A guest post by Lauren Reid
So I’m sat here right now at nine on a Friday night wondering how I put it into words, my journey from a ‘staunch’ No to an active yes. I’ve had to explain it to close family and friends numerous times now, but it’s different opening up your life to strangers. As the saying goes, probably best to start from the beginning, as this is exactly where my No vote was instilled.
I grew up in Bathgate in the 80s and 90s. Raised by a Dad in the Orange Order and a Mum who had mental health issues I spent the first few years of my childhood visiting her in old Bangour. Bathgate had been crippled but I never knew. People being skint was just the way it was.
I remember the sash as a nursery rhyme, I remember summer holidays as turning up at the Deans and District Rangers Supporters Club and heading off in the bus for a day out. I remember my Dad’s King Billy Tattoo on his forearm and I remember being a proud, wee lassie, singing ‘Hello Hello’ on a Saturday morning. I always spent New Years Day waiting for my Dad to come home reeking from the Old Firm game, it was what families did. Cringing now, I reflect that I joined Bathgate Rising Star flute band when I was 12!
The men in my family were either in a Union, Orange Lodge or army – and the women, well they worked in factories or stayed at home raising us bairns. I certainly didn’t want to be changing shitey nappies or cooking stovies or soup all day, nor did I fancy stuffing sausages at Halls or putting garlic onto naans at UCB (it must’ve been the rebel in me.) So I enlisted at 15 and 8 months. Don’t get me wrong, I had other opportunities open to me. I had done pretty well in my Standard Grades and could have stayed on at school, but what then? University wasn’t an option. Nobody in my family had ever been to uni that was never discussed, not once, not in our house.
Bathgate had lost Leyland, lost Menzies, and lost any scrap of mining industry. Silicon Glen was kicking off, but everyone knew Motorola and Shin Etsu weren’t ‘proper’ jobs. Not a trade nor a career. So I passed the BARB with flying colours and was offered Avionics Technician in the REME. I swore my allegiance to the Queen with my Mum and Dad watching. I packed my things and headed down to Berkshire to the Army Technical Foundation College.
Sitting on guard duty a couple of years later, we got a call to raise the alert status. We were at war. I had heard of and seen the demos in London, a bunch of greenies and hippies who wanted to save the world. I was prepared to lay down my life and go to war because it was what our Government had said was absolutely necessary to protect the world from WMDs. It never occurred to me that my own family were sat 66 miles away from a stockpile of them.
I never had to go to Iraq. During my medical it was discovered I was pregnant.
I came home to Bathgate. Nothing had changed and I didn’t notice. I raised my daughter and got on with my life – ‘heid doon’ as they say. I even had another a few years later.
Which brings us to the middle part of my story. My husband left and I was your typical stay at home mum. Still oblivious to the political discontent around me. Still voting Labour and living the life I’d left to avoid. I worked what I could in pubs and kitchens, anything to break even.
This part of my life didn’t change for a long time, there is no point boring you with the ins and outs. I was a ‘scummy mummy’, a ‘scrounger’, as far as I could see. Skip a few years the kids are at school. I am working for myself and I’m hearing of bloody Alex Salmond and his nationalist separatist party, wanting to dismantle my beloved union. The Union I was raised with, the Union I would have fought for. I was angry. Who the hell did he think he was?
I spent months listening to the people around me, saying how ridiculous it was and how we could never afford it. I’d spend evenings on the phone to my brother in England, talking about how it was never going to happen and how it was all about that bloody Salmond and his separatists.
I believed the UK to be one of the most formidable countries in the world. I considered myself Scottish and British. I believed the UK to be a world force against terror and that having Trident deterred.
When one of my good friends, who I’d admired and respected, told me he was voting Yes. I scoffed at him. He was a Rangers man, an ex squaddy and an Orangeman! How could he possibly vote yes? I argued the case as I knew it. I found myself with a vastly inferior knowledge of the debate. He spoke of things I’d never heard of. The McCrone report, the fact Scotland had already won a referendum and been cheated out of it. He even said Scotland subsidised the rest of the UK. I headed straight for the Better Together Facebook page to gather a rebuttal to his preposterous claims.
I spent weeks with Del Rashid, Damien Davies and others on the site, and I reaffirmed my decision to vote No. And I laughed when those daft yessers made wild allegations of bias in the media and how the page was censored. Then there was a post about the Weirs and how the Yes Camp were funded by a lucky rich couple. For a split second a name appeared on the comments: Ian Taylor. It was gone as soon as I’d read it. The person then complained of comments being removed, this time I didn’t laugh. I slowly typed the name and watched as Better Together removed my comment almost instantaneously. Who the bloody hell was Ian Taylor?
I typed the name and Better Together into my web browser and the first result that popped up was National Collective with ‘Dirty Money?’ The Tory Millionaire Bankrolling Better Together.
I read the article. Then another and another and another. I think I actually became a bit addicted. I started looking at many sites and even the dreaded Wings site. How could all this information be here and I’d not read any of it in my papers or seen it on the news? Were they right? Was the media biased?
The more I read, the more frustrated I became. I found myself mentioning bits and pieces to my brother whilst on the phone in the evenings. I put down the phone one night after yet another conversation, being told I was speaking rubbish and being mocked exactly as I had mocked before. I heard myself saying, well you’ve not got a vote anyway. I froze with the realisation I didn’t want him to vote No, I didn’t want a No vote. I was going to vote Yes because all those silly reasons I’d had for voting No were just not good enough. We were keeping our Queen, we were going to have a stable economy, we could do it without another drop of oil in the North Sea and we could get a Labour Government again. Independence wasn’t unusual or wrong. It was normal and just.
There was only 6 months to go! I started speaking to friends and family and explaining all that I’d seen and read. I printed articles and handed them each what I thought was relevant to their situations. I started campaigning on social media, and I joined my local active Yes group. I erected a 6ft by 6ft Yes sign in my garden because I knew it would shock the people that knew me. Knew my background. They’d question why I was voting Yes and why I was screaming it!
I have converted a few friends and I try to engage those around me who are voting No for the “Gers” or for “The Ludge”. These seem to be the ones who won’t engage at all. I feel sorry for them more than angry. It’s the way we were raised. As little orange sheep.
For the first time in my life I’ve not got the wool over my eyes. I can see what a mess we’ve been in and see that it never needed to happen. The debt we have wouldn’t be, if only we’d had that oil fund. Wars I watched friends die in never needed to happen if only our politicians had the balls to say no to Bush. The NHS that saved my babies life is being dismantled by rich benefactors who not only get to make the decision but know we can’t do anything about who gets to make it. I see now that not only can we never use Trident, but it doesn’t deter anyone it wastes billions.
We can’t change any of what has happened so far. But we can change what the future holds for us. I believe the best way to predict that future is to build it ourselves.
If you are about to vote No because you’re in the Lodge, I ask you this, is a 15 minute battle and a pub getting burned down on the 21st September 1795 more important to you than the future of Scotland on 18th September 2014?
Click here for an audio version of this article, courtesy of 1 of the 99%