I was raised in Edinburgh before heading, as so many Scots do, off to university away from home. During my studies, and just before the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, I won a place on the EU’s Erasmus Scheme to spend a year studying in Paris, for which the EU paid my university fees and offered a living stipend.
I was always pro-Europe, but being given the opportunity to live, study and work in the French capital solidified my belief that being part of the EU was an invaluable asset and something we couldn’t risk taking away from future generations.
So, when the Better Together campaign told us that the only way of securing Scotland’s place in Europe was by staying in the UK, I believed them. What’s more, they told us we’d have a new “Union of Equals”. They told us that if we didn’t “leave the Union, we’d lead the Union”.
I saw no reason that Scotland couldn’t be a successful independent nation, but the fear of losing my European citizenship was my priority. Many across Scotland felt the same way.
That was six years ago.
Since then, the lies of the Better Together campaign have been laid bare. The UK has voted for Brexit and we have each been stripped of our EU Citizenships. The UK Government is taking an aggressive stance against the countries with whom we once shared multinational identity and with whom we should be working most closely.
To me, the Brexit referendum revealed something we all knew: that regardless of the way people in Scotland voted in 2014, we are united in their desire to be part of Europe. What’s more, this was a desire not shared by the majority of the rest of the United Kingdom.
This in itself need not be cause for anger at how the rest of the UK sees its place in the world.
But it does require us all to recognise that the UK stands at a fork in the road. One road leads to Europe and the other leads to a path of isolation and confrontation with our nearest neighbours.
It is obvious to me that Scotland will be better served by breaking away from the UK and taking the path toward Europe.
I believe that the biggest challenges of the day—climate change and its knock-on issues, migration, growing inequality, human rights abuses, to name a few—are best tackled through collective efforts with as many of our friends on the continent as possible.
I don’t believe Scotland is ‘better’ in any way than the rest of the UK. I do believe, however, that in Scotland there is a greater consensus for progressive and social democratic government.
However, being part of the UK, our call for progressive politics goes unheard. In the last decade in the UK, we have seen an exponential rise in income inequality; a 141% rise in homelessness; funding cuts to public services helping the most vulnerable; and policies which have had discrimination baked in.
I believe an independent Scotland would be better able to address these issues, not only because of the public will but because, as a new country, we would be free to design a better system of government than the outdated and unrepresentative system we have at Westminster.
While I have arrived at the conclusion a bit later than others, it’s clear that independence is long overdue.
While more and more people are arriving at this conclusion every day, there are still many who are undecided. It’s vital now that we share our positive vision of an Independent Scotland in Europe, and be prepared to welcome them to the cause with open arms, as so many in the Yes movement have done for me.