The #IndyRef, or Fuculloden

Back in 2008, we had a module on devised theatre at university. For our assessment, we had to come up with a scratch devised piece on any theme that we liked. The small group we put together and called “Devised Plates” decided to do a piece on Scottish Independence – incidentally, there was only one Scottish person in the group. The others were my gracious self (Brazilian), a Portuguese/Spanish/English friend and an Australian/English friend. Our working title for our piece was “Fuculloden”, a rather obvious play on words, and it consisted of historical Scottish figures travelling through time and coming together for a conference to debate Scottish Independence. We took to the streets of Edinburgh for a couple of weeks to interview punters of any nationality, hoping to find out how much they knew about Scottish history, who would be the 4 most popular characters to use, and whether people were supportive of an Independent Scotland or not. The answers were hilarious in a few of the cases, but jokes aside, we found out people hadn’t given it much thought back then, some being completely oblivious to the whole discussion. Our top 4 Scottish historical figures were William Wallace, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Mary Queen of Scots and Robert Burns, who we ended up portraying in mini video biographies (apologies to my colleagues, but I still find these amusing and feel the need to share them with the world). We didn’t get a great mark for our efforts, but we did certainly have fun.

The thing is, if you asked me then, when we did this project, I would have told you I was against Scottish independence. And so were most of my pals. I didn’t see good enough reason for it; my main arguments were that there was a point a few hundred years ago, but there wasn’t one now, and that everyone seemed to be merging forces everywhere, so I saw no reason to divide. Fast forward to 2012 and I was now a little more unsure, a bit more inclined to supporting independence but not entirely convinced by it. Two years on and I became an avid YES campaigner. Yes, my discourse changed radically, but so did the politics in the British Isles in the space of 6 years, and the reasons that I could not see in 2008 were all too evident in 2014.

I wasn’t allowed to vote as a non-resident, but I did engage as much as I could with discussions and campaigns. The energy in the streets was indescribable, despite the inevitable tension. For a few hours, you could feel hope as a solid, palpable thing. The result, however, as you know by now, was a NO win, which was (still kinda is) hard to digest, but not entirely unsurprising. In spite of that, I am extremely happy I was there to witness the run-up to and the referendum itself.

On a personal note, more directly related to this blog, it didn’t mean that immigration rules would automatically be better. It didn’t mean I would have been able to move back and get a Scottish passport right now. But between the hope of more open policies and the certainty of intolerant, xenophobic ones, I will always choose the first.