With 97% of the adult population of Scotland (aged 16+) registered to vote, today is certainly a historic day for the country. Today’s the day where after months and years of debating and researching, people will decide to vote based on that conviction deep in their gut. Each decision is personal and each person will be able to weave a story around the reasons why they voted. This is the true legacy of the Scottish referendum – people engaging in politics, understanding how policies might affect them and holding politicians accountable.
Over the last three weeks, I’ve shared the views of my British friends who voted today. Nearly half my friends have voted yes and half have voted no. I support everyone’s decisions regardless of their stance because their reasons for voting are personal to them.
As an American living in Scotland for over six years, I am observing today’s outcomes as much as anyone. I want to vote. But I can’t. But it still doesn’t stop me from having my own views as a tax-paying resident in Scotland. And if I can’t vote, I’d like to share my views somehow. So I’m taking a risk to share my views here because some of you have asked me to. So here it goes…
I love the idea of independence. Growing up in America, I learned to be appreciative of those who’ve made the sacrifices so that we can have freedoms. Every time I hear the Star-Spangled Banner, I can’t help but shed a few tears and be proud of what America and Americans have achieved – even if we still have so much to learn from and make mistakes along the way.
So I sympathise with the yes voters. I see how proud they are of Scotland and that they want more of a say over their national government just as Americans have a say over the decision makers in Washington. In a smaller country, you don’t have to shout as loud to be heard. Scotland would be able to tax its residents and residents would be assured that the taxes it paid went straight to the Scottish Government and not to the UK government. I want to vote yes.
While I sympathise, empathise and understand many of the reasons why my friends have voted yes, if given the opportunity, I would have voted to stay part of the UK. For me, the most important deciding factors are economic and I feel that the Yes campaign’s responses to the economic questions did not convince me to take a huge risk.
Currency: The Yes camp have said that Scotland would continue to use the pound as their currency if Scotland were to become an independent country. The Bank of England (the UK’s Central Bank) oversees the UK pound. The Yes campaign has said they could negotiate a currency union. However, the UK has already said that there wouldn’t be a currency union if Scotland were to choose independence.
The pound is a trusted currency. I don’t want to risk giving up a trusted and relatively stable currency for a potentially uncertain and unknown currency.
North Sea oil: This natural resource which is off Scotland’s coastline is one of the resources that an independent Scotland is counting on this for tax revenue and contribution to its general economy. However, studies show that this natural resource is depleting and each year this resource reduces. One day this resource might run out. What will fill its place when it is gone? Will they increase taxes, cut spending or fill it with another unknown resource?
Free healthcare and prescriptions: Scotland currently has some of its own powers – including control over the Scottish National Health Service. As an American, who grew up knowing that we would be billed for that ambulance ride or that life flight if our insurance didn’t cover it, I am impressed with the free healthcare in the UK. Sure it’s not perfect but it’s still amazing. In Scotland, I don’t have to pay to go to the doctors, I have free prescriptions (in England you pay a subsidised cost for prescriptions), free eye exams every two years and I only pay £14 (roughly $24) for dental x-rays and cleanings. Yes I pay for this through taxes, but if the economy in an independent Scotland were to shrink, these taxes may go up or I may loose these benefits. I want to build a life not create more hurdles to stumble upon in life.
For me, there are too many unknown variables. I know that sometimes in life you have to take a huge risk for a potential huge gain. And I applaud my friends who’ve decided to take that risk and vote for independence! They are pretty amazing individuals and see the potential of an independent Scotland at this point in time.
However, I enjoy the quality of life I currently have in the UK and I wouldn’t want to risk the upheaval. I want each country in the United Kingdom to continue enjoying its relative financial stability. It’s easier to take individual risks in business and in life in a financially stable country than it is in a brand new and unproven one.
So as we all jump into the unknown together, let’s remember to support and encourage each other to vote. We may each have our own reasons why and how we voted, but in the end we should be proud of each other for taking part regardles our views. Governments work better when its people hold them accountable.
Thanks for reading. What are your thoughts? Are you unable to vote as well? What would be your vote if you could vote?
That’ll be my last political post for this blog – next week it’s back to lifestyle and travelling focused posts! I’ll be blogging from Kenya next week. Stay tuned xx