On Thursday 18th September, I and a large number of fellow British citizens resident in Scotland will vote in the Scottish self-determination referendum. In October 2012, Alex Salmond and David Cameron signed the Edinburgh Agreement. They agreed to “deliver a fair test and a decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result that everyone will respect”. They also agreed on the question to be posed: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”. In the past 16 weeks, we have experienced an exciting and engaging campaign by both sides of the debate. It has been so captivating that even my Ayeeyo (granny) who lived under colonial rule and Siad Barre dictatorship in Somalia has an opinion and is enjoying this democratic and peaceful campaign process. The ‘NO, thanks’ and the ‘YES’ campaigns have bombarded us with messages to win our hearts and minds. One side argues that we should vote NO because we have the best of both worlds and we shouldn’t risk the cost of separation. On the other hand, the YES campaign denounces this as “scaremongering” tactics and believes Scotland can use its wealth to build a fairer nation. I have read, listened and reflected at length and decided in which direction I should cast my ballot.
Some argue that the whole referendum campaign has divided the nation. I disagree, instead I think it has galvanized and politically empowered historically disengaged communities in Scotland such as ethnic minority groups. For instance, the relatively large Somali population in Glasgow are overwhelmingly registered to vote, discuss and share their opinions about the referendum fervently. Scottish residents are passionate about this vote because they understand the magnitude of the decision and the consequences of their vote, not least with regard to its impact on the future generation. The engagement of all Scottish communities and age groups from 16 year olds to ‘Ayeeyos’ is a clear sign of a healthy and mature democratic society. I am also confident that regardless of the eventual outcome of the referendum, people will get on and try to better their lives.
History teaches us the destructive nature of wars over land, dictatorships egocentric acts and the global socio-economic disparities between people. Unfortunately, we continue to face this malaise in our contemporary globalized world. In contrast, to decide the fate of our 300-year-old union, the UK and Scottish Governments decided to call a referendum. In order to advance this democratically and peacefully, both governments agreed and developed a legal document, the Edinburgh Agreement, which sets out the rules of this democratic process. I am aware we live in a mature democracy and we take it for granted, but it is important to note and celebrate the elegance of this process. Both camps invested and empowered people to respectfully discuss, debate and decide. As expected, my friends ask me what I will be voting for on the 18th.I recognise this to be the most important vote I cast so far, but I also see it as a lesson on how to conduct domestic and international affairs. Some argue that democracy is an abstract affair. This referendum has proved in contrast, that democracy is solid, relevant and achievable. I feel the International Community should take pen to paper and note down the lessons they can learn from the plans, preparation and execution of this referendum in Scotland.