Hey everyone This referendum campaign has taught me a few valuable lessons about myself about others and not least about the Scottish nature and our fear of the unknown.
Firstly let me see what I’ve learned about myself. I believe this campaign has reaffirmed my belief that I am a good communicator. As a poet who performs her own work and was once employed as an equal rights trainer I have always enjoyed engaging with the public. As far as I am concerned whether I agree with them or not people have the right to express their opinion and on occasion when the time is right and the circumstances appropriate I will present a different view of the future and respectfully ask them to consider it.
The next thing I have learned is that women tend to listen to and value my opinion more than men. This may I feel be due at least to my transsexual identity however the fact that I am below a certain height and the fact I’m 5 feet 1 not 5 feet 5 feet 9 may also be important in this as I believe sexism and macho attitudes are unfortunately still alive in Scotland and this is an issue which no matter who wins in September needs to be urgently addressed as I am my friend Sophie Bridger from the Better Together would agree.
Another interesting fact is that many of my friends who are opponents on this issue believe me to be a voice of reason who will be amongst those they trust to heal the divisions in our nation whichever way the result goes. This tells me that they believe me to be honest, and trust me to work in the best interests of the people of Scotland.
I also realise that I have used this referendum as a springboard for my creativity and that it has been very beneficial for me in this way as I have produced many poems on the topic of independence and why I believe we need to vote yes. I must stress however that the improvement in my poetry has not just been evident in my political poems but in all my work.
Another fact is that I have been described by some people usually though not exclusively young professional women as highly articulate and persuasive and have been informed that I have won over a few people who otherwise would have voted no. To me it is feedback like this which the makes campaigning all the more rewarding and motivates me to do as much as possible in the name of my country .
Don’t get me wrong it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses. I have lost a few friends during the course of the campaign for daring to voice a different opinion to the one they’ve been indoctrinated with. I have learned that many unionists do not like having their opinions challenged. The very thought of being challenged leaves them a nervous wreck and unable to cope with even the simplest of questions. The prospect of change terrifies them, indeed I was told recently by a man who I would say was in his late twenties / early thirties that he liked the idea of certainly and by another male who I would guess was in his sixties that we shouldn’t risk the security of the UK for an uncertain future. When I told these people that the future was always uncertain and there was no such thing as certainty they seemed genuinely shocked and actually started to panic.
I have also found out that I am a lot more patient than I thought I was. God knows this has not been easy but somehow I have managed it. Maybe the reason for this is the tactic I have always believed in, namely give them enough rope and they’ll hang themselves.
A classic example of this came at a bus stop just a few weeks ago.
Whilst gently engaging in polite conversation with a woman who asked what I was doing with my day I mentioned I was going to some canvassing for Yes Scotland. At this time our pleasant conversation was rudely interrupted by a woman who either had severe mental health issues or was a total right wing basketcase. For what seemed like an eternity but was probably no more than 10 or 15 minutes, this woman ranted and raved about Alex Salmond, the SNP and Catholics. Though quite what our Roman Catholic population has to do it I don’t have the faintest idea.
During what can best be described as an ill considered rant, I was told we were all racists bigots who hated the English. Note the judgemental term the English was not used by me but by someone who quite clearly hated the idea of independence and felt very threatened by it. This women said she could prove we hated the English because we voted against Margaret Thatcher and we boast that there would be no Conservative governments ever again. The thought of this seemed to annoy her and she was very quick to inform us of the fact in very strident terms. I cautioned her on the allegations of Anti English racism, and warned her that she was doing her cause no favours and if anything she was doing my work for me for which I thanked her very much.
At this my bus companion decided to voice her opinions. I think it is fair to say she was far from impressed by the women’s rantings and decided to let her know in no uncertain terms. This mild mannered woman confessed to me that she was genuinely undecided about how she was going to vote but thanks to the rantings of that woman she was now swaying towards yes. At this, I saw an opportunity and believe me I tend to not to miss. As we went on our separate journeys I reminded her that if no politicians had impressed her by the time polling day arrived, to remember this day when she heard both yes and no voters state their case and remember which one listened to her concerns and which one just screamed at the top of their voice. This is something the unionists seem to do rather a lot under pressure.
As for the Anti English allegation, this tends to come up a lot but I can usually counter such nonsense by saying as I did on Sunday to someone with whom I have a good personal relationship or indeed to people on a more general level that it is not and never has been England with which I have the problem it is and always will be the Westminster government. This I explain is a government which does not and never will represent the values I believe in such as fairness, equality and democracy. You see I believe that Scotland should always get the government we vote for rather than having to depend on the goodwill of others to give us something which is rightfully ours.
