18th September, 2014.
The Scottish Independence Referendum.
Well, that is what first springs to mind when people hear that date. However, to me it was, and is, so much more.
It signifies my political awakening. At sixteen, it was my first opportunity to vote in an election, and I knew that I must make the right decision, not only for myself, but also the generations to follow.
In the lead up to the referendum, I found myself having meaningful discussions with my counterparts and debating whether Scotland really was ‘Better Together.’ The arguments on both sides were compelling, however, I eventually came to the conclusion that Scotland would be a fairer, prosperous and more equal country, when separated from the rest of the UK.
This article however, isn’t going to be arguing the case for Scottish independence, as I’m sure by now everyone has an opinion on the matter. Instead, I wish to provide an insight into the political enlightenment that the referendum had on myself and others.
I distinctively remember attending ‘Scotland Decides, The Big, Big Debate’ in Glasgow, a week before the referendum. It was organised by the BBC, for sixteen and seventeen year olds who were voting for the first time, and had a passionate selection of politicians who were set to be quizzed on the issues of independence. I listened to the debate with an open mind, absorbing all the arguments and found myself becoming more and more interested in the subjects of discussion.
From a young age, I have always been told that everything is political; from how much tax you pay on your bill at a restaurant, to my ability as a young woman to articulate political views, and more recently, the Tunnocks Teacake. It wasn’t until the referendum, that I began to believe it. I started to see everything from a completely different perspective, and found myself developing strong opinions on major political issues. I would like to think that this would have happened even if the referendum hadn’t taken place. But in all honesty, I’m not sure it would have.
Perhaps I wouldn’t be a member of a political party who is sitting writing a blog post, surrounded by posters and badges all expressing my political opinion. Instead, I might have been doing something much less rewarding.
That thought scares me.
I still talk with people who are not political enthusiasts and who are detached from the national conversations. It would be peculiar not to. However, for the most part, people are becoming increasingly engaged, in particular, those of the younger generation. I have witnessed vivid discussions on the issues of Syrian air-strikes and even on the prospects of Donald Trump becoming the next American President. Now, I can’t say that I agreed with what everyone said, but instead I can express the sense of pride and admiration I felt towards those in my age group who were communicating their political opinions from all sides of the political spectrum.
As a young woman, I am aware that gender inequalities are still present in society. This is represented in the Scottish Parliament with only 46 women MSPs in comparison to the 82 males. Although the balance is better than in Westminster and many other parliaments it isn’t by any means as close as it should be.
The Scottish independence referendum, provided an opportunity for young women, to come forward and engage. Politics is often described as a ‘man’s game,’ however, I know that this is changing.
In Scotland we have Nicola Sturgeon as the First Minister, Kezia Dugdale leading the Scottish Labour Party and Ruth Davidson at the helm of the Scottish Conservatives. This is fantastic. However, the work does not stop here and we simply cannot become complacent. It must continue.
Ultimately, the referendum heightened the involvement of young women in politics, after all, that’s why I’m sitting here attempting to write a blog post. To date, I haven’t heard a political leader express regret that the referendum took place. Instead, they acknowledge the differences it has made in Scotland and with it’s people.
To some, the referendum was just another Thursday. The sun rose and set. But to me, it was so much more. And for that, I am eternally thankful.