When the date for the Scottish independence referendum was announced last week, I sat down and started making notes for an article. One article has now turned into four. Some people just don’t know when to shut up, I suppose.
Here, I’ve spoken to a fellow journalist, Christopher Gen, who’s sure that independence would be a dreadful thing for Scotland. Look out for the other two interviews coming soon, where I talk to a group of students who aren’t sure at all, as well as a champion for the cause, Dan Paris.
So here’s my chat with Chris. He’s a journalist in Glasgow, working towards his degree and writing on the side, generally on political and social issues. I’ve never forgiven him for beating me at the Scottish Student Journalism Awards last year, at which he won column of the year. He’s dead against Scottish independence and we had a little chat about some of the main issues people are talking about.
LA: Right Chris, let’s start off simple. There is a possibility the voting age could be reduced to include 16 and 17-year-olds for the referendum. What do you think about that?
CG: It’s a tad redundant. Firstly, the majority of 16 year olds aren’t politically aware; they don’t know the consequences of independence, or what the repercussions could be. They’re simply looking for a way to “stick it” to the English. Although that doesn’t just apply to 16-year-olds, there are adults who are equally as ignorant. I actually saw a post on facebook which had a picture of William Wallace in Braveheart, covered in his blue warpaint with “f*ck the English” elegantly scrolled below it. They think they’re exhibiting national pride, but really, they’re clueless.
LA: I agree that many 16-year-olds are idiots but if a person is of legal age to get married, create life and join the army; don’t you think they should be allowed to vote?
CG: You can join the army but when you do, you’re trained and educated by them. You aren’t sent to make life-changing choices blind.
LA: Would you feel more comfortable if 16 and 17-year-olds were given all the appropriate information first?
CG: I would feel more comfortable, otherwise we’re going into this blind. It would be treated like a novelty. But honestly, it feels like a ploy to increase the SNP’s chances of success.
LA: The oil revenues have been the biggest talking point already when it comes to the referendum. I take it you don’t think the oil we have will be enough to support us?
CG: If Scotland is independent, there are two ways the oil may be divided. If done by a line across the north sea directly from the border, then 90& of the oil tax revenues will accrue to Scotland (as the Yes campaign are claiming it will). However, if the calculation is done on the basis of population then that figure could fall to as low as 9%.
LA: I will agree with you on this one Chris, that other than all this oil we’re being promised, we haven’t yet been given enough information on other forms of income. Alex Salmond says he intends to put away a percentage of the income from oil into a “rainy day” fund, as Norway did in the past. Do you think this is a good or bad thing?
CG: I see it as common sense. It makes sense to do as Norway did. However, it does hint that our oil revenue won’t be as great as we’re being made to think it is. People claim that Westminster has consistently robbed Scotland of resources oil, fish etc but breaking away into an independent nation isn’t the answer. We should be demanding change instead.
LA: I wrote this week about the fact that many Scottish people don’t feel a connection with England and Westminster. Do you?
CG: We’re holding on to aggression from something that was centuries ago, quoting Mel Gibson rather than an actual history book. That feud has long been put to rest. Instead, focus should be drawn to the fact our nations share a proud, not to mention, emotional, history. Together we’ve built internationally renowned institutions such as the NHS and BBC, fought side-by-side in two world wars for freedom and democracy. We’ve traded all around the world. Why is it only the negative memories of our past that people recall?
LA: I sometimes feel Britishness is just Englishness in disguise. Do you feel British or Scottish then?
CG: I’m proud to be Scottish but I don’t differentiate between my Scottishness and my Britishness. If independence goes through, then it’ll likely cause more hostility.
LA: Do you think David Cameron is digging his own grave when it comes to the referendum? Scotland would be thrilled to get away from a Tory government they’ve never voted for in their history.
CG: People wouldn’t be as taken by this whimsical idea of an independent Scotland it a Tory weren’t currently in power but people see Tory, they think Thatcher, then think Satan. Look how much has changed for Scotland over the past two decades alone. It just feels like we’re skipping the film to the end rather than giving this government a chance.