Why The Imminent Vote For Scottish Independence From The UK Deserves Our Attention
On September 18, 2014, the people of Scotland will vote on whether or not to become independent from the United Kingdom (UK). If you haven't been looking at your calendar lately, that's less than a month away.
Accordingly, we interviewed a Scottish Millennial, currently living in Maine, about why he will vote "Yes" for Scottish Independence. His name is Darren Reid.
I met Darren while I was studying in Scotland's largest city, Glasgow. He immediately struck me as an extremely inquisitive person, and someone who gives a great deal of thought to any issue before offering his opinions or positions. Likewise, when we met in September 2012, he was undecided on the issue of Scottish independence.
Over time, however, Darren realized that he didn't want to miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make his country a nation again, and to establish a government that represents the true values of Scotland. In essence, Darren is a fervent believer in unfettered democracy and the right to self-determination.
Darren wants young Americans to understand this issue, and why it corresponds with so many of the values that both Americans and Generation-Y hold dear.
If Scotland votes yes in September, it will not only impact the United Kingdom, but also have repercussions across the world. This is particularly true for the United States, as the UK is its greatest ally. Hence, it's important that we grant this issue attention.
This is a unique moment in history, one we should not ignore.
As Darren puts it:
I'm voting yes because I'm Scottish, a Millennial, and it's time to stand up and take this opportunity because it's never going to happen again. I want an economy and foreign policy chosen by Scotland for Scotland, not MP's [Members of Parliament] in Westminster.
Meet Darren Reid...
Darren is 25 years old and from Kincardine, Scotland. He currently lives in Orono, Maine, where he works as the Cohen Research Associate at the University of Maine.
Primarily, Darren's research focuses on the relationship between the United States and Russia. As a young Scot, however, he is naturally quite passionate about his country's politics, as well. Google Maps
This Is Not "Braveheart: Part II"
At present, the United Kingdom consists of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and other islands and territories such as the Falklands. If Scotland votes for independence, it means the end to a union that has existed for over 300 years and the separation of the two largest countries that are currently part of the UK.
When most Americans hear the phrase, "Scottish independence," they probably envision Mel Gibson in a kilt, with half of his face painted blue, riding around the Scottish highlands being an all-around bad*ss.
First of all, however, Mel Gibson is Australian. Second of all, the events depicted in Braveheart were 700 years ago -- not to mention the film is quite historically inaccurate (but still awesome).
While the current movement for Scottish independence does have historical roots, it has nothing to do with Braveheart, and it is a peaceful movement. It's democratic, civic, and a product of years of political discourse.
This is a 21st century political movement concerning contemporary issues. There will not be thousands of drunken men wearing kilts marching in London next month. Although, that does sometimes happen when Scotland plays England in football (soccer), but that's an entirely different matter altogether.
In essence, this is one of the most monumental moments in recent history. One of the most successful political unions in the world might soon be broken. Moreover, for the first time in recent history, a country might attain independence without going to war.
If you are familiar with world history, you will understand how rare this is. Countries rarely have the opportunity to choose their destiny without bloodshed. As Darren states,
If Millennials in the United States took a second to read an article on Scottish independence... If they put down the Braveheart DVD, picked up an academic article or something from Elite Daily or the New York Times... Something that isn't completely and utterly biased... I think they'll be interested, and I think most American Millennials will say, 'Oh I believe everything many people in Scotland are saying.' Basically, why is Scotland locked into this political and social union that started 300 years ago? Why does Scotland have its foreign policy and economy decided by English people? ... I think once you learn about it, it's very hard to be against Scottish Independence.
Why Independence? Why Now?
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. One of the most iconic sites in Glasgow, Scotland.
Furthermore, the current government in the United Kingdom is run by the Conservative Party, which is not representative of Scottish politics and beliefs.
