10665854_10152475630558300_2359716553460408087_nThe second in our new series inviting people who have only recently come over to supporting independence to describe their own personal and political journey.

Quoting Lenin is not usually my first response to events, but these words are unusually fitting:

‘There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.’

As a typically self-assured undergraduate politics student at the time, and an albeit passive member of Scottish Labour, I supported remaining in the United Kingdom from the moment the Scottish National Party swept to victory in May 2011 to the day I cast my vote in September 2014. I wanted to shield Scotland from the economic uncertainties of independence; to protect our place in the world, and maintain my political identities: Scottish, British, European, and social democratic. I voted Remain for largely the same reasons, though I’ll happily accept that – like the UK – the European Union has its share of infuriating imperfections.

I fell asleep on my couch whilst watching the results come in, in the middle of the night. When I woke up it was all over. At first I was stunned: how could people have voted for something so ill-advised? Then I was angry, at an inept Remain campaign as much as I was at the pro-Brexit politicians who had lied and deceived to get the result they wanted, and who would soon disappear off into the political wilderness, leaving it to literally anyone else to clean up their mess.

The one chink of light was that the people of Scotland had voted as I had. With the exception of reconvening the Scottish Parliament, never in Scottish political history had those who chose to exercise their franchise voted so overwhelmingly in favour of one option on the ballot paper. As I watched the First Minister speak between the Saltire and the Flag of Europe, I found myself agreeing with her every word. Before the vote I had felt that independence in the aftermath of Brexit would be an overreaction, but the reality is that the disparate results of the referendum signify much more than lower Euroscepticism in Scotland than in the UK. They represent how far we have drifted apart, and the very different futures we now face.

Scotland didn’t just vote to stay in the EU. We voted for a drastically different future, to live in a completely different country, from our neighbours to the south. We voted to live in a country which is open, welcoming, and forward-looking. They voted to turn inwards, to pull up the draw-bridges, to turn to the frankly neo-imperialist vision of Britain which the British-nationalist right have dreamed of for decades. We chose to look to the future, they to the past; we chose an interdependent and cooperative world, they chose isolationism and the lie of ‘sovereignty’. Clearly, it is not possible any more to be both British and fully European; I am not sure to what extent it is possible to be progressive and fully British any more, or at least to what extent one could now get away with saying they’re British without following it up with a ‘but…’

This isn’t about the EU, and it isn’t even about the UK. This is about the kind of country we want Scotland to be: a full partner in the European family, pushing forward progressive politics alongside the continental left, or a sidelined nation chained to a regressive state which scales down our ambitions in the name of dogmas and dog-whistle politics. There have been decades in Scottish politics in which nothing has happened and we have simply drifted with the tide, we cannot allow the coming decade to be one of them.

The result of the referendum makes it impossible now to maintain those identities which progressive No voters have balanced for so long. It also makes it impossible for Scotland to maintain the place in the world we have sought to fulfil for many years, that of a socially, economically, and politically progressive beacon. We face indefinite shackling to a state which opposes and is determined to undermine everything we believe our country should be. There is only one direction we can move in now to avoid that.

Of course, there are still the niggling economic questions: what about the currency, what about trade, what about the deficit? Contrary to the received wisdom, the North Sea is not the only component of the Scottish economy, nor is Sterling all it’s cracked up to be, and who’s to say we would lose trade with the rUK, especially if they gain Single Market access? With respected economists like Glasgow University’s Professor John McLaren arguing that an independent Scotland would be more than able to adjust and to perform as well as any other advanced industrial economy, the economic questions we face are much more about whether we take control of our own economic future or allow a broader UK electorate to jeopardise it against our will, whether by austerity or some other economically illiterate dogma.

For me, the morning after the referendum came with a jarring moment of clarity. The UK I believed in no longer exists, if it ever did. Those on the Scottish left who voted No two years ago face a clear choice: do we keep calm and carry on, allowing ourselves to sleepwalk into a regressive union in which our values will be marginalised, or do we accept that if we want to live in a progressive and internationalist country that we need to seize that for ourselves?

This isn’t about the EU, and it isn’t even about the UK. This is about the kind of country we want Scotland to be: a full partner in the European family, pushing forward progressive politics alongside the continental left, or a sidelined nation chained to a regressive state which scales down our ambitions in the name of dogmas and dog-whistle politics. There have been decades in Scottish politics in which nothing has happened and we have simply drifted with the tide, we cannot allow the coming decade to be one of them.

Likes(2)Dislikes(1)