How the Scottish Referendum for Independence Gave Me New Creativity

Aside from the obvious inspiration for my debut novel, there’s something sparkly happening in Scotland that has brought me back to life.

Today is the day Scotland votes on independence. The ballot question is simple: Should Scotland be an independent country? One box for yes, one box for no.

It’s easy to think of the politics in something like that. And they’re present, of course. But the real magic has happened in Scotland’s people.

National Collective, an organization founded by Ross Colquhoun a couple years back, took point on involving creative folks — artists, writers, designers, architects, actors, musicians, and more — in the discussion on Scottish independence. What happened next was the stuff of an Upworthy video, clickbaity title included.

All over Scotland, National Collective started getting people involved, using social media with facility and power and passion. They grew to thousands of members. They engaged with the Yes campaign. They mobilized each other and their peers, and together they mobilized a generation — and more.

What I’ve seen in the past two years since I first met Ross and wrote a little op-ed for their website back in August of 2012 is a picture of what a society could look like if they cared. To see Scotland take up the banners of fairness, justice, peace, and diplomacy is one thing — to see her people do so in the name of building those things themselves and committing to being better no matter how much work it takes, well. That is the stuff of legends.

The debate on Scottish independence has been fascinating for many reasons, but for me, the part that brings tears to my eyes and goosebumps pebbling across my skin is seeing the webs of connections the people of the Yes movement have forged across their country and the world. How voices in Iceland and Catalonia and Quebec (and here in the US) have raised in support of an independent Scotland. How the #YesGenerations conversation on Twitter showed families reaching across generational lines to have dialogue and how the passion of the youth to build a better nation helped convince their grandparents to give them the chance to try.

That is the kind of land I want to live in. One that values its people and knows that its human capital is far more priceless than pounds or dollars. One that feels the need to protect its elderly from cuts to necessary programs and one that welcomes immigrants and for whom an independent Scotland is for all who live within its borders, regardless of where they came from.

Watching this debate has fueled within me an even stronger desire to be there when Scotland goes her own way. I cannot predict the outcome of today’s vote. All I can predict is that it will be close, and it will leave Scotland changed. Those in Scotland who have risen up to engage with this very important question aren’t going to go away.

A big thing that has come out of this also is the concept that being an idealist and accomplishing something are not mutually exclusive ideas. Those working toward Scottish independence are far from having their heads in clouds or sand or both. They’re out there working, learning about policies, actively engaging in changing that which is within their control. This is the generation that will make up Scotland’s next leaders, and this is something of great value in a world where the recession has made many cynical and apathetic about their abilities to effect change.

So today, I’m looking forward. Scotland has taught me that it’s possible to exercise control things small and large alike.

Whatever the results are today, I’m behind the people of Scotland. Create. Innovate. Thrive.


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