My own mother has never once revealed to me what she has voted for. Never once said to me how she has voted in any council, general or European election.
The Scottish referendum is no exception: my mum just won’t budge on this policy. And today I’ve decided to follow her lead.
As a small child, questioning Mum’s reasons for remaining mute, she used to respond with a little history lesson; something along the lines of “many years ago lots of people fought very hard to be able cast their vote in their secret.” This would be followed up with my grandfather’s advice that “the vote is between you and your conscience.” I am unsure as to whether this homage to the sacrifice of those who fought for the secret ballot is her real reason or not. I am sure, however, that this spiel of hers is not entirely what has inspired my decision to take a voluntary vow of silence when it comes to talking about my vote and the #indyref result.
In a world where everyone and anyone has a platform to express their opinions – from the brilliant to the more bizarre and even the downright bigoted – her silence has, for the first time ever, struck me as rather refreshing.
I have gone from someone who, as a teenager, was fairly impassioned by politics – as impassioned as an adolescent can be really. Back then, this monumental moment in British political history would have been just my cup of tea. I would have been out there flyering for one side or the other and tweeting about it/clogging up your News Feed all day long.
Sadly though, I’m now done with debate. The sense of division that has overwhelmed the last days of campaigning has left me disheartened and disappointed. Against all odds, I’ve joined the ranks of disengaged youth.
Two years ago, when this all started, I had genuinely interesting conversations with people from both camps, as it were. And don’t get me wrong, I still really respect these people. I respect their undying enthusiasm and determination when all I was able to offer then was futile indecisiveness; when all I am left now with is sad indifference.
I cannot, however, bring myself to respect a growing number of individuals who have turned the power of passion and persuasion into campaigns smeared by pettiness and pedantry. I’m all for political differences. But these people haven’t let diversity enter the debate.
In two separate discussions this week, I genuinely overheard both of the following statements in St Andrews (home of my 600 year old university):
1) “Only uneducated people will actually vote yes though.”
2) “I was going to invite him, but then I found out he was voting no.”
I’m sure you don’t have to scroll very far to find similar smearing and stereotyping pop up on any of your various social media streams.
What saddens me most is that these people are supposedly educated, free thinking students. Not trolls, not sad old bigots in bars or even small kids copying what their parents say. Aren’t we supposed to be capable of understanding that divergence of opinion is a positive thing?
If you’re truly moved by either side of the debate, this is surely because you have a vision of what you want for Scotland. Whether that vision sees Scotland’s future within or out with the union, both sides supposedly believe in a nation that is stable, secure and successful. The debate is supposedly over which side is best positioned to realise such a vision.
Finding the right path for this nation should be done through exactly that means – debate. It seems, however, that what started as discussion has become divide. Yes and No has been black and white. Intrinsically divisive, you might say. As one friend put it to another (voting the other way), “it’s difficult to accept a view which is the polar opposite to your own”.
Whatever the result brings, let’s hope it is not more division. Let’s hope that people do not lose sight of the reasons they were so passionate in the first place. Let’s not allow a small number of distasteful comments or disrespectful individuals destroy the future of a nation that has not known true divide for centuries.
If you truly believed in the aims of your campaign and if you voted because you believed in the future of this country, then, whether or not that future retains the Union, you must be open to the opinions of others who were as equally determined as you were to find the best outcome for Scotland. If you want to live in this stable, secure and successful society, accept that there may still be many possible avenues to achieving that vision.
Voters on both sides will have come to valid and reasoned conclusions before casting their vote. But that does not mean they can then simply denounce others who did the same digging, but found different results.
I’m all for people being passionate about politics. In fact, please get passionate. Your passion wins over my disillusion any day. Be passionate tomorrow and the next day and next year. But don’t get petty or pedantic with me, please. Because, like my mum, you aren’t going to get an answer out of me anyway.