The Indy ref in 2014 was joyous, tense, and stressful. I lived in London and because of this I felt deeply conflicted about it. It seemed that almost all the interesting, dynamic people in Scotland had decided to take a punt on running their own affairs, and strident no voters often seemed like patronising snarky condescending types, with speeches frequently very similar to the ones made by opposing men during the suffragette movement. But I wasn’t there. I had moved away nearly eight years previously to a place I still felt was my country.
What I could see however, and far closer up, was how bad the Westminster system was. Between it and the public schools that feeds most of its politicians, lobbyists and media class (on both right and left, make no mistake about this. Momentum and Corbyn’s Labour is being run by a bunch of public school boys playing parlour games as much as the Tory party is), I could see that we have an 18th century system of an Empire building country still being practised in post-Cclonial, post-industrial 21st century Britain.
When trying to explain to English friends why so many people were voting to leave the Union during the independence referendum, I would mention alienation from an out of touch political class and they would reply, “But I feel alienated by an out of touch political class.”
My reply was often, “Yes, but they can do something about this. We’re stuck with them.”
I wanted those dynamic interesting people I had met (possibly some of you) to win, I really did, but I have also never been so relieved when I woke up the morning after the independence referendum to see that I’d still be living in the same country as my family. I was upset for the people I knew who wanted a Yes vote that they had worked so hard for, it was heart breaking, but you weren’t leaving.
The Unionist project was over, even I could see that, but it had been given a stay of execution.
I have no great attachment to being British, but to be honest I have never had any great attachment to being Scottish. I feel European. I always have. Ever since I went on holiday to Majorca at eight years old I felt like that place was also my home. Because of the EU I was able to go and live in Spain in my very early twenties for several years, an experience that has completely shaped who I am and has given me my present career. Because of the EU I spent six months in Luxembourg working without a thought for a visa and traveled to Belgium for a beer, Germany shopping and France for lunch.
I like this modern Europe where rather than bombing each other (look at old WW2 videos of Luxembourg as an example) we are living in each other countries, studying in each others universities, marrying each other and bringing up children who speak a mixture of Dutch, Finnish and English, or Spanish, Finnish and Portuguese.
I like that rather than being left to fester and rot the EU has built decent roads in parts of the Hebrides, I like that the Dutch and the Germans can come and live a rural fantasy in the wilds of Scotland and add something to the place.
I do not want to turn my back on cultural co-operation funded by the EU, I do not want farmers to have to abandon their farms because there are no more subsidies, complicated and often counter productive as those subsidies can be. I do not want our Universities to stop their level of research because of lack of EU funding and co-operation.
Above all I do not want to get dragged into England’s present class and culture war.
This is more than an Etonian elite dinner party gone wrong. This is more than Boris’s buffoonery catching up with him. This is the poor and disenfranchised of England putting a gun to their own heads and pulling the trigger in protest. When they discover that all they have done is shoot themselves there will a time of reckoning, and it will not be good. There are no ideas, no clues and no vision of what to do. The only place that had any vision at all was the EU in the form of funding and grants and that will now disappear. No one in that crumbling delusion of a system of Government in Westminster knows even where to begin with the losers of globalisation in England. They think plucking a few of them out of it, sending them to University and letting them have some power is the solution. To paraphrase Kezia Dugdale, we can see how that’s working for them now.
Scotland can do nothing about this. We really too wee this time. We cannot solve England’s war as they have no idea where to begin it themselves. I, personally, can offer no solutions. All I am doing is watching in utter horror, unable to work, unable to leave social media and often unable to stop crying.
This, for me, is why I think Scotland needs to leave the United Kingdom. Even if, through some kind of divine intervention, the U.K. remains in the EU, this war is going to go on for some time and we cannot get caught up in it.
I came up here to write a book on whisky and Scotland and had fully intended to return to living in London by the end of the year. My friends live there, my network is there, almost all of my present life.
Friday changed all that.
Despite being someone who has a Catalan anarchist style aversion to joining anything more meaningful than a wine or whisky tasting club I joined the Women for Independence organisation on Saturday. I was crying when I joined.
I feel like I am abandoning my friends in London to their fate. Most of them work in the field of food and drink and I know that for many of them, their businesses will not weather the coming storm. That the London bubble of food and drink was too big and needed to burst, may well be true, but I do not want my friends to lose jobs and business they have worked extremely hard to get.
I feel like I am standing on a hill far away in safety waving at them. Scotland has leaders, whatever the outcome of this, it has leaders that do not think their country is just another toy to be played with. I have been only half joking when I have said on Twitter that right now, the only thing between me and heavy medication is Nicola Sturgeon. My friends in England and Wales cannot say the same.
For the first time in my life I am, rather than simply holding forth while drinking wine, I am going to get involved in something and, if and when it happens, I will campaign for an Independent Scotland. Probably with tears in my eyes, and with a deep seated sense of abandoning very dear friends, but I will be there on the campaign trail and I will mean it.
Meanwhile I now need to make decisions about my future. Most of my life is still a five hour train ride away, almost all of my friends are. I need to figure out how to make a new life for myself up here. Like most of Westminster at the moment, I am not sure even where to begin.