According to Darren,
We're now seeing clear distinctions between the Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish... Being Scottish is a very distinctive thing... We've always had a 'go it alone' mentality... You see it with things like same-sex marriage... We voted to allow it first, and then the rest of the UK followed... The ban on smoking in public spaces, that was brought in first by Scotland, and then the UK followed our example... Within the UK, we've always done things our own way... I think now there is simply a greater demand for democracy and an end to an antiquated political system... Take the House of Lords, for example: In 2014, the concept that one branch of government was not elected or accountable to anyone is incredibly perplexing to not only me, but also to a lot of young Scottish men and women... We want to elect those who represents us... ...On key issues, the economy and foreign policy... Scotland doesn't have control...
Likewise, when the United Kingdom joined the United States in Iraq following the invasion in 2003, the majority of Scots were against this move. However, due to the union, they had no choice in the matter.
Additionally, there are also disagreements over the direction of healthcare and education between Scotland and the rest of the UK. Scotland has a unique and distinctive history with education, as Darren notes.
Education and healthcare have traditionally been free in Scotland, and most Scots want to keep it that way. The idea of free education (university) is a foreign concept to most Americans, but it's extremely important to Scotland.
Similarly, Darren states,
Scotland has done so much for the world with technological advancements, medicine, education, the liberal arts and humanities... There are so many famous Scots: Andrew Carnegie, Adam Smith, David Hume, even Billy Connolly... These Scots have added so much... If there's a country that deserves to be its own country, it's Scotland...
At the moment, Scotland only sends one Conservative MP to Westminster out of 59 Scottish MP's. To put this into context, imagine if the vast majority of the United States population were Republican, but the entire US Congress were run by the Democratic Party.
No one would stand for it. After all, the US revolution was largely inspired by the slogan, "No taxation without representation." It's clear that Scotland is not properly represented whatsoever in British politics.
With that said, things are not quite as extreme in the United Kingdom as they were in 1776 between the American colonies and the British Empire, but there are still serious issues of concern.
Scotland does have a devolved parliament and is autonomous on certain issues, such as education, healthcare and the judicial system. The legal system in Scotland is completely different from the rest of the UK; yet, key issues like taxation and foreign policy are not up to the Scottish government.
This is particularly disconcerting when you look at the confluence of forces that converge upon the world at present, in terms of both economic and military threats. Accordingly, Darren contends,
The foundation of Scottish independence is democracy... In my opinion, we just don't feel like we've got sufficient level of political representation from a UK government that some would argue doesn't have a mandate to legislate in Scotland. This is particularly true given its lack of MP's from Scotland who are members of the government party... Political representation is vital... People in countries around the world have been demanding more transparency and representation, and young people especially just don't feel like they're getting that.
Moreover, Darren believes that the arguments against independence are politically-charged and not based in reality. Additionally, when it comes down to it, outside opinions aside, it's up to the people of Scotland to decide what's best for the future of their country.
Edinburgh, the beautiful capital of Scotland.
Darren believes that the majority of young people in Scotland share his sentiments, and argues that they want to build a country that represents their distinct convictions.
Millennials are going to realize that we can take control of our own future, our own foreign policy, our economy... And we can make a vibrant Scotland... And give the world more great thinkers... I think Millennials are a lot more positive and optimistic about the future... ... It's been a purely democratic process... Nationalism in Scotland has been around for hundreds of years... It's been a long process...
Similarly, many of the values of American Millennials coincide with Scottish political beliefs. This is true when one views Scotland's promotion of diplomacy, same-sex marriage, the eradication of poverty and the promotion of subsidized healthcare and education.
With so much going on in the world right now, many people might not feel very inclined to grant this issue any attention. If anything, the Scottish independence movement should instill people with hope. It is proof that democracy still exists and that people deserve to have a voice and to live in a country that embodies their beliefs and desires.
Regardless of whether or not Scotland becomes independent, the fact that the vote is happening is remarkable. It's a beautiful moment in human history and a triumph for all people. In this age of cynicism and distrust of government, it's important to be reminded that there is still fairness in the world, and it's inherently good.
No matter how chaotic things may seem, the world is not a lost cause.
Photos Courtesy of John Haltiwanger and Darren Reid