Regardless of the outcome of tomorrow's Referendum, Scotland will not stay the same. With 97% of the electorate registered to vote, tensions between the 'Yes' campaign and 'Better Together' are tangible.
A petition demanding an investigation into BBC bias against Independence has gained 75,163 signatures, with an estimated 3000 people protesting outside BBC headquarters in Glasgow on Saturday against what they perceive to be BBC favouritism towards the 'Better Together' campaign and a media blackout of 'Yes' arguments for Independence. Both sides have accused the other of violence and aggression - with journalists and 'No' voters claiming to have faced intimidation at the hands 'Yes' campaigners, including verbal abuse and harassment; and 'Yes' voters reporting the very same at the hands of 'No' campaigners.
With arguments and passions flying high on the eve of the Referendum, we're taking a look at some normal voters and their reasons for voting for an independent Scotland, or to remain as part of the UK.
For me, it's not an issue of nationalism, but rather one of democracy. Yes voters have decided that it's time for us to stop living as a minority in our own country and take control of our own future. We need the power to address our own problems in our own way, by spending our money on things that matter most to us- our people. When one in four children in Glasgow is growing up in poverty, how can you justify spending £4.7bn on a high speed railway that will only come as far north as Manchester? I can't, and that's why I'm saying yes.
I am voting yes because I want a better Scotland governed by people who live here and understand our problems. When I started teaching forty years ago 1 child in 5 was born to fail but it is now 1 in 4 so that is a backward step. We have a lower life expectancy than some developing countries - often caused by addictions which create both physical and mental health problems. Much of that is caused by people feeling that they are not valued. Our social and education systems both need to improve support to impoverished families and deliver an education which is relevant to their needs without any detrimental effect on those who are currently doing well. We need to ensure that everyone is paid a living wage and that all employers irrespective of their country of origin are contributing appropriate taxation to the Scottish Exchequer.
Large warships and WMDs are not relevant in the war against terrorism. There is a lack of protection for our oil rigs in the North Sea as the nearest protection vessel is based at Portsmouth.Smaller, Scottish custom built protection vessels should be based at Aberdeen and Shetland and/or on patrol to protect our oil rigs, our long, vulnerable coastline and the fishing industry. Nobody in Westminster seems to have given that any consideration. Neither have they considered the Armageddon which would ensue in Central Scotland if by any chance a nuclear accident were to happen.
We have many skilled young people graduating from colleges and universities who cannot get posts reflecting their skills so decide to find work out with the country. We need to keep them here by developing industries such as the renewable energy industry, computer graphics, food and drink, financial services and also be sympathetic to people who have a flair for innovation. These types of initiatives will generate wealth to sustain or improve our current social services as well as our transport infrastructure.
The Union appears intent on lowering wages and pensions, increasing hours for working people, increasing profits for big companies, turning a blind eye to tax evasion while reducing benefits to the most needy in society. By voting Yes, we will have the money earned/created in Scotland to use for the people who live here and we can decide on the best ways to do that.
I'm voting No, oddly enough, for largely positive reasons. Even if the SNP had given us a proper currency proposal, rather than a vague set of 'Plan B's', all of which would create at least real short term economic instability, I'd vote No. Even if I was convinced that the revenue from oil -- that most unpredictable and, crucially, finite resource -- was going to pay for the huge promises of free education and increased NHS funding, I'd vote No. Even if the Yes campaign wasn't led by politicians who bully and sneer when confronted with legitimate questions, I'd vote No.
I am voting No this Thursday because I am not only Scottish but British. I live in a country that has a seat on the UN Security Council, and the fastest growing economy in Europe. It is a country with the oldest NHS in the world, and four of the top six universities. The nations of the United Kingdom share legal and moral principles -- each has fought against sexism, racism, and homophobia to create a society globally envied for its tolerance and equality. I have no doubt that an independent Scotland would continue to espouse such ideals. But I have not given up on this marriage quite yet.
An independence wrenched from the dregs of recession and austerity is not the positive leap of faith the SNP would have us believe. There is a strain of narrow minded, anti-English sentiment at its core, evidenced by a nationalist rhetoric that confuses the categories of nationhood and politics. This should not be a protest vote against the current Tory government -- much of the north of England didn't vote for them either. Long after David Cameron has left Downing Street, we will be struggling to stabilise our finances and waiting to hear if the EU will let us in (a process Spain is sure to slow down). The Yes campaign has been characterised by aggressive uncertainty, and it would be a terrible thing if this made us forget how fortunate we are to call ourselves British.
4. Mike, YES, 63, Retired Teacher
I'm voting yes because this referendum is ultimately about political power and accountability.
Tony Benn said if you cannot get rid of the people who govern you, you do not live in a democratic system. During my voting lifetime Scotland has voted overwhelmingly for the Labour Party in every General Election. There's been a Labour government for 41% of that time. In the General Elections of 2001, 2005 and 2010 only 1 Conservative MP won a seat. That shows a vastly different political will in Scotland. Scottish votes have only affected UK election results in 1964, 1974 and 2010.
I want the wealth gap between the rich and poor to get smaller because ultimately it benefits all of society. In the UK inequality has grown steadily since the 1980s. The UK is now the fourth most unequal country in the developed world. Neither party has any vision for Scotland. No point in voting for any of the main UK parties for this, then.
If Scotland becomes independent we would be run by a more representative parliament in terms of gender balance, range of experience, backgrounds and local knowledge. We would also be living in a small country which could respond to changing circumstance s more rapidly than the sclerotic UK. The majority of the wealthiest have populations between 5 and 10 million.
I agree with the SNP proposals for growing the Scottish economy, eg:
- More money spent on pre-5 child care to allow more women into the workforce and making sure this age group get the best start in life.
