WE'VE uploaded 20 of the top entrants to our Sunday National Yessay competition in this section of our website.

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TUESDAY, June 3, 2003.

After one long rigorous route from the bottom to the top of the British Isles, my family car hammered down to a halt in front of what would be my new home for the next decade and a half. A small, terraced house, sitting in a Scottish suburb, placed right at the heart of East Kilbride, the fifth most populous settlement within Scotland. Stirring inside me was a wide range of emotions: angst, confusion, hollowness, fear, nostalgia.

These feelings would follow me over the next seven years. Through the trials of school, to the growing manifestation of my manhood. And with it, it allowed me to develop my own perspective of my home country, being a contemporary Scottish citizen, yet with a warm London-centric past, weaved with late 90s-early 00s pop culture bathed in the Cool Britannia era.

When I turned 17, I discovered politics with the 2010 UK General Election being the initial spark. Parking myself in front of my TV, with a pad and pen, I made rabid scribbles over the leaders’ answers in the debates – what I liked, disliked, quotes, my own questions, comments, etc. Ultimately, I liked Labour the most, and following their election defeat, I left it there for a time. A mild support for Labour followed up to the 2011 election. It was there that history was made, with the SNP winning a majority in a parliamentary system designed to prevent such a thing. Again, I left it there. That is except for one key policy.

Scottish independence. The idea that Scotland would leave the United Kingdom and forge its own destiny as an independent country. I hated it. And to be fair, looking back, it was perhaps fear more than hatred if anything. Scared of what could go wrong and what we would likely lose as a union, and the sinister intentions of those in favour for it and what could be in it for them, if there was anything they personally could gain from breaking free of Britain.

I went to one Labour youth and student conference in the fall of 2011. A modest experience looking back, leaving with the inkling that something was wrong. Everyone was cynical, secretive, sniping at one another, gossiping about other’s past misdeeds and actions. It left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Labour were meant to be the voice for the voiceless, for the working class, those pushed aside by the elites, its party based around a socialist philosophy, with that outlook for Britain’s future. But that conference left me questioning things. Who can really represent Scotland? What type of future is best for my neighbours and friends? What party really speaks for me?

Upon further research and a relaxing coffee chat with my then local MSP, I had a complete 180-degree switch and saw a new insight of the SNP, and from there, I found that they possessed something that other parties easily lacked: A vision. For the country, its future, and a plan on fixing its own flaws and faults. They had the right people with the right mindset and strong knowledge in various fields and subjects, as well as an enthusiasm and optimism for the nation and its inner potential. It was decided. I joined in the SNP in 2012 and coloured my political roots yellow confidently.

The years rattled on forward and with it, my expertise and understanding of Britain’s recent political history. Thatcher’s death in 2013 was my first real understanding of her political massacre of the working class, with Scotland particularly hit hard by her neo-conservative policies. Policies that destabilised Scotland’s economic growth and industry, leading to high unemployment and a strong sense that she lacked sympathy or understanding for the Scottish people and culture. It’s safe to say her death was not an event that saddened many in Scotland.

In 1997, Tony Blair came to power. The highest majority of a generation. Many were blindly optimistic, whilst others were carefully sceptical. Cool Britannia absorbed much of my childhood, keeping me blind to my parent’s financial struggles and woe deep in the capital. I liked Blair, and perhaps I somewhat still do, but I reckon that’s the nostalgia talking more than anything else. Because moving to Scotland also allowed me to remember vigorously the anger of Blair’s post 9/11 premiership and the Iraq War which tarnished his legacy up to this day. I saw first-hand the fury of the Scottish people, as well as the lies and greed that sat deep in the inner core of New Labour, with Scottish soldiers paying the price with their lives.

In 2007, Blair left, and Brown entered. Then, the world’s economy crashed. Billions of pounds lost. Livelihoods destroyed. Greed exposed. The repercussions swept around the globe. All leading towards 2010 and the arrival of David Cameron.

Though not on one’s own. Enter with him the Liberal Democrats. Forming the coalition following the 2010 election and its lack of victor, the coalition government had an outlook that modern-day Britain would be bold, progressive, fair, caring and thriving. But knowing Conservative policies, it was the exact opposite.

