The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

The night before the night before the Referendum for Scottish Independence

On Thursday this week, more or less everyone over 16 years of age who is resident in Scotland will get to vote on whether this country remains a part of the UK or goes its own way as a completely separate nation.

Although I was born in England, this vote is not about birth or inheritance, it is about where you live and, as I live in Scotland, I get a vote. I get a say in how I want this bit of rock I live on to be governed.

While the passions have been strong on both sides of the debate, it has ignited a response the likes of which haven't been seen in the UK, or quite possibly the western world, for decades. 97% of those eligible to vote have registered to do so. It is reckoned turnout will be over 80%. And at this late stage of the game, there are at least half a million people who are still claiming they are undecided. No one, at this moment, knows exactly how it is going to turn out. Unless MI5 are involved and the whole thing is being orchestrated and controlled to make sure the outcome is exactly as the UK Government wants.

I am not undecided. I weighed it up pretty early on, came to some pretty clear conclusions and despite being as open as I can to the opposing views, have not been convinced to change my mind since.

I haven't been shouting my position from the rooftops, nor have I been condemning anyone who disagrees with me. Given all the information, arguments and passion out there already, I can't imagine for a moment anything I say or do is going to be a contributing factor to anyone else's position. I understand why some people want it, and I understand why other people don't, and I understand why so many are still undecided.

I'm not putting together this blog post to convince anyone why they should vote this way or that. I'm putting it here so I can look back in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years and see why I made the decision to vote the way I did. Either I will be pleased at how obviously sensible I was, or I will be cursing my naïveté. So in part, this is a message to my future self to remind me why I ticked that box rather than the other.

There are many different issues, arguments, facts, challenged facts, opinions dressed up as facts, cultural influences, desires, yearnings and fears. How can we navigate them all? The truth is, we can't.

Right here, right now, I have no idea how many barrels of oil are left in the North Sea; I don't know whether the UK denying the pound as currency to an independent Scotland is bluff or folly; I don't know whether Scotland will become a social utopia or will tear itself apart.

So what am I voting on?

The only thing we can do is look at what we currently have and project forwards as best we can to see how that is likely to pan out. Then we decide whether we want to carry on with that trajectory or decide to opt for a different direction, even though we might not know what direction that is.

Do we stay with the known or do we leap into the unknown?

Do we stick with the devil we know, or is that just a sure fire way of ensuring the devil stays in power?

So what do I see when I look at what we currently have as part of the UK and the direction it's going?

Despite being one of the richest nations in the world, I see the growth of foodbanks; I see the vilification and withdrawing of support for the poor, the disabled and the vulnerable; I see the dismantling of the NHS; I see billions of pounds poured into nuclear weapons which are stored just 25 miles away from the most populated city in Scotland; I see the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer and the vulnerable becoming more vulnerable; I see detached, power-hungry, money driven politicians serving no one but themselves and their wealthy friends.

So I'm voting for a chance of change.

Despite how Yes voters are portrayed by much of the media, this isn't about being anti-English - how could it be? I'm English, my siblings are English and my children are half English.

Nor is it about being brainwashed by Alex Salmond like he is some cult leader and will be crowning himself King. In the event of a Yes decision, Alex Salmond wouldn't become the ruler of Scotland - he would be prime minister until the following election at which point he would be up against all the other parties wanting a say in how this new nation would be run.

Nor is it about some stupid belief that the day after the referendum everything will magically turn into a land of milk and honey. It is the first step toward change and change will only happen if we keep making steps forward. There would be a lot of work to do and things are likely to get worse before they get better, but if the desire is strong enough, then things could get considerably better than under the current system.

The only thing that has really made me waver, pause and feel guilty at the idea of voting Yes, is the poor, the disadvantaged and the vulnerable in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will still be under the abusive power of Westminster but have less people standing next to them.

But under the current system, I have become disempowered. My vote means nothing in Westminster. If I convinced every single person in Scotland to vote against the Conservatives in the next election, it wouldn't make any difference. The UK government is mostly decided by those living in the South East corner of England.

But even if Labour got in at the next election, they have moved so far to the right in their politics over the past couple of decades, that they now occupy the same political space as Thatcher did back in the 1980s. They are a right-wing party that are less right wing than the current occupants of the ruling body. And they see their biggest threat as coming from UKIP, which is an even more right-wing party, so they are adjusting their policies to placate them.

Who is looking out for the poor, the disadvantaged and the vulnerable? No one in Westminster, no matter who I vote for.

Scottish politics, by comparison, has always leaned more towards social justice and equality, while still respecting creativity and enterprise. Indeed, the creativity and enterprise has generally been encouraged for the benefit of all, and not just an elite.

I am not blinded by my hopes. I know full well the biggest problem with any new Scottish parliament is it will be full of politicians. They too will have their fair share of power-hungry, money driven people serving no one but themselves and their wealthy friends.

But - and this is a really important point - if I disagree with who's running Scotland - whatever colour their banner - my voice will carry greater weight in effecting change than it currently does in the UK as a whole.

And this is what my vote boils down to - my psychological makeup. I am the kind of person who, when faced with a situation I really dislike, I look for ways to change it - even if there is a risk it might be change for the worse. And if does turn out that way, then I look to change it again. And again. And again. Until things improve.

The most effective way of any bastard staying in power is by making those under them believe it wouldn't make any difference if they tried to change things, and would probably make things even worse. This is the ultimate way to disempower anyone.

And I kick against that.

