' soul is touching me, and it is saying - "Do not worry. Believe in me, and believe in nature, because nature believes in you. Everything will work out alright." It makes me feel positive and whole again, and I feel much more hopeful about life. A few years ago, nature gave me the hope, and the courage, and the strength, to continue my way forward, and heal myself through a very traumatic period of my life. We need to get closer to each other. We need to have better tolerance for each other. Above all, we need to get closer to nature. And we need to respect this beautiful Earth. Our shared home.
The reason we aren't already 'better' together, is that we live in an imperfect world, with lots of problems and lots of unfairness - in human society as a whole, not just issues that are unique to us. Problems are not unique to Scotland. Look at Syria. Iraq. Palestine and Israel. Ukraine. Regardless of how we have or haven't intervened. The list is endless. The human race has problems. And Scotland's problems don't even come near to equating with many of them - the oppression in Palestine, the war in Ukraine. It would be offensive to suggest that they do. I feel free, I feel independent, and I already have my individual voice in the world. I am using that voice now. Not all of that freedom or independence is perfect, but it could be a hell of a lot worse. It is better than it could be.
Martin Luther King Jr said "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."
I think we should be saying this. We can live together as different countries, in one United Kingdom. Governing each other, Respecting each other. Working together, when it is better to do so. I happen to think that is a beautiful thing to strive for and promote - a kingdom that is united. I'm not blind - it's not perfect, it's not always fair, and there are lots of problems - but that is what we should be striving to unite FOR, to MAKE better together. Not passing blame, or bickering over cheap insults, but admitting when something is wrong, and then being a grown up and doing our best to find a solution, as a united front.
Again, Martin Luther said "All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem". We should keep striving together, to try and find those solutions, to each and every problem.
Independence or separation, in this form especially, just isn't in my make up. Nationalism really isn't in my make up at all. Unification of the human race, on the other hand, is.
To finish with Martin Luther - "Together we can and should unite our strength for the wise preservation, not of races in general, but of the one race we all constitute - the human race."
I've dealt with negatives, reached out for positives, and in the end, I've found hope. Life is a rainbow of opportunities, and the chance of amazing dreams. It's just that sometimes, well quite often actually, you have to get wet in the rain, in order to reach that otherside. To reach those dreams. Let us get wet in the rain, and reach the other side of the rainbow, together.
I really hope that none of that sounds preachy. That is not my intension, my only hope is to make someone think, every now and then. I care about the United Kingdom. Above all I care about humanity. That is all. And that is why I am voting no.
The video below is of our Earth, and our Moon, as seen by the Passing Juno Spacecraft.
"Really reminds you just how small the human race is ... and why we should unite and do amazing things!"
"The wisest voice is quiet and thoughtful, the foolish voice is loud and brash."
"Don't let me make up your mind for you. Let me at least make you think ..."