An Not-so-foreign Foreign Issue

Even though I have only been in Scotland a little over two weeks, it seems that the way politics are handled here are not so different from the way they are back home in the U.S. of A. Before I hopped on that 9 hour flight to Edinburgh, I was told by many people to be excited because I was going to be in Scotland during a very turbulent but exciting time–a time where the word “independence” would be whispered with feelings of adoration and beguilement. “How exciting,” I thought. “How lucky I am to be able to be in the midst of a group of people stirring with the same emotions that stirred in the hearts of those who fought for the freedom of America.” A bit nostalgic and a tad overemotional of a thought perhaps, but, hey, that’s just the kind of girl I am.
Upon arriving in Scotland, I was driven to my flat by a man with whom I conversed about the Referendum a good bit. He was an older fellow who seemed to believe it was high-time that Scotland had its independence; he wanted to vote Yes and believed that this country could easily sustain its own economy with oil and, to no stereotypical surprise, its whiskey. Since he was the first Scottish individual I had spoken to about the issue my whimsical picture of the fight for Scottish independence was perpetuated.
The second individual I spoke to about it was a uni-age guy who had some very interesting beliefs that he was gathered from a myriad of different sources. He believed the whole vote to be some what of a conspiracy–a way for the Scottish government to trick the English into giving Scotland more power by threatening a YES vote. An interesting idea to be sure.
The third group I spoke to were two of my classmates who both held a similar view of the issue: disillusionment. Ah yes, now this feels like home. Discussing the topic with them made me think for a quick second that I was back in North Carolina talking about “politics” and the next big issue with a few friends at coffee. They both see the whole issue of independence as an issue that could have maybe had merit at one time or another but due to oversaturation by the media and the ridiculous blind-loyalty of Scottish Nationalists neither of them really want much to do with it at all. I can’t blame them. Oversaturation of politics in the media is something I am quite familiar with as an American, especially as an American student whose home university is very liberal. It seems like everyday the young adults and 20 somethings of the U.S. are bombarded with different viewpoints on a whole host of different subjects but one thread remains common amongst them all: the issue is never really the issue. Now, what I mean by that is the topics the media chooses to speak on are rarely at the actual heart of the issue at hand. Rather, they focus on the fringe issues that get people really heated up and polarized like abortion, homosexuality, freedom of speech, etc. None of those issues are wrong to discuss at all; however, most of them they are abused, used as distractions from discussing the topics, though perhaps less clear and more difficult to handle, that truly affect the situation.
For the issue of the Referendum, this fringe issue that everyone seems to be playing on is the hatred of the Tories and/or the English in general. The YES campaign, according to my classmates, appears to be driven by this essential polarization: either you want to continue to be associated with the English/Tories or you are a loyal Scot and want nothing to do with them. Quite the heavy-handed viewpoint, is it not? This is what politics has become in America and it appears to be no different here. And, because of the plethora of information coming at us from every direction in this world of 24/7 news media cycles, the issue gets lost. It is so hard to discern truth from extravagant lie and because of this, it is so much easier to just sit back and let other people handle it all. We just want our peace and quiet right? Why does anything have to change at all? While I agree with this to a certain extent, there is no denying that if all of the sensible people decided to sit back because they are overwhelmed, that means that the floor is open for all those extremists with their heavy-handed opinions to make the final decision. And, let’s be honest, no one wants that. But how is one to wade through all the muck of the political media marsh in order to find solid ground?
What everyone wants to know is if Scotland can survive on its own, monetarily and politically. But, the majority of what appears to be discussed in the media focuses not on that central question but instead on the perks of saying YES and what a terrible Scot you are if you say NO. Now, don’t take my word for it for I am just a wee American lass attempting to understand a complex issue about a country that is not my own. Even though I am still very much in the dark, I am intrigued. So, ermm, let the games begin??

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