Monday, 24 March 2014

Why it's a Yes from me

In my last post I wrote about the Westminster government and the tactics they're using in an attempt to scare the Scottish people into voting No and upholding the status quo. These kind of hierarchical power relationships are inherent in patriarchal capitalist societies and one could argue that there's nothing to say that the Scottish government wouldn't act the same way if the Shoe of Superior Power was on the other foot. On the face of it that's a fair point, so this post is about why I'm voting Yes and why I see an independent Scotland as an opportunity to move beyond the patriarchal top-down systems that we've lived under for so long.

The most important opportunity that an independent Scotland offers is a chance to create a written constitution. I don't think the significance of this has been fully unpacked in the mainstream (lamestream!) media, surprise surprise. The UK doesn't have a written constitution to protect the rights of its citizens and the role of the state in making sure those rights are upheld. Of course, we are understood to have human rights, but in practice human rights legislation is difficult to access, particularly when someone is poor or vulnerable, a time when your rights are more likely to be infringed. A written constitution could enshrine the existing rights of the Scottish people and possibly even give us greater recognition under the law. Civil liberties have been eroded in the UK since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and 7/7 and the effects of this on ordinary citizens are increasingly being understood (more on this in a future post). This is our chance to create a document that protects us from the state. From a feminist perspective I would particularly like to see a right to bodily integrity of some kind (with provisos for emergency medical intervention) and explicit recognition of women's rights and social justice in the constitution. A draft of the constitution will be released in the summer, but after the referendum the SNP white paper says that the constitution will be subject to a constitutional committee, with input from the people of Scotland; that's the crucial time for feminists to get our sleeves rolled up and make sure that the rights of our great- great-granddaughters are protected in this document.

Another important factor for me is Scotland's electoral system. People are elected to the Scottish government through a kind of proportional representation and this means that the Scottish political makeup is far less likely to stagnate into the kind of two party system that effectively keeps control of the Westminster government. This is beneficial to smaller, more ethical parties such as the Greens and this means that politicians have to work harder to actively gain our votes, rather than just making a half-hearted effort to be slightly less bad than the opposition. Hopefully this will help us to have a greater influence over more controversial aspects of the future for Scotland suggested by the white paper, such as the continuing recognition of the Royal Family, the future of our currency, and our environmental impact (particularly in light of the oil that most people in the mainstream seem happy to suck out of the ground without a thought for climate change).

One of the most inspirational books that I've read in preparation for the referendum is Lesley Riddoch's Blossom (2013) (link is to Amazon, but it should also be available in your local library if you're in Scotland). Her vision of greater political and social involvement for the Scottish people is truly inspiring. Ceding control of local communities to people who actually live in those communities would be a great way to empower people who have felt not just politically, but socially disenfranchised for decades. I don't think this would be a cure-all for society's ills overnight, but over time I think people can start to get excited about the place where they live rather than the current lack of power and the stifling of imagination that we see in some of Scotland's most deprived areas. The policy of greater local governance is said to be enshrined in the draft constitution but whether we get independence or not, we really have to do something to involve marginalised communities.

This is one of the reasons the current level of debate in the mainstream is so frustrating. Quibbling over the currency, or whether one company or another might move their operations to England; these are issues for those who already have a comfortable, wealthy life. There is very little recognition that Scotland's existence in the union is at the cost of the lives and talent of entire classes of our people, people that the current system seems happy to sacrifice.

Of course, independence is not a guarantee that any of these things will happen. There are some people who say that they are unconvinced by the SNP's 'promises' and this is leading them towards a No vote. To those people I would say; you've been disenfranchised too long. Your country has had very little power for centuries and its culture has been marginalised. Real power is not having other people offer you a list of options, a menu from which you can choose - real power is getting involved, reaching out and taking what you need, it's getting in the kitchen and making your own meal. This is why the Yes campaign have such a strong grassroots element whereas the Better Together campaign don't. Yes campaigners understand that if we want something, we have to work for it ourselves - if we want power we have to make it happen through hard work and through supporting each other. If the SNP aren't doing something that you want then start your own political party. Start a pressure group. Write to everyone you can think of. Run to be a local councilor. Some of these things are easier said than done, but take whatever small step you can in that direction. Right now I can tell you, I and other grassroots campaigners will have your back. The time of other people laying out our options is coming to an end, it's time for us to make our own decisions. It's time to vote Yes.

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