Cuts. Recessions. Unemployment. The phrase “difficult decisions”. Broken promises. Coming of age during the coalition was a fascinating experience. The rise of Ukip and the SNP, my bubbling knowledge of both local and national politics, combined with an awareness of international politics also. I saw first-hand Cameron’s damage of not just the country, but also the descent into the growing cronyism and corruption that still stinks with today’s government of Boris Johnson. It fuelled my anger and eagerness for a better future for Scotland, one which came awfully close in 2014. 10% close, in fact.

Then came Brexit. A savage, gut-wrenching vote which came from nowhere. One which has since ignited the division and anger that has plagued the country ever since. It has also arguably been the biggest wound to the Union in its history. With Scotland voting to remain, yet England opting to leave, the division was clear for all to see, the impression that Scotland was being yanked out of the European Union against its will.

After years of negotiations and political squabbling, Brexit finally came to reality on January 1, 2021. The economic turmoil and challenges are yet to be realised, but businesses have already suffered and will continue to with endless red tape and paperwork slowing down trade and questioning the future of trade relations between Britain and its neighbours to the east. The loss also of freedom of movement will rob future generations of travel and adventure among the continent, making it harder for some to find a new life if unsatisfied with one in the UK. Absent will be the opportunity to seek out new cultures, as well as to broaden and mould one’s identity beyond the British border.

Brexit was a stark realisation of the dividing cultures of England and Scotland. Politically, Scotland has always been deep down a left-winged country, whilst England has always opted to lean on the right. Having lived in both north and south of the land, I have noticed the different mindsets of both sides, as well as their deep-rooted values and their visions for Britain’s future.

Up here in Scotland, the independence movement has been an open dialogue of ideas and dreams. A collective of mindsets varying on the political spectrum, to help build a future for Scotland which will play to its strengths and develop and fix its paralysing problems. Issues like the ongoing drug epidemic, which has labelled Scotland as one of the worst places in Europe for drug deaths. Homelessness and poverty continue to drag Scotland’s potential down, as the impact of austerity policies plagues Scotland’s communities door by door.

Then there is climate change. One problem no country is safe from, and everyone will suffer if it is not handled correctly. An independent Scotland should and could lead on this. Bringing forth bold ideas and setting examples for the rest of the world to follow, preserving the planet for many future generations.

Alliances in a post-independent Scotland will also be crucial. Of course, preserving good relations with the UK is important, but then there is the rest of the world. A world where Scotland needs to find its true allies and economic relations. Returning to the European Union will be in Scotland’s best interests, honouring the 2016 result for Scotland, establishing the country as a key player in EU politics, and finding its place among its European family. Then there is Asia. A tough market to crack, though one where Scotland could find new relations and grow its economy to further lengths. Then finally, there’s North America. Scotland and Canada are a country to go hand in hand, whilst the United States and Mexico are two big powers for Scotland to manage. Countries with questionable politics and an interest at remaining at the top of global power and influence.

It’s funny looking back, because my fusion of English and Scottish heritage would never have hinted at me basing my political beliefs around Scotland’s departure of the Union and on to its own odyssey as a self-governing nation. Yet my perspective has given me a more niche outlook on society. I’ve observed from both England and Scotland how one area benefits and bolsters, whilst another hinders and hurts. I’ve seen both the similarities and solitude of Scotland and England as well as the difference and division. And it’s the differences that are more broad and clear, with separate societies being established and future ideals and loyalties being apparent.

All in all, your average human being just wants an easy life. No drama, no conflict, fight or horror in their routine. Scotland is no different to that, eager for lifelong peace with the world, and a departure from any unnecessary or negative attention. It has taken me years to come to that conclusion, because at the end of the day, Scotland doesn’t need to be a world leader, or a titan to terrorise other nations into submission and angst. It wants to play its equal part, and have its decisions made by those who know the land best.

Throughout my life, my journey has been a unique one. I’ve had ups, downs, highs and lows. But at the age of 27, I am comfortable in Scotland, calling it with confidence my home, and eager to play a role in its future, however big or small. It has been a country that has given me time to develop my true self, and nest in a nation where I believe the future is bright and hopeful.