2014 is here! And in Scotland this year may be new but it may not be happy. We have one of the biggest decisions facing us in the history of our nation. September 18th is when we will be asked to vote on the question, “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
The Scottish Government has published a white paper, Scotland’s Future, which we can download and read to find out more. It’s a hefty document, weighing in at over 600 pages and is very much a pro-independence perspective. Meanwhile the media is full of the gloom and doom of critics and those who believe for lots of reasons, that an independent Scotland is not a viable prospect.
As for me, I feel like we are pawns in a political game. The consequences of a “Yes” vote or a “No” vote are far-reaching. We are deciding the fate of our nation. I don’t feel sufficiently informed yet to make a decision. I am worried that the outcome of either vote will not be positive – the lyrics of The Clash, “Should I stay or should I go?” come to mind. That we will be damned if we vote “yes” and damned if we vote “no.” There is no wiggle room and no middle ground where we can look at further ways of increasing the powers of the Scottish Parliament without full-blown independence. Yet at the same time, I know how privileged we are to have the option to make this decision and to have a vote at all.
As a society we value independence as a quality as well as a political right. The four capacities of Curriculum for Excellence have attributes and capabilities listed, and being able to “think creatively and independently” and to “learn independently and as part of a group” and to “live as independently as they can.” We spend a lot of time at all levels in education encouraging children to become independent in various ways. Generally we regard independence a good thing. So why should any educator be hesitant when it comes to considering the independence of a nation? Will it not help Scotland as a nation grow up stronger and better as a result? Hmmm….
Visitors to early years settings are often surprised at the routines in place and what 3 and 4 year old children can do for themselves and how much they can achieve. A lot of work goes into routines which facilitate the children’s independence and practitioners are usually very mindful of their interactions with children for the same reason. For example, when the children go to the beach, they are expected to pack their own wee rucksack with a snack, drink, seat and toy. As soon as they arrive at the beach car park, their job is to get off the minibus, put on their backpack and wait until everyone is ready. The children do not have their hand held as we walk to the beach because we want them to learn to manage without having an adult constantly at their side. When we get to the beach, the children know to take their back packs off at the base. They know they can put items into their back packs, wear them if they wish, use the contents, etc.
This specific example shows how much thinking goes into promoting children’s independence. The benefits are huge as the children feel very empowered by the responsibility of looking after and using their own backpacks and also the freedom which comes with this. In relation to whether Scotland should be an independent country, surely the outcome which has the greatest potential for empowering and enabling its citizens has to be the prime consideration? When put like this, suddenly, my feelings change from the reactive ones expressed in my second paragraph to feeling more positive and proactive about the decision that I have to make.
So, during the next nine months, we need to ensure that the debate remains live. We have a right to vote “yes” or “no”. We also have two more choices – not to cast a vote or to spoil the vote we do cast as an act of protest. However we need to accept the responsibilities which go with this right. Have we grown up as a nation sufficiently to be able “leave the nest” and make our own way in the world? Has the devolved powers we’ve currently got demonstrate our ability to manage all our affairs? Or do we still want and need to be holding our “mother nation’s hand” for many more years to come?