New Yes 1

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

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.

Comments (35)

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  1. ROBERT MCINTOSH says:

    Rachel, thank you for sharing and I hope that you settle into life in Scotland very quickly. I’m sure, from the tone of your writing, that you will have no problem in making some new friends here but I am also sure that you will keep all your existing friends in London and they will probably be only too glad to visit you here in Scotland.

  2. Bert Logan says:

    Aha, but now my friends say ‘get out while you can’. I am also London based, English in half, Scottish born and brought up. Nothing romantic, but my connection to England died as I watched family and friends vote ‘Leave’. I was ‘Yes’ before – working in the City makes you aware of the greed in its tawdriest forms.

    England is broken now, so badly it will be decades before it recovers – if it does. My friends are actually desperate, one offering marriage as her escape and a Scottish Passport to be (for her 3 kids mostly). Everyone in London who ‘remained’ can see the hell to come, the simple ‘travel’ hassle, and the horrible ‘Little England’ rising.

    I am trying to work out how to move to Scotland, but take a crushing income hit with mortgage to pay et al. Still worth it with the hate growing, and I also feel guilty for my friends – they can do nothing. They have no hope. Scotland does.

    Oh – and thats one thing to note – I know a lot of people doing the same as me.

    1. Steve Bowers says:

      on the positive side property is cheaper up here ( generally) and if Scotland goes independent there will probably be a flood of business from London/England to Scotland (since it’s closest ) to be able to keep their business in the EU markets.
      Welcome aboard by the way, I’ve been YES all the way so has my English wife and it’s lovely to see people being open enough to challenge themselves and change their mind, it must be a very difficult decision to take.

    2. tartanfever says:

      Bert,

      Family members of mine work in the city and I’ve been speaking to them over the last couple of days, they are doing much the same thing. One who works for an American Bank is probably shifting to Paris or Frankfurt, the other is, like you, thinking about moving back north.

      With the political remarks being made by the Tories about immigration, they think it’s clear we will not be part of the single market. They have told me about colleagues just walking about stunned by the leave vote and now by the lack of planning/ anti EU rhetoric. Their prediction, within 3 months we will be back into a pretty deep recession.

      They are clearly saying to me it’s time to get out of the UK, but also mentioned that if we had voted Yes in 2014 and got our EU membership sorted, today we could have been looking at a windfall of financial companies moving north.

  3. john young says:

    Terrible situation Bert for the many millions of good decent English people,now they do not even have a Labour party to fight for honesty/decency,Scotland might not be everyones “cup of tea” but we have a real chance to create an equitable society,we have a manageable size of population we are or should be at the head of re-newables which can become massive for us,we have a good education system that will improve our NHS is in and should remain in safe hands,most immigrants are within reason safe and welcomed we do have eejits but hopefully they will be marginalised,there is a lot that can be improved for the good of all our citizens but I am sure that with some vibrant left wing groups we can steer a course to a better life.

  4. Anna says:

    Thanks for a lovely piece of writing. I was yes however surprised myself at the sadness I felt at seeing the union jacks furled and packed in Brussels. I never thought it but I will feel a degree of sadness at walking away from England. What surprised me more last week was the anguish at loosing a European identity. In a similar vein to you I have felt awful since Friday. Not prone to anxiety I have struggled to sleep, been tearful gave up caffeine to cope with my jitters and have struggled to work while being glued to political developments. I have been clinging to the hope we have in Scotland and our capable and strong FM who I trust to do the best she can. Still my heart genuinely weeps for England.

    1. K. A. Mylchreest says:

      Don´t worry about England. England will muddle through eventually, that´s their way. This is Scotland´s big chance, please don´t screw it up this time around, please don´t!

      I do worry for Wales though. Left alone as it were to possibly be smothered by all that awful Little-Britishness.

  5. GreatClunkingFist says:

    Good luck to you Rachel. I’m English and moved to Glasgow with no job to go to last year. I was previously in Oxford, a lovely place in itself, but I have not for one moment regretted removing myself from the dysfunctional south of England.

    My only concern is that by no longer fighting for change there, I’ve abandoned people to their fate. However, my hope is that a modern, egalitarian and progressive Scotland will be a better force for good in the world than a UK broken by misplaced English anger and fear.

