Five million people. 30,414 square miles. The size of Maine or Belgium. Aside from pop culture phenoms like Braveheart and Trainspotting and Hogwarts, why should the world pay attention to a wee country voting on their independence?
It’s no secret that I support Scottish independence. But what’s perhaps less clear is why you ought to care, regardless of the referendum’s outcome.
1. This wee country is paving the way for the rest of the world in several ways.
Scotland is on track for creating 100% of her electricity from renewables by 2020¹. Read that again. 100% by 2020. Wind, tidal, hydro — Scotland’s output of sustainable, renewable energy is growing by leaps every year.
While Scotland does have oil in the North Sea, that’s not the focus. Scotland knows such resources are finite. In spite of Scotland’s oil reserves and contrary to the oil deification we see in the USA, Scotland has thought beyond oil’s end to maximise clean energy now.
Scotland is a wealthy country, but she has her eyes on the poor rather than valuing failed trickle-down economics and austerity measures. In addition to renewable energy, this small country recognises and values the truth that her people are her strongest asset and biggest source of innovation — and that people have the most ability to thrive when they have access to education, healthcare, and retirement after a hardworking life.
2. Scots are displaying optimism in the face of a world mired in recession.
One look at the Yes campaign shows that those fighting for Scottish independence are doing so not just because they fancy they might be able to change things; they ambitiously and passionately plan to change things.
It almost sounds utopian to imagine a fairer world where needs are met and wealth is shared by more than only an elite few. But compared to politics in the US, Scots agree on many, many facets of issues that splinter US voters. The National Health Service. Free post-secondary education. Equal pay. Assistance for those who need it. Pensions. Couple that with an abhorrence of nuclear weapons and their penchant for clean energy, an independent Scotland could very well show the rest of us how to human.*
3. Creativity in action: the independence generation
Creative folk are breathing life into the Yes campaign — and into society at large. While major news outlets focus on hammering Scots with the ideas that Scotland is too wee, too incompetent, too dependent, there is a renaissance happening in the artist’s den. These aren’t artists content to paint or write or design or play in solitude for the sake of ego — these are engaged people actively taking part and exercising their agency for the betterment of their country. National Collective and Bella Caledonia are two sites worth watching during this campaign.
The spirit of this transcends self-identifying as a creative person: the independence generation is treating all Scots like architects of a new nation.
4. They are peaceful.
This is not a debate of ‘nationalists’ versus ‘unionists’. This is a simple question of democracy restored to a country that has seen her votes vanish in the face of un-voted for governing bodies, in spite of increased devolution. It is, very simply, a modern picture of self-determination, for Scots to be able to choose their government rather than be saddled with one less than 18% of them voted for.²
There isn’t the cry of Scotland for Scots only or anything else one may expect to be paired with a word like ‘nationalism’. Rather, the focus of the independence campaign is to build a fairer country where the government is representative of the values of her people.
5. The history behind it.
If you’re familiar with Scotland’s history at all, you’ll know that there have been many instances wherein governing bodies made decisions for the nation at large based solely on their own pockets (including some direct bribery), with little or no regard for the overwhelming majority of the non-aristocracy.
The very Act of the Union was unpopular in Scotland, with widespread rioting and discontent to the point that martial law was enacted. And then there were the ensuing Jacobite rebellions in 1715 and 1745 when the monarchic succession became embroiled with religion and James II (James VII of Scotland) fled to France. The century following 1707 was rather bloody, oppressive, and distrustful on both sides.
So what does that have to do with the present? The intriguing answer is: not as much as you might think.
Far from a crusade to right past wrongs or a campaign to run through the annals of history, this vote is more about the future than the past. There is little or no woad to be seen, few cries of freedom, and what we do see of that is from a standpoint of politics, not blood. What is inspiring about this referendum isn’t that Scots are looking backwards; it’s that they are looking forward.
And we should all be watching them make their decision.
*Obviously not all Scots agree on everything. Also obviously, independence won’t be as simple as ticking a box and POOF, Fair New World. But the shared beliefs and values of Scotland’s people are a very hopeful sign, and a successful independent Scotland could build the country they want to live in.
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