(Soundtrack: Disco Inferno, ‘The Long Dance’)
I’m genuinely shitting myself about voting in today’s referendum because for the first time in a long time, my vote doesn’t just have the feel of a frustrated protest to it. This time my vote might actually change something, and the terror this provokes is the terror of responsibility, of having to live up to the consequences of your choices.
It’s easy enough to vote for the Greens or the Socialists safe in the knowledge that they’ll oppose the ruling party of the moment from the margins. Voting for something that will inevitably have ramifications throughout your own lifetime and beyond is somewhat more difficult. This really matters, and the fact that this is such a shock to the system is a big part of why I’ve decided to vote the way I am voting.
My YES has not been arrived at easily. I struggle with anxiety and depression, conflicting obligations are a big trigger for me, and I have a tendency to over-analyse things to the point of paralysis. Voting YES to Scottish independence is difficult because I am an internationalist, and doubly difficult because there is so much information out there, so many risks to weigh against potential benefits.
Since we’re all friends here I hope we can all agree that neither the YES or NO side has a monopoly on good people or bad rhetoric, that both camps have their fair share of vaudevillian maniacs and shady backers, and that they’re both good at sweeping any traces of danger under the carpet. What I would say is that only one side has provided me with a rush of ideas for how we could make society worth living in, and provided me with the sense that there is an appetite for change out there.
See, for example, the detailed proposals of the Common Weal project, which amount to a blueprint for a version of a Scotland that rewards and demands the best from all of us equally:
Or the pro-independence policies of the Scottish Green Party, which hit a number of the same notes:
Or the constitutional suggestions of LGBTI for Yes:
Or the detailed analysis of how we live now and how we might do better that has been offered by Gerry Hassan, Cat Boy, Jenny Morrison, James Foley and Pete Ramand:
Or the many wonderful speeches and discussions that have been hosted throughout the country over the course of the past year or so:
Despite the slide into imbalanced, hateful, inward looking consensus that has characterised the governments of my lifetime, and the disillusionment this has provoked, politics has always been in me. I don’t have enough distance from the way things are to have preserved any idealism, so trust that I know the dangers of the SNP, and that I am aware that that party’s leadership may well overrule the interest that has been shown in the Common Weal by the party’s councillors. Trust that I am not voting YES because I am dazzled by what Alex Salmond feels fit to promise us, or because I support cuts to corporation tax or Scotland’s reapplication to NATO. Trust, also, that I have seen political engagement on an unprecedented scale during the build up to this referendum, that I have seen a poliphany of new groups work out how to organise this engagement, and that I know people are up to the task of holding politicians to account.
Big changes like this have so often been used as an opportunity for big business, so if we vote YES we cannot be complacent. We will have to work harder than we have ever worked to make this worthwhile.
This is not daydream believer stuff: we have ideas, we have the research to show that they could be successfully implemented, and most importantly we have people who want to make this happen. The fire of this debate will burn out after the last vote has been counted, but we have remembered that we can *make* fire. My hope is that we can balance a healthy fear of what this might bring with the knowledge that it makes us powerful. That includes my NO voting friends: I love you, and regardless of the result we need to put our heads together to see how we can do things better. The NO campaign might not have been a venue for new visions of how we could live, but that doesn’t mean that the people who supported it don’t have plenty of ideas of their own.
Vote with your head, vote with your heart, vote in full knowledge of your history and with an eye to the world outside of your own window. Vote whichever way you want, but please do so knowing that it matters, that we can change things.
Politics isn’t just for politicians. Don’t let them forget it.