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 family home for the next decade and a half. In my vision sat a small, terraced house, sitting among a picturesque Scottish suburb, placed right at the heart of East Kilbride, the fifth most populous settlement within Scotland. Stirring inside me was a mixture of emotions. But the main one lingering in my mind, was fear. 

That feeling of fear would follow me throughout my life over the next seven years. Through the trials of my schooling, up to my manifestation to manhood. But as I got older, I eventually allowed myself like any other youth in Scotland to develop my own perspective of life, love, the wider world and home. I was living as a contemporary Scottish citizen, yet with a warm London-centric past, weaved with late 90s to early 00s pop culture bathed in the era of Cool Britannia. 

These feelings and emotions came into my thinking when politics hit me during the 2010 UK General Election. Parking myself in front of my TV, with a pad, a pen and an eagerness to learn the mechanics of how my country was run, I made rabid scribbles over each of the leader’s answers to each question, writing what I liked, disliked, quotes, my own questions, extra comments, etc. 

When all three debates were finished, I ultimately chose The Labour Party, despite Gordon Brown’s dull, drizzly attempt at charisma and a disastrous election campaign that saw him drown in humiliation following the microphone gaffe regarding Gillian Duffy. Following their election defeat, I left it there for a time. A mild support for Labour would continue in the 2011 Holyrood election. However, it was there that I witnessed history, with the Scottish National Party, led by Alex Salmond, winning a majority in a parliamentary system designed to ever prevent such a thing. Again, I left it there, not really seeing the appeal of the party at that time, and instead being more critical of the idea of Scottish Independence. 

The National: SNP rosettes

Looking back, the emotion of fear took over once again regarding independence. A fear of what could go wrong with it, as well as the loss of a union that has shaped the society I and my ancestors have lived in for generations. In addition, there was this idea of the sinister intentions of the people in favour of independence and their own personal gains from breaking free of Britain.  

I kept up my support for Labour as a result, even attending a youth and student conference in Glasgow in the fall of 2011. And while there, I witnessed a style of behaviour and attitude that really opened my eye for the first time to inner British politics. Everyone had a very suspicious and cynical attitude to one another, sniping at the exchange of political ideas, secretive exchanges about other members, the gossip about people’s past misdeeds and actions. Upon leaving, I held a bad taste in my mouth regarding Labour. My preconception of a party that proclaims to champion the working class, that spoke for those that lacked a strong voice in society, representing those pushed aside by the elites, and advocated for a fair Britain that gave everyone a chance at success and a secure life. But instead of optimism and energy, I left with uneasy questions. Do Labour really represent Scotland? Do Labour really speak for me? Who really represents my ideas and beliefs that will better my family, friends and neighbours? 

Following further research, conversations with friends, and even a coffee chat with my then local MSP, my cynical feelings toward the SNP soon faded, and from there, I found that the party possessed something that others massively lacked: A vision. A vision for the country today, for the country tomorrow, and for the country a century onward. Within the party, they had people with the right mindset, strong knowledge in various fields, as well as an enthusiasm and optimism for the nation and its inner potential.  

It was decided. I joined the SNP in 2012 and coloured my political rosette yellow with confidence and faith. 

And as time went on, that choice became more valid and meaningful. Getting older, my expertise and understanding of British politics and its history grew. The passing of Margaret Thatcher in 2013 was my first real sense of her political massacre of the working class, with Scotland being hit hard with 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 their culture. Her death, safe to say, was not one that saddened many in Scotland.  

