Some of you may know that I have written a book. Most of you don’t, because I’ve not done very much about promoting it or talking about it. And yet, how relevant it all seems – even after the big vote.
The book examines Generation ScotY, Scotland’s 20somethings, who they are, what influences them, how they responded to the referendum and what their voting intentions were. At the time I finished writing it, it wasn’t clear how they would vote but the book does burst a few myths about what matters to this crucial generation.
So having failed miserably to get out on the circuit and talk it up, and having not bothered anyone at any time for funding for this blog or to feed me and my weans while I took three months off work to campaign for independence, I’m hoping a few of you might be inclined to buy the book. Even if you never bother to read it, put a smile on Luath Press’s face and buy it please. It’s not even a tenner.
I’d given up political predictions (I was rubbish at them) but it seems I had a prescient moment or two with the book.
First, that Scotland’s 20somethings would largely vote for independence – and that even within that generation, there was a divide in voting intentions, with the older 25 to 29 year olds being more likely to vote Yes. Richard Ashcroft’s polling after voting appears to bear that out: a narrow margin of 4% for No among 18 to 24 year olds but a much wider 18% in the 25 to 34 year old group.
“…there could be trouble ahead if Generation ScotY feels resentful of older generations if they bequeath them a future they neither wanted nor voted for. Indeed, if as some polls suggest, the older cohort in Generation ScotY (those aged 25 – 34) votes Yes to independence and the outcome is a No vote, then that result will most likely have been achieved throught the votes of those over 45 and particularly, those aged over 60. In other words, Generation ScotY could be denied the future they want by the votes of their parents and grandparents. Such a situation might foment societal discord, particularly given the outlook for Generation ScotY in terms of their incomes and economic wellbeing…”
The book concludes that far from being the generation that wants it all, Generation ScotY wants but a little of all that we – Generation X and Baby Boomers – have had. “The only thing we have left behind for Generation ScotY is a morass that its members are going to have to spend their lifetimes sorting.”
And this is exactly what Ashcroft’s poll suggests has happened. Only 43% of people in Scotland aged 55 to 64 voted Yes and a staggering 73% of those over 65 voted No.
Pensioners and those about to become so voted to keep all that they have gained in their lifetimes. They opted for keeping things just as they are, not wanting the bother of upheaval at their time of life. Shame on them.
They are the generation which by their hard work and effort, built the great British institutions – the welfare state, the NHS, comprehensive education. Throughout my lifetime, the dismantling of those institutions has grown apace, coupled with severe economic dislocation, not once but twice. Yet, Baby Boomers have been largely protected from the impact of this, by dint of their age distancing their experience of some, such as the education system and because governments and politicans have worked hard to protect them from that impact.
The ones most affected by all the change, economic, political and societal, since 2008 are those in their 20s and 30s. And they will continue to be so throughout their lifetimes. There are £5 billion of cuts coming in the next two years to the Scottish block grant; the Tories have promised to limit public spending as a percentage of GDP through legislation; Labour is pledging to remove under 25s from benefit entitlement completely; inequality is growing exponentially and poverty among young single adults in work is rising rapidly.
Generation ScotY got that in this referendum. They could look forward and see the misery before them, if Scotland opted to stay within the UK. When I looked at what issues matter to our 20somethings for the book, I was surprised at what they listed. They are caricatured as frivolous and flippant and they are anything but. Generation ScotY took this referendum seriously – far more seriously in terms of the country’s and its people’s future than their parents and grandparents, who largely voted for themselves. Thatcher’s children, indeed.
If Scotland voted Yes, they would still have been all right. Little would have changed in their lifetimes. The changes needed to create a wealthier economy and a fairer society would have barely begun by the time they shuffled off to their resting places – something they failed to get. And they refused to listen to their children and grandchildren, who in opting for independence, were prepared to put up with short-term, even medium term, dislocation, in order to have a chance of their lives – and their children’s – being different.
Baby Boomers opted for a present which only exists in their rose-tinted view of the past, rather than a future which was not theirs to design. If I was in my twenties, I’d be pretty pissed off with my grandparents right now. And I’d be tempted to call them up and tell them why I won’t be visiting this Christmas. In fact, the next time a pensioner coming on to the bus gives me a hard stare to get up from my seat, they’ll be given a hard stare right back. After all, who’s paying the fares here? Petty, yes. But no protest is ever futile.
But there is also hope. This generation of 20somethings is a sunshine one: despite the hand dealt them by the current state of things, they are optimistic and positive in the outlook for the future. They will make the best of things.
And I don’t think they will give up. They get that power and control needs to belong in their hands and not given away to sit with a tiny political elite. They get that equality, justice and fairness matter as key building blocks in society and indeed, the economy. They are prepared to work hard, to use their talents and skills to believe in and indeed, create a better future for themselves and their communities. If you buy the book, you’ll find out why I am making such assertions.
So while fear triumphed on Thursday, because of the sheer numbers of Baby Boomers who refused to lift their eyes and vote for the future, hope still remains. Not least because Generation ScotY voted for it.
The Unionists have written off the possibility of another independence referendum for a lifetime or even a generation. They’re wrong. I don’t think Generation ScotY will allow Westminster and the political class to put it back in a box. The referendum allowed them to discover the thrill of political activisim: 20somethings organised themselves in this campaign and learned skills and enjoyed experiences they won’t want to lose.
The question of independence for Scotland will be back on the table within ten years at most, possibly even five, if the Unionist parties renege – as they already seem to be doing – on the more, new powers vow. When that happens and all those cuts still to come bite further into the forbearance of Generation ScotY, they will demand the chance – again – to opt for different. And this time, they’ll win.
For as Alex Salmond said, the dream shall never die. Not when Generation ScotY – over 53% of it – already voted for it. Not when they already demonstrated hope, aspiration, belief and crucially, Yes votes that their future lies in an independent Scotland. Next time, thanks to them and the generation still to reach voting age, the dream will become a reality.