When folk say that Scotland is a village, they really do mean it. It’s funny how people you know through contact in a certain sphere, turn up again somewhere completely different and totally unexpected. When I first met Gary Wilson, I knew he was a Labour member and involved in Better Together. I never dreamed that we’d end up on the same side nor that I’d get to hear his eloquent and powerful explanation for his Journey to Yes:
I began life in this campaign as a Labour party member and as the Better Together co-ordinator for my area, Edinburgh East. I’d like to say I beat off stiff opposition for the “honour” but lots of my Labour colleagues were uneasy about the alliance with the Tories in Better Together. I came forward because I saw it as my duty and no one else could or would.
But it didn’t take long for two concerns to emerge. First, here I was hob-nobbing with the very people I had spent all my life campaigning against. Second, a no vote could lead to the worst possible option for me – another Tory government in charge of all of us in the UK.
And I had been speaking with friends who work with homeless people, disabled people, and lone parents about the impact of welfare reform. It was more than I could stomach
and I began listening instead to my heart. And my heart told me I could not be part of the Better Together campaign. Even though I continue to be a Labour party member in
I also started looking into the arguments against staying in the UK – the case, particularly the economic case, for independence for Scotland is strong, very strong. I also began to notice
the very vicious press attacks designed to scare folk and the success these scare tactics appeared to be having.
And so I journeyed to Yes. And I am not alone.
A lot of my Labour friends have doubts and are uneasy at the position they find themselves in with the party throwing their lot in with the Tories.
As a gay man who had come out many years ago, I was under no illusion of the impact of “coming out” for yes. But I had to do it. And it has been difficult but also the right thing to do.
I recall hearing Ruth Davidson (Scottish Conservative leader) talking to young people about change and how she felt that she now lived in a liberating, exciting, free country ie the UK.
That isn’t my experience. And there’s nothing exciting about the current environment of cuts and pay freezes for public sector workers. It’s not exciting for the one million living in poverty in Scotland. It’s not exciting being attacked for being sick or being disabled.
There has been a 400% rise in the last year in the number of people in Scotland using foodbanks to stave off hunger – I don’t call that liberating, I call that a disgrace. Where’s the freedom for the 1 in 5 living in poverty in the world’s sixth largest economy?
I did not get involved in the Labour party to sanction public service and welfare cuts but to fight them. And now I can by campaigning for independence for Scotland.
It took me a while to get involved with Labour for Independence, but I’m glad I did. We are fighting for what we believe in and there are more of us than the Labour
party likes to pretend.