The National: BRIGHTON, GREAT BRITAIN - SEPTEMBER 30:  Jack Straw, Britain's Foreign Secretary, is seen next to Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair during the fifth and final day of the Labour Party Annual Conference on September 30, 2004 in Brighton, England.  (Photo

With a referendum on Scotland’s future drawing near, my cynicism ended up returning, this time turning its eye towards the British establishment. I learned more about Tony Blair and his decade-long premiership. What was once warm nostalgia for a smiling, brisk, charismatic young man who for the entirety of my childhood I always associated as Prime Minister, now became someone I saw with more uneasiness. I saw him as a man who struggled with the truth, building his legacy on spin and greed, as well as his premiership now entangled in the controversy to send British troops in Iraq in 2003, part of the fallout of 9/11. I learned more about Gordon Brown, and the recession that ended New Labour’s 13-year rule and brought in the coalition government of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties as a result. Stepping forth in the rosy gardens of Downing Street, both David Cameron and Nick Clegg pitched a bold, progressive approach to governing Britain, with fairness and compassion. Instead, it was the exact opposite. 

We had cuts, we had recessions, we had unemployment. We had the phrase “difficult decisions” used as a shield from a brutal onslaught. I came of age in an era when British politics descended into division and tribalism. Fascinating in one way, yet at times mentally exhausting. I grew aware of the rise of new forces such as Ukip down south, as well as building my knowledge on the mixture of local, national and international political issues. A decade of Tory governance has damaged the country in various ways and ultimately fuelled my anger and eagerness for a better future for Scotland. One which, in 2014, we came awfully close to, by only a 10% margin.  

The most significant damage was of course Brexit. The savage gut-wrenching decision for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union after a four-decade membership. It has in turn created the division and anger that has plagued the country for the past five years, as well as arguably been the biggest wound to the Union in its 300-plus-year history. With Scotland voting decisively to remain, England opted to leave, which, given to a higher population, resulted in the leave decision prevailing. But it revealed the division for the world to see, and the impression that Scotland was being yanked out of the European Union against its will.  

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It took the Conservatives four and a half years before finally making Brexit a reality. The economic turmoil and challenges are yet to be fully realised; however, businesses have already suffered and will continue to, with endless red tape and paperwork slowing down trade, which in turn leads to questions about 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.  

In the five years of Brexit negotiations, I had the chance to work and live in both Scotland and England. While there, it hit me of the stark growing divide between the two cultures of North and South. Politically, Scotland had always been deep down a left-wing country. While England has always opted to lean on the right. The mindsets and values became more obvious these past few years, with conflicting visions and ideas about what their respective society’s future will be. 

Here in Scotland, the independence movement consists of an open dialogue of ideas. A collective of mindsets varying on the political spectrum, to help build a future for Scotland which will play to its strengths, as well as developing and fixing 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 the country’s potential down, as the impact of austerity policies plague Scotland’s community’s door by door. 

And then there is climate change. A problem no country is safe from, and every human being will suffer from it if not handled correctly. One believes 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. 

Once independent, Scotland would need to build a strong rapport of alliances around the world. Europe of course is the major importance, with 61% of voters eager to rejoin the EU when asked in 2018. It would honour the 2016 result for Scotland, and then establish the country as a key player in European politics, finding its appropriate place among its European family. Scotland would then need to build key alliances with Asian markets, North American mega-powers and then of course re-establishing its relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom, which will be fractured and emotional following a Yes victory. 

Writing this up, it feels funny looking back over the entirety of my life, with no hint whatsoever leading to political beliefs regarding Scotland’s departure from the Union and on to its own odyssey as a self-governing nation. Yet my perspective has given me a more unique outlook on society. I’ve observed from both England and Scotland how one area benefits and bolsters, while 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 broader and clearer, with separate societies being established and future ideals and loyalties being apparent.  

At the end of the day, your average citizen in Scotland just wants an easy life. No drama, no conflict, fight or horror in their routine. There is eagerness here for lifelong peace within their world, as well as 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.  

I’ve just turned 28 years of age and I’ve reached a sense of comfort within Scotland. I’ve had ups and downs in my life, alongside the mixture of highs and lows. But with my local town, I can confidently call it home, and therefore am 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 the idea that this can be a nation where the future is bright and hopeful for its people.  

I no longer live in fear of Scotland. If anything, I live in hope for the path yet to tread.

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