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?”

Independence voteThe 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?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

James Lamb January 2, 2014 at 17:43

Excellent article.

My personal opinion is that we need to grasp this opportunity to begin the process of building a fairer and more socially just country for all. I believe we can make it on our own. I know its going to be difficult and it will take many years to achieve our goals; however, I do believe that independence is the only means of achieving a fairer Scotland.

As you can guess it’s a YES from me.

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Juliet Robertson January 2, 2014 at 20:25

Hello James

Thanks for taking the time to comment on my blog. I have several hopes and wishes:

1) That people do vote – everyone who can because this is bigger than ourselves as individuals.
2) We vote positively for the right reasons rather than a reactive vote
3) We are able to move on and accept what the outcome is – at the moment it is hard to tell what that will be. This will be very hard in that it’s not a consensus but a majority vote.

I would also be interested to see if many people in education do vote “YES!” One of the most positive aspects of Scotland is the autonomy we have over our education system (in spite of its flaws).

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Queen of logic January 3, 2014 at 19:39

I agree wholeheartedly that children are competent and capable individuals – the rights and participation emphasis in Scotland over the last few years has really contributed to making this perspective more accepted. I worry though that, just as many adults (teachers/parents/other professionals) acknowledge children’s competence but have a vested interest in promoting obedience and docility so too have many political and local bodies a vested interest in tolerating apathy in the voting public. I totally back your hope/wish list though, and would love to see a resounding yes so we get a chance to try a new path – keeping my political views private will be difficult this year. Great to see you opening up the debate on your blog too!

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Juliet Robertson January 3, 2014 at 21:15

Hello “Queen of Logic”

Thanks too for expressing your views. I think we need discussion and that will involve expressing how we are likely to vote (which for me may change as the year goes on). I’ve found discussing the independence vote with friends and family can at times be highly charged but generally good for helping to understand the bigger picture in the way that sometimes white papers don’t. For example, as one friend pointed out – there are financial implications and social ones around the union jack flag!!!

I know a blog post about independence may be viewed as slightly out of line with the general theme of this blog. However, I tried to come at it from a child-centred outdoor perspective. I will never forget arriving at one school where I worked and seeing the school log book. Attendances and visitors to the school were faithfully recorded every week yet the larger events of the world and even the village were never mentioned – the Second World War appeared not to have happened in this school. So I’m mindful of this as I write enthusiastically about all things outdoors… it could become a cheerful wee bubble in which to blog which sadly lacks reference to the real world which is so important to children’s education 🙂

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Queen of logic January 4, 2014 at 11:58

I’ve long felt that religion should be kept out of schools, and party politics too. It would be hard to offer a balanced programme of referendum information especially to younger children. Maybe WW2 couldn’t be allowed to intrude on education but then went on to influence what children got taught in history? Is the drive towards independence not only behind CfE principles but also outdoor learning following the Scandinavian model? Layers on layers here, interesting to see how it will all unfold…
Juliet, blogs like yours are contributing to a culture of debate and questioning the status quo, so hopefully you will go on posing questions for your many followers

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