- Concentrate on growing manufacturing instead of building an economy based on financial services and rising house prices. With 25% of Europe's alternative energy resources in Scotland there should be a gradual move away from oil towards investing and developing alternative energy.
- Reform land ownership. In the Highlands for example development has been stymied for generations by unavailability of land for building houses because it's owned by non rate paying absentee landlords.
- Encourage immigrants. This would be unimaginable within the UK. Scotland has an aging population and needs about another 2000 immigrants per year to counteract the aging population. In an independent Scotland these immigrants would come from the rest of the UK and the European Union. Anyone from outwith there areas would have to apply for work permits.
Ultimately this would mean that instead of being an outlier Scotland becomes much more like a north western European democracy.
The upcoming referendum is a massive decision for the United Kingdom as well as Scotland. It is correct to state that Alex Salmond has emerged during the campaign as an exceptional politician. Whatever the outcome, he has managed to face down all opposition and engage a significant percentage of the Scottish population as to his vision of what could be a prosperous Scotland which he says would be a fairer society.
Personally I can understand his rationale. Ever since I have been of age to exercise my democratic right the government of the day, in my opinion has failed the population, poor decisions, scandal after scandal, and perceived injustice which have manifested over the last 30 years have given politicians from all parties a tarnished reputation which is difficult for them to resurrect. However, there is no guarantee that fundamental political changes will be forthcoming in an independent Scotland. For me there is only a vision without substance. It is like leaving a secure job and deciding to accept a new position without receiving any offer in writing. Potentially nothing to gain and much to loose.
I am proud to be Scottish but I am also a proud to be British. It is my intention to vote no on Thursday. If the Scottish people decide to vote for Scottish Independence I will be extremely saddened to see the demise of 300 years of unity.
6. Mandy, YES, 45, NHS Nurse at School for Special Needs Pupils
I appreciate that the Scottish Government has autonomy over its budget for the NHS in Scotland however the funding is provided by Westminster and the cuts to our services in the school I work in during the last 2/3 years is very concerning. There has been a service redesign here in Greater Glasgow & Clyde and the only people who suffer are the children. I feel very strongly for a more just and fair society for the Scottish population who have a different cultural identity and different social values from our English cousins. We have the need to be a self-directed country shaping and developing Scotland to be a more fair and just society benefiting the people who live here. Scotland is a peaceful and prosperous nation with a historic opportunity to become internationally very successful. I appreciate there are still concerns over the currency union however I feel most of the discussions around it are actually scaremongering to frighten people of the "unknown." We should not be afraid to embrace these new challenges; we have to move forward, no life is without risk or change - it's what makes a person or a country stronger and more united.
I feel Scotland has been treated rather unfairly by the Tory Government from the time of Margaret Thatcher's legacy of total obliteration of Scotland's infrastructure, the poll tax, taking the school children's milk away from them, and we have gone full circle again to the levels of poverty and social injustice that we are experiencing again in 2014. We have 8,000 children in social care due to addiction problems, and we have one of the highest rates of alcoholism and drug addiction in the developed world. These are all issues which need addressed and funding and strategies and policies instead of cutbacks and trying to ignore this major blight on our horizon. In terms of the debate on an independent Scotland being part of the EU, we would have to apply for membership and I believe that there is no strong reason to justify why we would not or could not be a member. We have many strong business attributes to bring to the EU economy and vice versa. I appreciate Spain is not particularly happy about this as they have their own agenda re: Catalonia however that is not our concern. The thought of Scotland being a nuclear free country is a very promising proposition, this should not affect us being a member of NATO as we are entitled to be protected by our allies as an internationally recognised country.
I do not know who or what to believe, who to trust and question motives for some of the information we receive. There are many questions that cannot be answered at the moment and a lack of adequate information for people to make an informed choice. It does not help when there is such conflicting information - they can't all be right. It may have helped if some negotiations had taken place between Mr Salmond and Mr Cameron before the 18th so that there was more awareness of what we are choosing.
My concern is not just what is best for me or my family but for all people in Scotland. I believe in self-determination and want a Scotland where people of all nations are welcome, are equal and achievement is based on hard work and merit not who you know or who you are. I do not want an elitist society, I want a Scotland that cares for the sick, is compassionate to the needy, those down on their luck - where the rich help the poor. That is probably better served by an Independent Scotland.
However, there are so many serious social problems in Scotland, unlike many other small countries that have gained independence. Attitudes and culture are also different. It will take many years for Independence to make a difference. I feel so many 'Yes' Voters think Independence will be an instant cure. It will be hard work, may be a struggle and possibly much pain before any gain. It is concerning how an Independent Scotland can cope with the financial burden of these problems as well as free higher education, free prescriptions, free personal care for the elderly. I do also worry that although self determination is a good thing would most of the wealth gravitate to Edinburgh as it has done to London?
I hope our Politicians, no matter who they are or whatever the outcome on 18th September, will do their best for all who live in Scotland.
8. Sean, YES, 31, Support Worker
There have been a few reasons I have decided to vote 'Yes'. The longer I live, the more I have seen our nation decline on several fronts and a decrease in unity within the UK. I thought that it would be the opposite. Our nation should be improving things like poverty and making food banks a thing of the past but it's getting worse and doesn't look like improving anytime soon. The main reason I am voting YES is to protect the budgets of the likes of the NHS, education, and prevent budgets for new homes etc. being cut. It is Scotland's governments who are doing so but this is due to smaller pots of money being sent by Westminster for the Scottish government to spread equally across these sectors. Also with a lot of the NHS south of the border becoming privatised, I don't want that happening in our country. I have no uncertainty that becoming independent will make everything better in this country and though it won't be for a long time to come I feel my child and possible grandchildren will benefit from Scotland being independent and the revenue that this country brings in and makes here to be spent all on helping rebuild the nation.