  6. Jac Gallacher says:

    Hats off to anyone who makes a huge shift like this and writes openly about it. I have friends and family in England who are worried and want to come to Scotland too. I also have German family living in Scotland and no one seems to know what happens to them once article 50 is in motion. Worrying times.

  7. Alf Baird says:

    Forgive me, but this all sounds a wee bit over dramatic. England is not suddenly Syria where everyone needs to evacuate ‘over the border’ in a hurry. Or is it mainly the middle classes/higher educated etc, i.e. those with relatively easier mobility/job prospects, and the retired with their pensions attracted by superior public services and lower house prices here? Scotland now has approaching 1m folk from south of the border and according to the polls at the time most of them (i.e. 80%+) voted ‘No’ in 2014 (thereby ensuring a ‘No’ result) and I suspect most will vote ‘No’ again in the next indyref.

    “alienation from an out of touch political class”
    I suspect many of us here are also suffering this alienation with regard to Holyrood’s talking heads.

    “I have never had any great attachment to being Scottish”
    Is this another reflection of the cringe? Nobody is forcing anyone to be Scottish.

    “I feel European”.
    This is like my Omani friend saying he feels “Middle Eastern”, or my Japanese friend saying he feels “North Asian”, or my Norwegian friend saying he feels “Scandinavian”. Such descriptions reflect racial groups.

    My (Scots) sister married an Italian and went to live in Italy, and this was prior to the UK joining the EU. She is still there, but this had and still has very little if anything to do with the EU.

    1. Rachel McCormack says:

      It was never cultural cringe Alf. I simply lived in Spain at a time when no one had heard of Scotland beyond whisky and Braveheart. I was either part of a gang of friends I still have, or treated as a foreigner from the north which could have been Germany, Holland or Sweden. So you stop thinking about it when you’re that young and made your home elsewhere.
      And this may be too dramatic for you, but an Irish friend who has lived in London for over 20 years and never ever had a moment’s bother has just told me that he now feels like an immigrant and not very welcome.
      It is not good. Not good at all.

      1. Alf Baird says:

        Rachel, thanks for that, and for your article. Your example I have to say is not quite so dramatic for me – it is not so very long ago there were signs on some B&Bs and lettings in England which included rather unkind references to Irish, Scots and others.

  8. David Allan says:

    Rachel a warm welcome to the emotional roller coaster the bumpy ride with still no end in sight.

  9. Mic11 says:

    What a lovely article Rachel. It was a sombre read but I’m glad you felt able to share it. I was yes in 2014 and was gutted at the result. Yet I have surprised myself at how angry, despondent and let down I feel at this result. Last time I was a sofa supporter next indyref I will be actively campaigning.

  10. Blair says:

    Its not true that there is no vision. On other comments I have left in replys (within Bella Caledonia) or on Twitter there is Blair//Christina 3-phase.
    You are probabably used to Google or Cortana? Christina’s 3-phase connections are designed to handle industrial loads of data just like our national grid.

    -Blair started working on
    ‘The Christina Project’ on 12.08.92

  11. Mike says:

    Rachel, welcome.

    You describe the shell shock, the helplessness at the stupidity of the outcome, so many of us felt. The very people who voted Leave will be the worst affected. As an Irishman, devoted to Scotland, my immediate reaction was to apply to renew my (Irish) passport, with the plan being to apply for an Irish passport for each of my Scottish born children. The thought of them losing the wealth of rights and freedoms under the EU is not something I will tolerate.

    I voted Yes last time and felt sickened by the fact that Scotland was the first country in history to walk away from self determination. We may get a second chance, but my faith in the courage of people to take that chance is flimsy, to say the least. If the country does vote No again, Scotland as a concept, never mind a nation, will be a thing of the past. Outside the EU, it will simply be a minor backwater of Greater England, where no business worth it’s salt would waste time setting up shop.

    For that reason, I need to know that my children, Irish passports in hand, will always be Europeans, as you describe. Indeed they have already sworn to leave the UK and Scotland should that happen. They, like most of their peers, want to live in the 21st century.
    So thanks for you great piece and here’s hoping if we do get another chance, Scotland takes it.

