In less than two years, the people of Scotland will vote to decide if their nation should become an independent country. Today, on St. Andrew’s Day, I’m going to explain why I am supporting the Yes campaign.
I am a Scot who now lives in Austin, Texas. I was born and raised in Glasgow, I graduated from Edinburgh Uni, and then lived and worked for several years in Edinburgh. My entire family still lives in Scotland and growing up I never imagined that I would live anywhere else.
In 2002 I followed a girl to America and I’ve been here ever since. Being a Scot abroad, I am reminded of my Scottishness on a daily basis. Other expat Scots will know the typical conversations that follow when an American hears our accent. These usually include discussions of golf, or whisky, or Nessy, or about how the stranger’s great, great uncle is from Scotland. At first, I loathed the predictability of these conversations, but now I look forward to them.
I’ve come to realize that Americans have a fondness for Scots and for Scotland that they do not necessarily share with other nations. I’m speaking generally of course, but I’ve never seen the same warm reaction when Americans meet French people or Australians or the Dutch. Few could argue that Scots enjoy a great reputation internationally.
Recently a new topic has emerged during these conversations with strangers. I am now regularly asked whether I think Scotland will win its independence. Although at times, Americans do not always have the greatest perspective on foreign affairs, there is no doubt that they have taken a genuinely interest in Scotland’s campaign for independence. Indeed as winners of their own independence from Great Britain, they can identify with it.
I’ve never been a member of a political party, and I’ve never voted for the Scottish National Party, but I’ve spent a lot of time over the last ten years thinking and talking about Scottish independence. And now, I’m all for it.
You know, we Scots are funny people. When we are in Scotland, there is always a lot of talk about how the weather is shite, how the football is shite, how the council is shite etc. For years I did it myself, and it can foster a mentality that Scotland is a “pishy wee country”, to quote one of my relatives.
But generally, if you take those same Scots and introduce them to someone who is not Scottish, especially if this meeting happens on foreign shores, then guaranteed the conversation will at some point jump to how Scotland invented the world. Television, telephones, steam engines, penicillin, tarmac. Scots are incredibly proud of their achievements.
Or if you’re a bit younger maybe, then these same Scots will educate foreigners on how so many great bands are Scottish, about how the best football managers are Scottish, or the best writers are Scottish. And I love these conversations. That’s the Scotland that I want to talk about. That’s the Scotland I believe in. And that’s one of the reasons I started the Dear Scotland website.
In 2009, I wrote that I wanted Dear Scotland to try to present “a combined vision of Scotland that I would suggest is unusually not shaped by politics or by negativity, but rather by a genuine appreciation of Scotland’s qualities.”
Likewise, my support for Scottish independence is not shaped by politics or by negativity.
In some ways, running the Dear Scotland website and writing so positively about Scotland has demonstrated to me that we can rightly be proud about our past, and equally confident about our future. You can read any of the 900+ articles on this website and appreciate that Scotland is, and always has been, full of unique and talented people.
For me it is a logical step to believing that these unique and talented people of Scotland are better placed and smart enough to make their own decisions. Scottish people should be governing themselves. Scotland should be a country again.
My personal journey towards independence was basically a question of confidence. Eventually I was able to flick a switch in my head from believing that Scotland was shite, to realizing that Scotland has the natural resources and passion to be as good as any other country.
When I think about it, there were occasions in my past when I also had this confidence in Scotland – like when Aberdeen won the Cup Winners Cup in 1983, or when Scotland won the rugby grand slam in 1990, or that ever so brief moment just before an international match when you hear the Hampden Roar, and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, and you believe that we can actually do this. Well that is the confidence in Scotland I now feel.
I have to believe that if the Scots who are currently opposed to independence or undecided could find that same confidence in their country within themselves, the Yes vote would win by a landslide.
As an expat, non-resident Scot, I know that I wont be able to vote in the referendum but it was with my new-found confidence in Scotland that earlier this year, myself and a few other “Scots-Americans” met up to see if there was anything we could do. We decided then that we had to do something to support the Yes campaign, and so we founded Americans for an Independent Scotland.
There are a number of rules and regulations that preclude us from contributing financially to the campaign in Scotland, but we thought that we might be able to contribute to the campaign to build confidence in Scotland.
We have several goals over the next two years, but one of our main aims is to be able to demonstrate to the voters in Scotland that the USA would be supportive of an independent Scotland. And perhaps that might help to flick the confidence switch for some of them.
With this in mind, I may post the occasional article on the 2014 referendum here. Dear Scotland has always been a blog for expat Scots and as I’ve already explained, Scottish independence is already a talking point for us too.*
One of the messages of support we have already received from Scotland stated:
“In the USA you may not be able to participate in the vote but just as in a game of football the supporters can put fire in the bellies of the participants and give confidence.”
That is exactly what we want to do with Americans for an Independent Scotland – to sound a Hampden Roar from across the ocean.