by A Yes Mum

IN 2014, I was at a party in a friend’s house. With the Independence Referendum only a matter of weeks away, it was the subject of a lot of chat, but I soon discovered I was in a minority of one. Although everyone there was supposedly intelligent and well-read, not a single person believed me when I told them the NHS in England was being privatised. Nor were they convinced Pensions would be safe in an independent Scotland. Project Fear had obviously done its work because the one question they all kept firing at me was, “What if it all goes wrong?"

Well, two and a bit years later, I’d say things have gone pretty wrong. Every promise made has been broken and every threat about what would happen if we voted Yes has happened anyway.

What really bugs me is that, if I ever get together with the same people again )yes, I’ll admit I haven’t made much effort to keep in touch after the way they treated me that evening), they would probably all still insist on voting No in a second Independence Referendum. Why? Because all of these people lived in big houses, had good jobs and at least two cars per family. They probably don’t regard themselves as rich, but they’re certainly pretty well off compared to most. And, as is the case with far too many people, they will vote out of self-interest rather than what is best for the nation as a whole.

That might sound as if I’m adopting a holier-than-thou attitude, and maybe I am. But self-interest is what politicians rely on, and those who have done well in life are driven to hold on to whatever material things they have managed to gather. You can maybe understand that, but it’s a very selfish attitude indeed when the reality is that even times of severe economic downturn won’t greatly affect the lives of people with good jobs and good incomes. They might pay a bit more tax, their favourite exotic foods might cost them a bit more, but they are never going to experience the difficulties and hardships that far too many of their fellow citizens suffer on a daily basis. I know mums who can’t afford to heat water for their kids to have a bath more than once a week, who struggle with rent arrears and food bills, who can’t afford new clothes. The thing is, these people make up a very large percentage of our population but they rarely go out and vote. You could say it’s all their own fault, but they’ve seen how nothing ever seems to change. This is a failure of human perception because things do change over time; it’s just that we are often too close to everyday life to notice the changes in society. They also tend to believe what they see on the BBC News and what they read in the newspapers, and what they see and read tells them that they shouldn’t dare take any risks with their future because they might lose what little they’ve got. That’s how Project Fear works.

So it takes courage, both moral and actual, to look at the state of your nation and ask yourself, to paraphrase John F Kennedy, not “What is best for me?", but “What is best for the country as a whole?". I understand the reluctance to adopt this attitude, but I also understand that there is a desperate need for Scotland to escape the downward spiral into poverty which is the hallmark of Tory rule for far too many people.

When the next Independence Referendum comes, as it surely will, we must hope that more people take the time to evaluate the society they live in and decide to opt for the chance of living in a fairer, friendlier, more outward-looking, and more equal society.

Saor Alba!