    1. Keith says:

      Hi Mike,

      I dont think the recent shift in the polls will be reversed even if brexit is cancelled. Scotland has woken up to the fact its neighbour has gone nucking putz. The range of emotions that people time and again describe is exactly what I have been feeling. Britain is over and I would give anything to get the old one back buts its gone. That sleepy old Britain that could be relied upon never to do much reactionary is now in the past. I voted yes in 2014 and will again if I get the chance.We should all use social media to try to bring people to Scotland who will vote YES As reinforcements arrive from the south the vote for independence can only grow stronger.
      Lets move forward in the coming weeks and months to the end of this beginning.

  12. Alasdair MacAlpine says:

    I too live in London, a Scottish immigrant.

    In the last week I would be lying if I said I detected a rise in anti EU feeling London, but what I do detect is the only leadership being provided by anyone anywhere in the last legs uk is the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland.

    Today the newly elected London mayor is copying Nicola by portraying himself as wanting to save London’s position in the EU.

    Like Rachel, time for me to head home too!

  13. David Allan says:

    Mike I like your soft project fear comment – “If the country does vote No again, Scotland as a concept, never mind a nation, will be a thing of the past. Outside the EU, it will simply be a minor backwater of Greater England, where no business worth it’s salt would waste time setting up shop”

    The stakes next time are so high – Scotland or a desert!

    The SNP need to begin to use their electoral superiority to create the package that will bring Independence keep an open mind on the EU there may be alternatives that will satisfy the issues of travel and need to be an inclusive part of Europe.

  14. Marjory maxwell says:

    This last week has been horrible,but I’m glad that I’m Scottish,I’m pleased that we have a First Minister that has Scotland’s interests deeply in her heart,I’m proud to have met her as first minister,I met her years ago when she was very young,we were both engaged in trying to stop the closure of a local hospital,which we successfully stopped,I found her to be very friendly and genuine during the latest elections,she’s one of us,an I’m with her all the way in her latest endeavours to keep Scotland in the EU,I’m appalled at the bad feelings being targeted at her,and towards the Scottish people by some English people,but at the same time my heart goes out to those English citizens who voted not to leave the EU,I know how you feel,Scotland voted to stay in,we shouldn’t be dragged out against our will,and I welcome anyone from England who would like to move to Scotland,your most wholeheartedly welcome here.

  15. Duncan says:

    Hi Rachel,

    I see it a little bit diferently. I think you might have been close enough to realise how “bad the Westminster system was” but maybe a little bit too far away from Brussels to notice what is going on there. When you have a so called European Economic Union where some countries run surplus and others run deficit GDP’s and the ones with surpluses impose austerity on the deficit ones you have a pretty bad sysyem, or for some- a nice wee racket. Simply, it is an economical model that can never be reversed. Look at our brothers and sisters in Greece and Spain and, many forgotton parts of England outside of London. Indeed, take a 52 bus trip in Edinburgh. I think it is unfair to dismiss the working people of England or anywhere so easily as putting a gun against their head when all they are trying to do is govern their own affairs- like the Scottish Independence movement has advocated. To me it seems they just want to be a little bit closer to what is going on.
    Also, you say there is no vision of what is going on in Britain when they clearly have marked out one- to leave Europe as oppossed to continue in a federalised Europe. A vision which dehumanises large parts of the Continent and the Uk. I know it’s all beer and skittles for some people living in Europe but a lot more didn’t feel that way.

    1. Crubag says:

      The referendum result was driven by people who identify as English rather than British – that’s a dynamic no political party has a handle on including UKIP.

      Conversely, the 2014 referendum was lost in part because there was still a significant British identity in Scotland, though the economic gaps in the argument were the larger issue.

      1. Duncan says:

        I think the referendum was driven from people who understand how the liberal market works. A lot of people forget about the bank bailouts or refuse to understand what this really means or how we got there. Entire parts of Europe are bankrupt relying on bailout loans they have no chance to ever repay, including Scotland. Ignoring this and turning it into identity politics is paltry.

        1. Crubag says:

          It’s too late – the electorate have turned it into identity politics. Look at the Ashcroft polling data, it’s the self-identifying English rather than British who have voted Leave.

          No political party has properly engaged with this and for some, like Labour’s Emily Thornberry, they don’t even recognise what country they are living in.

