Referendum – My Nation Decides Without Me

I am sure it has not escaped your notice that something momentous is happening today in Scotland.  A Referendum is being held in which the populace is voting as to whether Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom (a No vote) or become an entirely independent nation (a Yes vote).  The Act of Union which bound Scotland to England took place in 1707 so this is an incredibly historic decision.  I am not going to get into all of the nuts and bolts of the debate here.  That is not the nature of this blog and, besides, other bloggers are probably better placed to analyse and present the arguments than I am because opinion pieces are not my personal style of writing.  No, I am writing about this now on my blog simply because it is an incredibly weird experience to be looking in from the outside on something happening within my country, to be so politically aware, and yet not be part of the process.

For months now my Facebook feed (the admittedly lazy means by which I keep in touch with friends and family on a regular basis) has been chockablock with discussion about the Referendum.  People have offered opinions and arguments, shared links to articles, video snippets from the campaigns and seeing how engaged everyone has been in political discourse has been a delight.  An astonishing 97% of the eligible population has signed up to the electoral register making this a record electorate.   Considering that in recent elections in Scotland the turn out has been woeful, abysmal even, the fact that a high turn out is being predicted (on top of the already huge number of postal votes), the fact that this Referendum campaign – for all that it has been a shambles on both sides at times – has lit a fire under people and inspired them to be active participants in the democratic process again is simply fantastic.  It is a massive decision.  It absolutely needs to be a democratic one and for democracy to function effectively every single voice ought to be heard.  People fought and died to earn us the right to vote and I am very glad to see people finally appreciating the fact that their vote is their voice.  I am also already proud of the fact that Scotland has seen fit to extend the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds for the first time, something I have held to be just for a long time.

However, I do not get to be part of this historic Referendum.  Quite appropriately, residency is the qualification for voting, not nationality.  As a Scot who is no longer resident in Scotland, I do not get to vote.  Indeed, I no longer get to vote anywhere.  I am effectively voiceless, though filled with political opinions.  Watching this whole campaign unfold from afar has been a stark reminder that I am now part of the diaspora.  It is a bizarre feeling, somewhat unsettling since I am also now outside the democratic process generally.  There was a period in my life when I was deeply involved in Scottish politics (never more so than during the Devolution campaign) and now I am not involved at all when Scotland is in the process of making the biggest political decision ever placed before it.  It’s weird.

I await the result on tenterhooks and meanwhile The Proclaimer’s song ‘Letter from America’ is playing on repeat in my head.