Tomorrow, 18 September, we will not be voting in the UK divorce referendum. We will not be voting in the UK separation referendum. We will be voting in the Scottish independence referendum.
Independence is one of the most basic of human aspirations. From the moment of our first unsteady steps, we seek to be independent, autonomous beings. We make our way through life in pursuit of our own true selves – as infants discovering language and movement, as teenagers starting to find our identities, as adults seeking our own place in the world, as partners following our own paths within loving relationships. Independence is a natural, healthy state to wish for and one of the primary wellsprings of self-esteem. Its opposite, dependence, however unavoidable it may sometimes seem, is neither.
What we are voting for tomorrow is the choice between those two states – and the fact that it involves nations, not individuals, makes no difference. One state is fundamentally less healthy than the other. As in personal relationships, the one between two independent neighbouring countries can only be healthier and more mature than one in which the many entanglements of dependency cause resentment on both sides.
But enough of the lofty stuff… I’ve done all the thinking about this that I can now. I’ve tried my best to write in as measured a tone as possible over the last few months. The truth is that tomorrow I‘ll be voting from the bottom of a heart that has amazed me with its depth of feeling about the future of Scotland. If that makes me a nationalist, so be it, though I’ve never liked the word and I don’t really care for the word patriot much either. I prefer to think of myself simply as someone who imagines an alternative future to the one currently on offer, with independence the necessary first step towards it.
So I will be voting in the absolute conviction that independence is a natural state of affairs and that we have all we need and more to make a resounding success of it, to take our place among and make our contribution to the family of nations; and in the equal certainty that it won’t be easy, but that taking responsibility for our achievements and mistakes is an essential part of growing up.
I cannot pretend that I won’t be voting with a sense of deep indignation at the efforts of the UK political establishment, along with a lazy, smug, ignorant metropolitan press, to belittle us, patronise us, demonise our leaders, threaten and then, at the last minute, cajole us – all the while failing to offer a single compelling reason, other than that of sentimental attachment to an idea (which is exactly what we stand accused of), for staying.
Nevertheless, I will be voting in the certainty that the vast majority of my fellow countrymen and women feel the strongest bonds of affection for the marvellous country that is England, the English generally, and their relatives and friends who live there; and with nothing but contempt for those who reveal by their behaviour that they feel otherwise.
I will also be voting with an acute awareness that in 48 hours’ time we will need to begin a process of reconciliation; that somehow we will have to channel the passions of the last few months into the creation of something that we can all feel we own and wish to belong to.
I will be voting in awe of the energy, the creativity, the humour, the passion, the intelligence, the depth of self-examination, the breadth of engagement, the embracing sense of community, the sheer belief that this campaign has unleashed. For that alone it feels as if the battle is already won. It gives me enormous hope for the future.
And I will be voting with the thrill of knowing that I am living a moment of history – living it with the wind at my back.
I will be voting YES.
Hi Jamie! I hope / assume you know how celebrated your writing on this topic has been eg on 666000 miles an hour site? V Best wishes. Caroline
I, too, will be voting Yes, Jamie, for all the reasons you give. See you, and everybody in the new Scotland (whatever the people decide, it will be different) on the other side!
Jamie, I have enjoyed your blogs immensely over the past few months. You have written with intelligence, reason and passion and I’m grateful for your contribution to the debate.
I’m English. I support the England rugby & cricket teams (& begrudgingly the football team) and love the country that I come from, perhaps more so because of the county of my birth, Yorkshire. However, Scotland is my home and is where I will live for the rest of my life. It is an incredible nation that, whenever I travel abroad, I am proud to call my country. This referendum journey has been a journey for me too. It has challenged me to root out my feelings about who I am and where I am from and my relationship with my country. I have been inspired by the Scots attitude to this referendum, about it being so much more than an anti-English (in my experience) movement. This is about a proud (and rightly so) and energetic nation grappling with the issue of finding its place in the world, either as an independent nation or as part of a Union. I have embraced this country and I feel embraced by it. That’s quite a profound thought and as an English person in a ‘foreign’ land I never feel more at home than when I am at home, here in Scotland. I have yet to vote today but when I do it will be YES. Not because I’m anti-English but because it’s just plain right.
Steve, I don’t know you but that is a marvellous and uplifting post. I am very happy that you feel embraced by the country you have embraced. That is how it should be. I think it’s important to say that the vast majority of Scotland’s people would still embrace you even if your decision today were to vote NO. The wonderful thing about today is that it is our collective choice, and whatever the result it will be a democratic one. Good luck to us all!