In 2014, the Scottish Independence Referendum galvanised a passion for political engagement in young people across Scotland. They proudly demonstrated what we have argued for many years: that young people are switched on and interested in politics, and willing to vote to express that fact. With the chance to articulate young people’s arguments and beliefs, we voted in droves. The Referendum saw a gateway to change; we saw a democratic chance, we saw hope, and most of all we felt part of a beautiful movement.
I wanted independence.
I wanted change.
But I didn’t get it… and I felt the inconceivable sorrow that so many others endured on the day of 19th September 2014.
Emotive as politics can be; I’ve never felt so strongly for a cause as I did in the case for the referendum. As a 17-year-old student many reasons drew me to the changes and prospects that an independent Scotland promised to bring, and I have many reasons why I remain so passionate about the “Yes” campaign. One is that not once in my life have I ever felt the interests of those my age were being looked after or represented by the Westminster government. Successive Conservative governments that we in Scotland didn’t vote for but instead had imposed on us, have caused many unnecessary difficulties.
The referendum in 2014 was a chance for people – some of whom the most ignored in society – to finally have a say, a chance to change things for a better Scotland. I recognise the fortune I have by living in an affluent area in Aberdeen, but it’s heart-breaking for me to know that just down the road from me is one of the most neglected areas in our country. The stark contrast, just streets apart, is so emblematic of the ‘United’ Kingdom we live in today. This Post Code Lottery’ – ruled by a right-wing, neo-Thatcherite, Conservative government – is not what Scotland needs, nor what Scotland wants.
Since 2014, Westminster has done nothing but represent the worst in politics. If it weren’t for the SNP and the opportunities they have presented to the youth, people like me would have nothing to engage in politically. The UK Government is bent on disenfranchising the youth from politics through their negative and failed approach to ‘making a difference’.
Last night the UK government quietly spoke out that they would shut the door on unaccompanied child refugees around Europe. Unsurprised: but it fills me with fury. As a young person, it is incomprehendable that a leading, Western civilisation such as the UK can fail to aid those fleeing from war zones. The UK’s obsession with nuclear weapons, which may be added, are experimented with in Scottish waters, contrasts perfectly with their stance on child refugees. Able to fund the renewal of trident, but unable to assist those who need us the most, lamentably demonstrating the priorities of this government.
Recently, the Turing Bill tabled by SNP MP John Nicolson was filibustered out of parliament by a Conservative UK Government Minister. The bill was by no means controversial, but Tory ministers later on confirmed they would not pass the bill based on ‘principle’. It was utterly shocking and completely unnecessary.
Then, of course, we have the completely disgraceful and quite frankly horrific treatment by the Westminster government of the Brain family. Scotland was a voice for this family, and thankfully they remain in Scotland today, thanks to the tireless campaigning of SNP MPs Ian Blackford and Alex Salmond. These are both situations that arose purely because of the Tories pandering to xenophobic obsessions elsewhere that simply don’t exist in mainstream Scotland.
We also have the whole Brexit pandemonium. In 2014, the Better Together campaign tweeted “What is the process of removing your EU citizenship? Voting Yes”, this was consistent with their message. How bitterly ironic this looks in 2017. Many people in 2014 based their vote on the principle that their EU citizenship was to be safeguarded by the UK – these people were let down. Brexit illustrates the undeniable differences between countries within the UK, with Scotland overwhelmingly voting Remain. Despite this, Westminster insists on ignoring the democratic will of the Scottish electorate by dragging us out of our European alliance of economic trade, partnership, and cooperation. The EU is a place of potential for young people, like free interrailing for 18-year-olds to experience different cultures.
It has been made clear that Westminster will not listen to our voices. The lies that have transpired make a complete mockery of the 55% who voted No. Pensions at risk? It’s the Tories who are determined to create the worst state pension in Europe. The recent increase in women’s pension age backfires on their stance in 2014 and 1950’s born women are being denied their deserved pension. It was said by the better together campaign, and further backed up by the steel workers union that steel workers’ jobs were ‘safe’ within this ‘union of equal partners’, it turns out it was actually quite the opposite with the recent job losses implemented by the UK Government. Of course, the story is different in Scotland, with the SNP Scottish Government through Liberty Steel saving our Tata Steel Site. When the UK government needed and had to intervene to protect crucial jobs in the UK’s job sector, they didn’t – instead, it was the SNP Scottish Government that stood up for the job losses faced in Scotland and worked tirelessly to prevent such a disaster.
They said all these fearful things that won over 55% of the nation – and I can understand why, but their determination for the Union was really their desire to continue their austerity-ridden regime that worsens every day and panders to right wing xenophobia such as that spouted by Donald Trump.
Westminster should remember that in 2015, 56 of Scotland’s 59 constituencies voted to send SNP MPs down to London to make sure Scotland’s voice was heard, loud and clear. Already our MPs are delivering on their commitment to be “Stronger for Scotland”, whether the Westminster elite like it or not. These are the people who were elected to represent their constituents in Scotland and their concerns and views must be listened to. The Government’s reaction to Mhairi Black’s recent Benefit Sanctions Bill demonstrates Westminster’s clear determination to disregard the ideas of their Scottish colleagues.
We see what happened in America, where a campaign based on racist, misogynist ideologies won the election. Instead of seeking innovative strategies to create a prosperous future, Trump’s supporters blamed immigrants and the most vulnerable for their problems. It was effective in causing a significant divide whilst planting an unfounded fear of people who were different. This same rhetoric is winning the argument in the UK, exemplified by UKIP’s infamous “Breaking Point” poster in the latter stages of the Brexit campaign, and culminating in Theresa May holding Donald Trump’s hand – figuratively and literally.
The UK voted for Brexit and a lurch to the right. Scotland did not – but we’re getting it anyway. I cannot comprehend settling for life within a union that prioritises the rich over the poor and refuses to acknowledge the benefits immigration brings to our economy and culture. In Scotland, we have escaped this negative, diminutive way of scrutinising the future. We have a chance to do something different. A chance to create a welcoming, forward-looking Scotland – and it is much closer to reality than you might think.
I think it is, therefore, telling that the SNP Youth now have a larger membership than the whole of the Scottish Tory Party – this serves to demonstrate that the youth of Scotland are dissatisfied with the Tories’ domestic and external policies. In particular, the Tories failure to believe in young people, they fail to stand up for the youth, and therefore they fail to invest in the future of Scotland. They try to fit young people into a place in politics of non-engagement and ignorance, furthering the government’s mistaken view that young people are not interested: when in fact we are the inevitable architects of the future.
The years of deprivation from Tory governments which punish all but the most comfortable in society have hit Scotland hard. We haven’t had a fair or equal say in matters, and lies have been unraveling quicker than the Brexit plans themselves. It is too late for the Tories to expect to drag us on their shambolic Brexit roller coaster, and when they ask us again to “lead the UK, not leave the UK” please ask yourself what type of country you want to live in, what type of country you want your children and grandchildren to live in, and please vote Yes.