Teens and politics rarely go together. I mean, there are those in school that clearly have a passion for politics and they rear their ambitious and argumentative traits in the debating society and that's great -- I am partial to a good debate myself and enjoy watching others. But what of Scottish Independence and Scottish teenagers? Do we really have any understanding of what it really means for Scotland? Or indeed what it really means at all?
I will say straight up that it's no secret in our house the way my mum swings -- she's in favour of a United Kingdom. I could rant on about her regular lectures on the subject but that's not the issue here. The issue is what my friends think about it and what I think about it: Do we even care? Are we important enough to matter in Scotland's future?
So I set about a self-education project on the subject matter and I have to tell you, it's highly confusing. Basically, you have our First Minister Alex Salmond waving the saltire flag everywhere, promoting Scotland, which in a sense is good if it puts Scotland on a bigger platform. So I'm all for that, but as I understand it, he wants the nation to vote -- a referendum as it's called. Seems straightforward enough -- here's a question and the nation should answer, right? Wrong. There is big debate about what should be on the voting paper. Originally it was all about one question: "Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?" But now there is a big argument taking place across the political spectrum about "devo-max." What sort of name is that? I have to tell you, I was completely thrown when I heard that expression. From scanning all the Scottish newspapers, it appears to mean that if we didn't want a completely independent Scotland, we would want a Scotland with more powers. This means that the Scottish government could have more powers that are separate from the UK government. Gosh, I am exhausted already at the complexity of it all! Surely that's not really independence, is it?
So the next conundrum I personally have is that apparently this vote or referendum is not taking place until late 2014. Why the wait? I just can't understand this part at all. If we are all supposed to be so excited about this Scottish adventure, why are we waiting another two years to make it happen?
The biggest issue I have was actually trying to understand what it means to teenagers -- really understand. I have to say I read over and over again the political pages and they are pretty hard-going, even for me, an avid reader of history. But what I did take from it was this: It seems Scotland wants to be Independent but still share the purse of the UK government. I guess it's like me asking my dad to do whatever I want and yet still let him pay the bills. He normally shouts, "Tallia, when you are living in my house and we're paying the bills, you will do what I say!" Pretty straightforward. So how can the Scottish government allow "dad" to continue to pay some major bills and want to be independent or get more power? As my dad says, "The power comes when you are truly independent, Tallia, living on your own and supporting yourself!"
I emailed and Facebooked loads of friends and asked them a series of questions to get their feedback. It went like this. The majority of them said their parents very rarely discuss politics with their teenage children and when they do, assumed their children would vote (when the time comes the same way as their parents). Secondly, most weren't the slightest bit interested in politics and when asked to name an impressive leader, the majority said Justin Bieber, Obama or Bono! Finally, when I asked if they wanted Scotland to be independent, most didn't understand what it really meant at all. One said: "Yeah, we loved Braveheart, it was great for Scotland"! I didn't want to point out that Mel Gibson really has nothing to do with this.
So when I discovered that the Scottish government was pushing for 16 and 17-year-olds to have the vote, I was horrified. The ideology of it is fine, but giving us all an exam to prepare for is the only way I can see teens being informed enough. Makes sense, right? You have to take a test to drive a car to understand the language of the roads, so why do we want teenagers to decide the complexities of government without the knowledge?
Finally the point that I failed to answer myself is, why? Sure, there is no one more patriotic than me. I am incredibly proud of my Scottish roots, the satlire flag, my accent (even although when I am in America people think I sound Irish), but I am even more proud of being British, especially when it comes to British fashion! One of the first things people say when I travel is how much they "love the Queen" and quite frankly it's not rocket science what Kate Middleton has done for British fashion. The Scots have played such an important part of the British empire, that much I know. Why would we want to go it alone now when it appears that Europe is crashing down around us?
I have a million more questions, and quite honestly I am exhausted by this project. So I think I will stick to music, fashion, literature and art until I can really make sense of it all. Teenagers are not meant to understand politics anyway, we have plenty time for that. But my message to the politicians is this: Just get on with it, keep it simple and take a look at what you have before you give it all up. As my dad always says, "Tallia, the grass is always greener on the other side, don't run before you can walk!"
Me at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.
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