          1. Rose says:

            Yep, this is the tragedy – that ordinary people in England had no party to represent them, and the only one that is – i.e. Corbyn’s Labour, is being destroyed, not by the general public but by Westminster tactics as usual

            I think the criticisms of the EU, above, are valid, some say it’s a sinking ship in its current form but I voted remain because I have hope that it’s reformable. There’s also the view that the neoliberal aspects of the EU are supported because most of the countries in it have neo liberal governments. An independent Scotland in the EU could be a small challenge to that aspect I like to think. Yes, I live in hope..!

            I have a couple of friends from England who (like Rachel) are thinking of moving to Scotland, in fact I’m off on a west Highlands odyssey this year with an English friend to explore some options..

            I understand the sense of abandoning others through independence, (I was born in Scotland and live here, but half my family and friends are in England) this I overcame with the simple knowledge that Scottish voters clearly make no difference to the situation in the UK as a whole, with the exception of independence. And I do think Scottish independence might trigger a strong drive in England for less Westminster-centric politics. There is always hope…

    2. S Robertson says:

      Well said!

      1. Duncan says:

        I’m a little wary about race profiling a referendum based on polling data? were they the same polls that so accurately predicted the election and the referendem? The one That is having it’s own inquiry at the moment. The English who also voted leave are not a generic group of voters you like to cast them as. And remember, they are the same people who marched on Westminster when Thatcher ran a guinea pig poll tax in Scotland.

  16. helen says:

    I live in Scotland and am Scottish to the bone with Irish ancestry. I voted leave in the EU vote because of the way Greece was treated and have great concerns about the possibility of Turkey joining the EU. I voted yes in the independence campaign and hope we get another shot at it.
    I have watched with great concern what is happening down south and feel very sad for my English counterparts. I pray and hope that the mess will get sorted out and a strong leadership can rise in the Tory and Labour parties. Sometimes it takes a shaking to look at where we are and how best we can sort it out. I agree that Westminster has been so far removed from the peoples wishes, hopefully this can be a turning point to get them in the right direction.
    By the way I live in Edinburgh and love my cosmopolitan city. I love that we have a variety of nationals living in the city who work hard and pay into our tax system and society. They are truly welcome here.
    I want to say to everyone out there who is worried and fearful, it will be alright, things will sort themselves out.
    Where Europe is concerned I hope that there will still be ties with them, I personally would like to see a system in place the same as Norway has. I am trusting that will be the way forward for us all.

  17. S Robertson says:

    Well said, Duncan, I mean!

  18. Alf Baird says:

    Perhaps when “they don’t even recognise what country they are living in”, this is the inevitable outcome of un-managed multiculturalism?

    1. Crubag says:

      In Emily’s case it was the failure to recognise a significant ethnic group

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-30148768

      Who make up most of her potential voters.

  19. Linda Bates says:

    Rachel, thanks for your article and for your description of how dislocated you currently feel. I’m from Scotland originally (Ayr) but lived in London for all of my 20s and early 30s; I moved back north (to here in Edinburgh) in 2002 and also really missed my friends and my ‘life’ in London, so can relate to what you’re going through. At the 2014 indyref I did a lot of canvassing for Yes; it was tough but really invigorating (although ultimately disappointing!). I think that I’ve been in mourning since that result, but the Brexit result has suddenly re-awakened me to the real possibility that Scotland could regain its independence (after a mere 300 years!) in the next few years. So, like you, I’ve committed to attending to Women for Indy meetings here in Edinburgh in preparation for if/when we get to vote on it again. Perhaps I’ll see you there? All the best!

  20. Billy Kay says:

    Fine writing, Rachel. I hope you have a special malt set aside for what will be one of the great toasts in our history, “Here’s to the dawning of an independent Scotland.”

  21. John Page says:

    Thank you, Rachel for a fine article
    John Page

  22. 'Nationwide' says:

    Wow. Strong, persuasive stuff. I’ve never even thought about leaving London to return home to Glasgow because I spend a lot of time in Scotland with close friends and remaining family. I’ve never felt disassociated from Scotland although was uncomfortable to be branded ‘Unionist’ during the debate before IndyRef. It was as if I’d somehow become non-Scottish which, to anyone who knows me, is patent nonsense.
    The Brexit vote has changed everything, I agree about that and also how utterly disastrous it is. We’ve got caught up in a right wing Tory schism that should never have got beyond party conference debate. But it did, and here we are.
    Maybe you’re right. I just don’t know yet.

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