19 - 09 - 2020 / Your Story
I ENCOURAGED FRIENDS AND FAMILY TO VOTE NO
In both 2014 and 2016, I was living in Italy so could not vote. I was fiercely pro-union growing up in the Scottish Borders, interned with Lib Dems at the Scottish Parliament while at secondary school, went to Cambridge for university, social life in London, etc., so felt very connected to being British and Scottish together, as well as European.
I moved to Italy in 2011. I was against independence because I felt that Scotland had so many benefits from the union, no one was threatening our freedoms and we had significant autonomy. I liked the romantic idea of the UK as a rather heroic country fighting for democracy and human rights.
I encouraged my family and friends to vote No.
I always identified as Scottish, perhaps more in Italy, but along with my family, when the 2014 referendum came up, it was economic instability and European Union membership that made us No.
Also, I think I found the Yes Movement quite intimidating and lacking in credibility, it seemed silly, at least from the UK media I was reading in Italy.
- Brexit undermined everything.
- I was angry, upset, and did not want to be in Europe anymore.
- I felt like a traitor to the European dream.
When I moved back to Scotland in late 2016, I was ambivalent to independence. But I realised I wanted and needed to come home.
After a decade away, returning to Scotland felt so restorative. It was not Cambridge or London that I longed for, but for Scotland, my home, a European country.
As a gay man, even compared to Florence, Italy, Scotland still feels much freer and accepting. I could be openly gay at work (much more difficult in parts of Europe alas, I have also lived in Poland).
The Scottish Parliament has allowed Scottish parties to foster this culture of openness and inclusion, esp. the SNP. Through the Brexit debates, I truly felt represented me. I started taking the SNP seriously for the first time.
It was not, after all, a cult. People like Mike Russell speak with erudition. Other SNP politicians are genuinely thoughtful and considerate. The local SNP candidate impressed me in the last general election debate for his knowledge and understanding.
If people I can relate to and respect support independence, maybe I should think again?
Indeed, I think it became clear to me that while no government is perfect, Scotland, which I'd always treated as distinct from the UK, was best governed in its own interests and independence would realise and guarantee our potential.
If by choosing independence Scotland is choosing to be an inclusive intelligent thoughtful European country, then I am Yes. The UK since 2016 no longer offers us this.
Worst, it is clear, that all my old beliefs in the union were by now undermined: the UK represents economic instability, diplomatic isolation, and a less inclusive and tolerant society.
Romantic notions are increasingly proved false, but what good the UK has done in the past is not relevant to Scotland's future.
So already passionately Yes by the end of 2019, Nicola Sturgeon's exceptional leadership this year, as well as following so many excellent SNP politicians at Westminster and Holyrood, really gives me such an excitement for independence.
I am genuinely exhilarated by the thought of us going our own way and trying our hardest to make our country the best it can be.
Samuel from Dumfries and Galloway