06 - 03 - 2019 / Update
I WAS PUT OFF YES BY THE UGLINESS I SAW ONLINE
I moved up to Scotland in 2000 from England, having always loved the country and felt very drawn to it. I voted No in 2014 because at that time I didn't feel there was a mismatch between Scottish and UK values and interests, nothing that would justify the inevitable upheaval of independence.
I was also put off by some of the wilder promises being made by Alex Salmond, things he couldn’t promise (such as the Royal Navy continuing to build its ships in Scotland); and yes, I was sceptical about the oil price used in the calculations.
The thought of being out of the EU, even if only in the short-to-medium term, was also a major reason.
I was also put off by some of the ugliness I saw online, talk of treason and hanging No voters from lampposts.
I now realise that was just a minority and that elements of the No side were just as bad, but I did find it genuinely alarming at the time and I wouldn't have risked putting a No sticker on my car.
It all began to change after the Brexit vote.
I'm passionately pro-EU and had been a volunteer campaigner for ‘Remain’ and was just gutted when Leave won. The fact that Scotland so definitively voted Remain was the first clear sign to me that I'd been wrong, and that Scottish and UK interests and attitudes and priorities really *are* incompatible.
I realised that I was going to have to revisit my stance on independence, and it didn't take long for me to switch to Yes.
After all, we were now going to face huge upheaval in or out of the UK: it might as well be a *positive* upheaval, one with real light at the end of the tunnel, rather than a wholly negative one that couldn't possibly turn out well and flew in the face of everything believe in.
The next major step on my journey to Yes - very soon after the Brexit vote - was when the Scottish Government published its own highly sensible, reasonable suggestions for how to resolve the Brexit nightmare, seeking to find ways of keeping the UK, or at least Scotland, within the Single Market - and it was obvious that Theresa May just dismissed them out of hand. I doubt she even bothered to read them.
That anger and frustration have remained with me, as I have repeatedly seen how Scotland's elected Government has been side-lined at every turn, and the sneering contempt with which Scotland, its interests, its voters and its politicians are treated by the UK establishment.
I now marvel at myself that I couldn't see the contempt before, and really don't know how I could have been so blind.
It's so obvious to me now.
The other thing that has changed is that the Scottish Government is now led by Nicola Sturgeon, someone I have enormous liking and respect for. I find her altogether more credible than her predecessor and have been greatly heartened by her highly inclusive language and approach.
To me, as an English person long-term resident in Scotland, the language in 2014 really did not feel inclusive.
I sensed real hostility at times. It wasn't coming from the top of the SNP, but there didn't seem to be any (or enough, anyway) language of inclusivity coming from them either. I think there's a different atmosphere now, the language of inclusion has become mainstream.
The repeated messages along the lines that "If you choose to make your home in Scotland, you're one of us" have been extremely welcome, and in huge contrast to the narrow, bigoted, xenophobic attitudes driving UK policy.
Ever since the Brexit vote, the UK has been in meltdown, revealing itself to be built on bluster and privilege and English exceptionalism and delusion. Scotland, by contrast, has been acting with decency, rationality and quiet assurance, showing the world the kind of country it seeks to be, and will be, post-independence.
I no longer refer to myself as English – I think of myself as a Scot-by-choice and I am so proud and happy to be one. And I will vote Yes next time.
Even if the UK doesn't leave the EU for any reason, I will still vote Yes.
It was the Brexit vote that started me on my Yes journey, but it's the way Scotland has been treated ever since, and the clear gulf between Scottish and UK attitudes and values, that will keep me committed to independence, no matter what happens at the UK level now.