For me, a Yes vote on Thursday is a way to make change happen. And if we end up with a government we don't like, then we can vote them out and try another, and another, and another, until things improve. Something I am disempowered from doing as part of the UK.


Eryl said...

Brilliant, Kim, this is exactly why I'm voting yes (only I don't possess the wherewithal to express it as you do).

Anonymous said...

very we'll written Kim, are you sure you wouldn't like a career in politics c:

Anonymous said...

Well defended decision Kim. We'll all need our wits about us come Friday whatever the outcome.

Eileen Frater said...

Well said and exactly the reason many of us are Yes voters! Westminster just don't get it, we are voting for change and we'll work really at creating a better country for our kids and grandchildren. Thx for sharing xx

Vivien Jones said...

I've shared this beautifully written blog on my FB page because it says so well all the things that make me an English YES voter too. Nearly all the best material in this campaign has appeared on blogs and social media with the mainstream media peddling scare stories and partisan articles (nearly all NO supporters)

Trevor said...

Thanks Kim...your words and considerations are clear and calmly put and I'll share to my english friends who are missing the many reasons to vote yes and who think it is just biggoted nationalism! x

Theanne Crossett said...

Well said Kim, now if only we could make that happen in the United States. We (the people) have let "government of the people, by the people, for the people" (Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address) disappear from our country. We blame it on the government, but it is our own fault, we have let it happen. I am hopeful that Scotland will become a nation that makes the concept work.

hope said...

I appreciate your clear, concise explanation of what's about to happen. Too many times the world falls into "Us vs Them" mentality where everything is all angry talk and no action.

Like you, I believe that you keep plugging away until you get it right. Because it boils down to people..either you care about each other or you choose your bank account over the masses. Knowing I'm not the only one who believes everyone makes a difference gives me hope, even in the shadow of American politicians. :)

V said...

Wise words Kim. Thanks for sharing. I hope you don't mind but have linked this to my own thoughts. Hoping the next few days are peaceful, positive and fruitful, V

Claire Tilley said...

Interesting... since I'm from Canada what I think doesn't come into it much other than watching from afar. So I think I'll leave it at "Interesting" and ponder your ideas a while.

Theanne Crossett said...

So the vote was NO...hopefully down the road there will be another chance for Scotland to vote.

Hindsfeet said...

Kim, I needed these words tonight.....I know, that sounds strange and very much beside the point, but you have no idea how you helped, how you chimed in on a big decision I'm making in my own life......the principles here are far reaching and applicable to life management in general......whether we're facing individual, corporate, or continental issues.

Your wisdom and vision, my friend, your ability to "connect the dots" on a grand scale, is a for which I am always and ever so very grateful.....You have been a light on my path more times than you know....

wishing you and all your compatriots well in the coming days and years....


Hindsfeet said...

Brings Roosevelt's speech to mind...

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Pat said...

I respect the right of the people in Scotland to vote how they truly believe but honestly I am glad that we are still together and I believe that those same people will make sure there is change for the better. Here's hoping.

Guyana-Gyal said...

You won't believe how people all the way in Guyana were discussing this issue.

Many were saying how expensive it would be for Scotland if they chose to be independent.

My brother who lives in England (here in Florida with me right now), was describing the Scottish character, how hard-working and practical s/he is.

I hope, now that it's all over, that the government will now sit up and pay attention.

Kim Ayres said...

Eryl - you are extremely articulate and very good at expressing what you need to say. But more than just my writing, you have been out doing - being an activist, something I've never really done. I have huge admiration for all you have done. Let us hope a new generation of the politically aware have been born from this :)

Anon 1 - the most horrific thing about that idea is I'd end up constantly surrounded by politicians...

Anon 2 - thank you. By the look of it broken promises, reprimands and punishments are on their way from Westminster.

Eileen - I really don't believe Westminster understands anyone who wasn't born with a silver spoon in their mouth. What they do understand, however, is how to manipulate fear in people.

Vivien - thank you for your kind words, and for sharing :)

Trevor - so many south of the border never really seemed to understand that Scotland really is another country and not just an English county somewhere north of Durham.

Theanne - I've always had an innate distrust of those in power. 99% (or more) are far more concerned with their jobs, their income and the amount of power they wield than they are about the people they are supposed to represent.

Hope - Looking at the statistics, it appears that mostly, those who voted no, voted with their wallets and purses in mind, while most of those who voted yes were voting with community in mind.

V - I read your post with great interest. I was fortunate that all of us in this house voted the same way. It would have been so difficult if the rest of my family had voted the other way.

Claire - some have compared this to Quebec wanting to leave Canada. However, I think a more accurate anaolgy would be to imagine if Canada were ruled by America and wanted to go its own way.

Theanne - I really hope so.

Liz - I'm pleased if my words helped you in any way. I'm not too surprised they can be applied in other ways than to referendums. The principles of taking control of life apply across the board.

Pat - if I still lived in England, I would probably have wanted Scotland to stay too. But living up here, I see the way this part of Britain is constantly abused by Westminster and are unable to do anything about it.

Guyana-Gyal - money was a key issue in the debates, and yet with all its resources, Scotland could be one of the richest nations in the world

Michelle said...

Brilliant post, Kim. I'm so sorry I was too busy to find this before the voting.

I was a Yes voter from Africa originally, same as my Yes voting parents. My Yes voting in-laws are all Scots, but many Yes voting friends were mostly English, like yourself.

I'm still sharing this. I've found myself drawn into a lot of determined forward-plodding Yes voters determined not to let this momentum for positive change falter and die. Do check out Bella Caledonia. They need voices like yours. xx

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