Politics has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, with both my parents and older brother having a keen interest. As such, I have always been aware of what is going on locally and nationally, but it was not until the independence referendum of 2014 that I developed such strong feelings on the matter, which I would be privileged enough
to vote in.
My grandmother is welsh, my mother is English, and my father is from the south west of Scotland. To me these three regions have never been any more different than each city across the UK; each has their own character and their own sense of identity, but, they are similar in that they are within the boundaries of our United Kingdom.
My mother has spent over half of her life in Edinburgh; her husband is Scottish as are her children and yet there are people who wish to alienate her because she was born in England, or who want her to “go back to where she came from.”
This referendum was supposed to “unite the people of Scotland”, but, it caused nothing but division in my eyes. It tarred anyone who voted No as a traitor, a toff who didn’t care about their nation.
Even after the result I still felt within my peer group and later within my university community that something had changed. “Why do the Scots and English hate each other?” or “How can you support a union which completely ignores the will of the Scottish people?” are just some of the questions I faced from my friends here and from afar.
I looked for a society at university that allowed me to stay informed on Scottish politics without committing to a party or a cult-like set of ideals and I couldn’t find one. It was then that I thought about setting up my own political society in the form of Scotland in Union Students.
It has taken a lot of work and we are nowhere near where I would like us to be but the steps we are making are huge.
As a result of last semester’s EGM, we have a committee, 21 paying members and are making plans for a Burns Night event celebrating the great poet’s influence. I have been very fortunate to have had the support of both my family and Scotland in Union’s campaigns manager Andrew Skinner, who has made setting up this society as easy as it could be. The individuals whom I work with on the society with are fantastic and come from a diverse range of places and political parties.
Scotland in Union is totally opposed to another divisive referendum, as obviously is the student society. However, as students we are also committed to educating people; offering them all the information they need to make their own choice. Politics is not and should never be a choice between whether you are British or Scottish, whether you are in or you are out. My brother is as much my countryman as my Godmother who was born in and resides in Kent is. I can celebrate Scottish culture without using it as a platform for division, and indeed, I can celebrate British culture without using it for oppression.
Politics in the UK is far from perfect, but if we are part of it then we have every opportunity to change it. We can improve welfare, public services and opportunities for everyone, not just the select few.
People are better, stronger and kinder together and at its heart that I was why I will always be a unionist, and what’s more, a unionist willing to talk about it.