The prospect of Yes should inspire first time voters – but how do we reach them and what to say? I should start with a disclaimer – I’m not as young as I used to be, and really hope none of what you’re about to read comes across as patronising! It certainly isn’t intended that way.
I was recently speaking to two young male voters on the doorsteps at the Cowdenbeath by election. Both young guys were first time voters, and weren’t sure which candidate they’d be voting for, if at all. I decided to take the opportunity to speak to them about the independence referendum, as I was curious as to whether this was even on their radar.
The first guy was quite interested – he said his mum was a no voter, but her partner was a firm yes. He’d been listening to both sides of the arguments, but hadn’t yet made up his mind. I put it to him that the referendum was more important for his generation than any other, as he had the biggest stake in Scotland’s future. He agreed – but was smart enough to know that my enthusiasm for independence had to be balanced with “well, she would say that, wouldn’t she”! He seemed keen to find out more, and I let him know where to find information online.
The second guy was really quite unsure about both the by election and the referendum – he rather bashfully admitted that he’d probably be voting how his mum told him to. Naturally, I gave him some gentle encouragement, but I’m not sure whether it made much of a difference.
The first voter encouraged me; he was pretty engaged, aware and thoughtful. He’d look into the arguments and find his own way. After walking away from the second door, however, I felt a strong urge to go back and speak to the voter again, to shake him somehow into seeing what opportunities could come with independence.
I spoke also to a pensioner in the Cowdenbeath constituency; he said he was voting no because he was happy with the way things are (I argued the case, of course). From his point of view, the way things are suited pensioners like him – after all, they’ve had their working life, and some will have a reasonable pension, free bus pass and free personal care. The way things are suits, whichever Government delivered these benefits; political parties of all hues covet the pensioner vote, as they turn out at elections. Young people less so, but they should.
To me, this is an incredibly exciting time – I would love to be in the YSI again, to be able to run round the country advocating a yes vote. There are so many great young activists making the case for independence. The optimism and exuberance of National Collective is inspiring; so many (predominately) young creative people with hopes for building a renewed Scotland. From Cowdenbeath to the Calton, I want first time voters to hear enthusiasm for independence from other people their own age, from their own communities; to hear about what independence – and indeed a no vote – would mean to them.
I still find it difficult to believe that there isn’t more outcry over the staging of the minimum wage (under 18s are entitled to £3.72/hr, 18-20 £5.03/hr and 21 and over £6.31/hr). The Tories are seeking to remove benefits from under 25s, and force young people back into their parent’s home. Young people in England are being priced out of education, and social mobility is retreating.
Independence ensures that Scotland’s young people aren’t dragged down by that current, the only alternative to a lost generation.
The independence white paper speaks of establishing the opportunity of education, training or employment as a constitutional right in an independent Scotland, and to fully integrate employability training and career guidance. This holds the greatest benefit for young people, ensuring that they get help to follow their goals in life from the start. Basing access to university on the ability to learn not the ability to pay, along with continued availability of apprenticeships and focus on youth employment are together an attractive prospect.
That’s all without saying that independence itself could boost the economy, help to foster growth and entrepreneurship, and to give our young people the change to stay and build a new Scotland, rather than have to go and seek their future elsewhere.
The Yes campaign must seek to activate young people, to let them know that an independent Scotland offers them a future where their contribution will be valued, their ambitions supported. It’s an exciting time for the independence generation.
Jimmy Halliday’s contributions to the Cause
Jimmy Halliday – lifetime Nationalist
To put matters into context, in 1955 the SNP contested only two Parliamentary seats in Scotland. Dr Robert McIntyre fought Perth and East Perthshire and Jimmy Halliday fought Stirling and Falkirk Burghs. Jimmy then became the youngest ever SNP Chairman and served 1956-70; in 1956 the entire SNP Conference delegates were photographed on the steps of the Allan Water Hotel, Bridge of Allan.
There will be a Referendum for Scottish Independence this year, which was unthinkable in the dark days of 1955. Jimmy died on 3rd January 2013 at the age of 85, and we will be publishing all his articles in the Scots Independent, all those we have electronic input for. It is anticipated we will publish a book with all his contributions over many years but this will have to wait until after the Referendum.
Unionists cannot explain. May 2008 – James Halliday
Dundee Labour administration kept in power by Conservatives
Teachers of History, certainly, and of Literature probably, suffer from the desire to pass on to their charges all that they themselves have ever learned. They wish each new generation to absorb experience at second-hand without having to go through all the trials of the past personally. It is a well-intentioned attempt, and older members of many organisations have been known to cherish similar ambitions. Unfortunately, as teachers soon learn, their targets don’t really want to know.
Those who write columns for campaigning journals like this one feel the same sense of frustrated purpose with each date of publication, finding readers as slow to enthuse as pupils. Teachers do enjoy one great advantage— personal contact with those whom they wish to influence. Modern political campaigning has become increasingly devoid of personal contacts. Yet to have truly effective political impact we need to be able to confront opponents, and to do so in front of witnesses. Only then can the witnessing public see and judge for themselves the tactics and demerits of our opponents while they strive to justify their own record and to destroy confidence in ours.
Television and radio journalists have often and famously served voters well by their interrogation of public figures, though sometimes we are left wishing that we might confront the presenters as well. After all, Mr Jeremy Paxman’s understanding of Scottish society and politics leaves much to be desired. When no Paxman or similar inquisitor is present our opponents can with impunity, in speech or in print, deploy their whole scoundrelly repertoire of cynical evasion, unscrupulous and untruthful assertions backed by arguments shallow and naïve, often smug and cheap. Each day brings fresh instances, most actively provided in recent days by Lord Foulkes, to the growling approval of the Scotland Office Secretary.
The false antithesis is one of their great favourites. Every Labour supporter seems conditioned to believe that we are interested only in constitutional theory, while their leaders are nobly dealing with the “bread and butter” issues as they term them. Never to my knowledge has any Labour parrot been required to deal with the real point–that without independence Scots have inadequate power to determine how bread and butter will be produced and allocated.
Newspapers uncritically repeat Labour’s allegation that the SNP is in some sort of Right-wing alliance which readers are invited to consider disgraceful. Very different somehow from the situation in Dundee where a widely despised Labour administration is happy to be kept in lucrative office by kind permission of Conservative councillors. Or the situation in Angus where a ragbag “Angus Alliance” of everyone but the SNP has control. And has spent much effort, time and money in producing an Angus Flag. This strange device, admired and supported by Labour, comprises the heraldic symbols of four of the major land-owning aristocratic families in the area. How’s that for a People’s Flag? And how’s that for a visual aid to shed light on the thought processes of the Labour Party?
Public scrutiny of many matters seems likely to recede further and further from the agenda, as the Labour Government, with Conservative support, presents measures to prevent enforcement of laws if in the judgement of the Prime Minister that enforcement is against the public interest. So in the future contracts won by enormous bribes cannot be questioned and thus exposed. Exposure of misdeeds by important people would diminish public confidence in their guilty rulers. This it is argued would be against the public interest. If the last Prime Minister had ever been cautioned, we were told at the time, a major state-shaking political crisis would have followed, and that must not be allowed to happen.
In what public forum has our Electoral Commission ever been identified, explained, justified or even discussed? On what grounds, publicly considered, has it been judged entitled to replace police action to pursue breakers of laws governing election financing?
We must never allow any Electoral Commission to be used to preserve the interests of a discredited but long dominant party.