"I have no idea if an independent Scotland can do all that I want it to, but I have to take that risk". Photo: Getty
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“I hate bagpipes, I hate kilts, but I've changed my vote from No to Yes”

Kev Sherry, of Glaswegian indie outfit Attic Lights, explains why he's changed from No to Yes on the Scottish independence question. 

I despise nationalism. I despise patriotism. I hate bagpipes, I hate kilts and tartan and I hate the cringe inducing shouts of “wha’s like us” in bars across the nation at closing time on drunken Saturday nights. I love the other countries we share this little island with. I am not what you could ever call a patriot or a nationalist and I would call myself European long before I’d ever call myself Scottish. I believe in cultural and ethnic integration. I believe in a world where nationalities blur into one another rather than divide on tribal lines. I have been, until fairly recently, a staunch ‘No’ voter. However, all things considered, I now feel I am left with no choice but to vote Yes in the forthcoming referendum.

There are economists on both sides of the argument saying wildly different things. I’m not an economist, and neither are the majority of people who seem to have decided to believe one side of the economic argument because it suits their inherent prejudices (as I did until recently.) This is not a decision the lay person can make based on just economics. It has to be about more than that.

We have the unique opportunity to build something better than the status quo – a status quo that is destroying the fabric of our society, that more than ever in living memory, supports the rich and powerful at the expense of the weak and the poor (regardless, I think it is fair to say, of whatever Westminster party is in power.) To ignore the possibility of changing this, to not at least consider taking that risk of independence, is at best shameful and at worst a disgrace to future generations.

How does anything happen in human history? How do we make the great leaps forward? We take risks. We place our hope in new, heretical ideas. If Albert Einstein had accepted the status quo of physics we could be living in a vastly different world. The same goes for Jesus Christ and Mohammed and Socrates and Galileo. New ideas that are heretical to the established order are fundamental to human progress.

I am not interested in Alex Salmond as a man or the SNP as a party. I don’t care about keeping the pound and I accept that, should the country vote Yes, Scotland might initially struggle economically – as any country would while trying to find its feet. That is not the point. This is bigger than you and me. This is about the future.

This is about more than you and your own wallet and your own ideas of culture and history. This is about more than whether you will have enough money to take the family to Mallorca next summer or to buy a new flatscreen TV. It’s about more than the “shared traditions” you were brought up to believe in.

It is about refusing to accept the pernicious lie that, “we are all in this together.” It’s about making the decision to redefine that phrase. In an independent Scotland, the wealthy and the powerful who comprise the British establishment will no longer get to define what “we” “this” and “together” mean anymore.

I have no idea if an independent Scotland can do all that I want it to, but I have to take that risk. The only other option is the status quo with its interchangeable political parties and neoliberal selfishness – an oligarchy in all but name. As a nation that consistently votes to the left, we can be sure that the policies of the main UK parties will not hold as much sway in Scotland as they do now.

Independence offers us a chance to make a change, to take a leap of faith, to show our brothers and sisters in England and the world beyond that there is a better way of living and treating people.

I urge you not to play it safe and I urge you to think about more than your own pockets. I urge you to see something better in the people around you. I urge you to vote Yes.

This article was originally published on kevsherry.wordpress.com. Read the original hereKev Sherry is a Scottish indie musician who plays in the Glaswegian band Attic Lights. He tweets @KevSherry1

Photo: Martin Whitfield
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Labour MP for East Lothian Martin Whitfield: "I started an argument and ended up winning an election"

The former primary school teacher still misses home. 

Two months ago, Martin Whitfield was a primary school teacher in Prestonpans, a small town along the coast from Edinburgh. Then he got into an argument. It was a Saturday morning shortly after the snap election had been called, and he and other members of the local Labour party began discussing a rumour that the candidate would be an outsider.

“I started an argument that this was ridiculous, we couldn’t have a candidate helicoptered in,” he recalls. He pointed out that one of the main issues with the Scottish National Party incumbent, the economist and journalist George Kerevan, was that he was seen as an outsider.

“I kept arguing for an hour and a half and people started gently moving away,” he jokes. “About two days later I was still going on, and I thought enough’s enough.” 

He called Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour veteran, who interrupted him. “He said, 'Right Martin, are you going to put up or shut up?’ So I filled in the forms.

"Then I had to have a very interesting conversation with my wife.”

One successful election campaign later, he is sitting in the airy, glass-roofed atrium of Westminster’s Portcullis House. Whitfield has silver hair, glasses, and wears a Labour-red tie with his shirt. He looks every bit the approachable primary school teacher, and sometimes he forgets he isn’t anymore. 

I ask how the school reacted to his election bid, and he begins “I have”, and then corrects himself: “There is a primary four class I had the pleasure to teach.” The children wanted to know everything from where parliament was, to his views on education and independence. He took unpaid leave to campaign. 

“Actually not teaching the children was the hardest thing,” he recalls. “During the campaign I kept bumping into them when I was door-knocking.”

Whitfield was born in Newcastle, in 1965, to Labour-supporting parents. “My entire youth was spent with people who were socialists.”

His father was involved in the Theatre Workshop, founded by the left-wing director Joan Littlewood. “We were part of a community which supported each other and found value in that support in art and in theatre,” he says. “That is hugely important to me.” 

He trained as a lawyer, but grew disillusioned with the profession and retrained as a teacher instead. He and his wife eventually settled in Prestonpans, where they started a family and he “fought like mad” to work at the local school. She works as the marketing manager for the local theatre.

He believes he won his seat – one of the first to be touted as a possible Labour win – thanks to a combination of his local profile, the party’s position on independence and its manifesto, which “played brilliantly everywhere we discussed it”. 

It offered hope, he says: “As far as my doorstep discussion in East Lothian went, some people were for and against Jeremy Corbyn, some people were for and against Kezia Dugdale, but I didn’t find anyone who was against the manifesto.”

Whitfield’s new job will mean long commutes on the East Coast line, but he considers representing the constituency a “massive, massive honour”. When I ask him about East Lothian, he can’t stop talking.

“MPs do tend to say ‘my constituency’s a microcosm’, but it really is Scotland in miniature. We have a fishing industry, crabs and lobsters, the agricultural areas – the agricultural soil is second to none.” The area was also historically home to heavy industry. 

After his first week in Westminster, Whitfield caught the train back to Scotland. “That bit when I got back into East Lothian was lovely moment,” he says. “I was home.”

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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