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Less than a month to go until the vote on Scottish independence.


Although I am nominally resident in Scotland (sufficiently resident to vote in the referendum, in fact), in reality I am here so rarely that my only real understanding of the independence debate is in snapshots. Six months ago I would have spoken smugly about how measured and reasonable the debate was; now, things have taken on much more of an edge. A friend told me the other day that this is the first time that he has ever felt like he wasn’t comfortable sharing his likely voting choice with other friends, for fear of how they would react. What makes me uncomfortable is the widespread conflation of what is essentially a constitutional issue with a party political one. It is natural, of course, to link unionism with the party that happens to be in power in Westminster, and independence with the party that happens to be in power in Holyrood, but I have to keep reminding myself that that’s not actually what it’s about.


Nathan Coley, The Lamp of Sacrifice

In 2011 South Sudan had its own independence referendum, the results of which were more or less a foregone conclusion, ever since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in January 2005. South Sudan voted for independence – as I recall, the state with the lowest percentage of independence votes still polled something like 98% in favour – and has just passed its three-year anniversary as the world’s 193rd country (UN count). Obviously things aren’t looking so great in South Sudan at the moment, but that doesn’t mean that independence was a mistake for them. It just means that becoming your own country is – in all sorts of ways – bloody hard work.

It’s hard to talk about Scottish independence in Africa – or at least the bits of Africa I spend the most time in. When I tell South Sudanese or Somali friends that my adopted country is having an independence referendum soon, their response is overwhelmingly positive. “Get rid of them!” one of my Somali colleagues urged me the other day; I didn’t bother trying to explain to him that I am actually one of the Them that is perhaps being got rid of. That isn’t the way I feel, most of the time, as an English person living in Scotland, though perhaps I would feel differently if I lived somewhere other than Glasgow (or Edinburgh). But it is hard to explain the nuances of the Scottish independence movement to someone whose primarily model for independence struggles is one that involves mass murder and repression. This is not to minimise the debate in favour of Scottish independence – there are very strong arguments to be made that only an independent Scotland can fix the country’s myriad problems. But one of those myriad problems is not English people flying Antonovs over the border and dropping bombs on Cumbernauld.

I don’t know how I will vote, still. I’ve been through periods of being definitely yes, and periods of being definitely no, and periods (like now) of being definitely ambivalent. My feeling is that independence would be better for Scotland and worse for the UK, and so the question remains where my loyalty lies.


Written by Jess

August 21, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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