Speaking Personally by Sheona Small

Sheona Small
Sheona Small
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WITH the recent signing of the ‘Edinburgh agreement’, Alex Salmond and David Cameron paved the way for a referendum to let Scotland decide its future.

It was only later, listening to a stooshie over who is actually going to be able to vote, especially with 800,000 Scots living in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, that I learned there are whole swathes of Scots who are up in arms at missing out.

Sixteen and 17-year-olds are getting to put their X on the ballot paper, obviously because they’re so politically engaged and switched on and not just idealists with ideas of Nationalism, with a capital ‘N’, based on ‘Braveheart’ and the lyrics of ‘Flower of Scotland’.

On the other hand, if you’re old enough, in the eyes of the law, to get married and have sex, then maybe it’s only fair you should be able to determine your country’s status.

And why should they be singled out for taking an interest or otherwise? At the last election, only half the proper grown-ups who could vote even bothered to turn out.

But back to those who are not getting a say. If you’re not eligible to vote in the Scottish Parliamentary elections, you’ve had it.

Which seems reasonable. If you don’t stay here, you shouldn’t have a say but... what if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool Scot who just happens to be living abroad?

I’m not talking tax-exile Scots who love their bit of tartan but not enough to want to make a financial contribution to our society. No, I mean the kind of Scots who we’re always proud to brag about – the engineers, doctors, industrialists (but not bankers, not these days) – who make a disproportionate Scottish footprint around the world. Not to mention the reluctant economic exiles who have had no choice but to leave just to find work.

Living abroad – or, dare I say, even just south of the border – doesn’t mean you’ve slammed and locked the door behind you. Many still have their heart in Scotland and an eye on returning sooner or later.

And is it fair that non-Scots living here, possibly with their own eyes fixed on returning to their own native lands some day, will get to vote? No one disputes that a line has to be drawn but, on such an emotive issue that involves the heart and the head, shouldn’t all Scots have a say?

But that raises the trickier question of nationalism, with a small ‘n’. How do you define what makes you Scottish? Is it only if you’ve been born on Scottish soil? What if your mother had the misfortune to go into labour while out of the country? That would be you crossed off the list, even if you feel Scottish to the core.

Would it be better to take the sporting approach – if at least one of your grandparents was a Scot, then hoots mon, you’re one of us and Scottish enough?

Or maybe we should base eligibility on a citizenship test, like they do for people wanting to come to the UK.

Here’s a few ideas: How many legs does a haggis have? Where was Bonnie Prince Charlie born? (Clue: it wasn’t Scotland). Is “whare you fae” a polite conversation-opener or a complex gambit that determines if a fight is likely to ensue? Is “thingy” a) a person, b) a place, c) an inanimate object, d) an event, or e) all of the above?

Joking about nationality is all very well but deciding the future of our country – whether it’s with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ to independence – is a momentous once-in-a-lifetime ‘thingy’ that no one should ignore.