This point is particularly important in explaining why we need independence as it stops the Anti English argument in its tracks. I believe this is critical if we are to win the better Scotland we seek to build so let me make it very clear I am not voting yes as some in the no camp would like I am because I watched Braveheart. I am voting yes because I survived the Iron Lady Never again do I want to be ashamed of my Prime Minister as I have been with Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and David Cameron.
This message has to be shouted loud and clear from now till polling day to counteract the outrageous lies of the British press and broadcast media and certain so-called elected representatives who by comparing the young members of the independence movement to Hitler youth, the SNP, and Alex Salmond to Zimbabwian President and former Etonian and Oxbridge boy Robert Mugabe have shown their contempt for both Scotland and democracy. What I want to know however, is why do these people indulge in such disgusting behaviour? This is a question which not only needs asked it also needs to be answered.
One explanation for this type of behaviour could be because the unionists thought the referendum would be a lot easier to win than is actually the case. Fear of change is a powerful force which is often used by the establishment to stop the ordinary people getting engaged in politics.
The amount of times I’ve heard people claiming they don’t do politics and then go on and on and on about why they are going to vote no is absolutely sickening. It also goes to show the pernicious and poisonous attitude of the British press and media. It really is unbelievable how many fairytales I’ve heard from some no voters. For example in the space of no more than a few minutes I heard Alex Salmond was both a tartan tory and a communist from two women who knew each other.
Now I’ve heard of multi-tasking and as a woman I can actually do it but this is taking it to truly ridiculous levels. I mean honestly if you are going to bullshit me it would make sense to get the story straight.
I have also been told that the SNP would rule Scotland forever and that when Britain won the war against the Nazi’s by someone who obviously forgot or should I say ignored the role of the other allied forces and European resistance movements that not a single member of the armed forces has ever believed in an independent Scotland, and when they were fighting they were fighting for what they described as ‘Our United Kingdom’. These people obviously never met my father who served at the tail end of the war and was proud to be a royal marine but who in spite of this voted SNP from the earliest opportunity he got until the day he died.
I really believe that people are afraid of what they consider to be a leap into the unknown. Yet I feel I must remind this group of voters that as I reminded those who tried to play the uncertain future card that since all of the future is uncertain that voting no is as big a risk if not a bigger one than embracing the positive change that independence can and does offer our country. To reject anything because you believe in the alternative is fine by me but when you are rejecting it only through fear then it seems to me that you are making a very big mistake.
This is something we cannot afford but believe me those who favour the current arrangement will do all they can to destroy our national confidence in the event of a no vote. Scotland to them is not a country let alone a sovereign nation with the right to be independent. No to these people Scotland is a meal ticket and nothing else.
Other points weren’t so much learned as re-enforced. One of these is that if someone is brought up in a deeply sectarian environment such as the unionist enclaves of Ulster there is no amount of evidence no matter how reasonably presented will ever shift their opinion of the union. I learned this at first hand when I found myself engaging in debate with a rather charming young woman brought up in this environment. No matter what I said to her on topics from Education to the NHS which she told me was a British invention for she was proud to work I could not get the message through. Even when I reminded her that the NHS in England was being privatised to within an inch of its life and that a no vote slowly but steadily see the same thing happen here she replied ‘look I’m from Northern Ireland and I was brought up to believe in the union and nothing you can say will change my mind on that’
Another point which was firmed up was as I always suspected that unionists are far more likely to be xenophobic and many of them have a deep distrust of foreigners often blaming the Scottish government and the wider independence movement for issues such as immigration over which we have no control as it is reserved power retained by Westminster. Now I don’t mind taking the blame for things which are our responsibility but I’ll be dammed if I’ll be blamed for the policies of another government which are out of our control.
Explaining facts like this to people who believe that the BBC is a fair minded broadcaster and who get the news from a press hostile is a difficult challenge bur it can be very rewarding. This is especially true when as has happened on a number of occasions people have read blogs you’ve recommended or went to meetings you’ve informed them about and have had that light bulb moment where the light goes on and what you’ve told them in discussions now begins to make sense.
It is times like this that makes it all worth while and makes you realise that all of those little conversations are sowing seeds of hope in people’s hearts and minds that an independent Scotland can be better than Westminster. After it is policies made in Westminster which have given Scotland austerity, foodbanks, poverty, trident and the corruption of the expenses scandal. Scotland deserves better than this and with the lessons I’ve learned about myself and about others especially those who fear change and still need to be persuaded I intend to use my communication skills and tap in to all my reserves of patience to make sure I can sow the seeds of hope by being a voice of reason to those yet to be convinced and by doing so persuade as many people as possible between now and polling day.
Love And Best Wishes