One week to go. The longest political campaign in history, the Scottish independence referendum, started a mere 47 years, 6 months and 17 days ago (give or take a day or so) and we finally go to the polls next Thursday.
I’m voting, but I’m not telling you how. There have been enough posts, articles, debates, leaflets, stalls and soap boxes doing just that to last for the lifetime of a giant tortoise. I’m not going to bemoan some of the backbiting, insults, division and misleading crap which has come from both sides either. We all know there’s been plenty of that and I hope we’re mature enough to get past that after 18th September.
This morning I was on the radio. The breakfast show on BBC Radio Solent were looking for people who used to live in Dorset (which I did for 11 years) who now live in Scotland to talk about the referendum and, by random chance, the presenter found me on Twitter and, next thing I knew, I was broadcasting county wide. 400 miles from home.
The last question I was asked was what it was like living in a place where the referendum was the main topic of conversation. That was an easy question to answer. There are plenty of people who are fed up with it, with the anger shown by some and the time it’s been going on for. However, everyone is talking about it. Everybody has a view, even if that view hasn’t yet led to them making a decision over how their vote is going to be cast. Everybody cares.
People who I have never heard express a political opinion have been vocal, have researched, have tried to come to an informed choice, have discussed and debated, and, in some cases, have actively campaigned.
This is amazing. At a time when more people than ever are massively dissafected with politics, politicians and political systems, the man and woman in the street are actively engaging with an important political process. They are driving the agenda in the streets and via social media and over 85% of them are expected to turn up to vote.
Ordinary people feel genuinely empowered. Within 24 hours of a You Gov poll putting the Yes campaign in the lead for the first time the three main Westminster party leaders dropped everything to come up to Scotland to campaign. The people spoke and the political leaders acted. Politicians have been constantly reacting to genuine concerns of ordinary voters, for the first time I can remember.
We need to keep this going. The politicians keep saying that we have a unique opportunity, and they’re right. Whatever the result we have a unique opportunity to take the political process away from career politicians and back into the hands of normal people.
A no vote will not kill this. If everyone who has been mobilised by this campaign continue to speak out, inform and discuss the important issues, if we continue to engage with our politicians and put real pressure on them, if we continue to play an active role in local and national politics then we will see a change. We will see politicians listen to people, not corporations. To the less wealthy. To us.
However, if there is a Yes vote then Scotland has the chance to create a new, fairer political system. One which can start to clear out the corruption and self-serving nature of Westminster and move towards a system which has the interests of all the people at heart. If we can do that then our friends in the rest of the UK can see the example and, hopefully, follow it. It can be the start of real hope, not the end of it.
As John Lennon said, you may say I’m a dreamer, but we can do this. It won’t be easy, it won’t be smooth and it definitely won’t be perfect. But, if we don’t just go back into our apathetic, ignorant haze and become really involved then we can make something better than we have right now.
We all care about something, we all want things to change. It’s up to us to do it.