Scottish musician Eddi Reader has spent decades travelling the world after leaving Scotland for England at just 18 years of age. Having been back in Scotland now for the last 13 years, Eddi says she’s had to make the effort to learn about what the deal that created the United Kingdom actually means for Scottish people. And she says it’s a dud deal.
“It’s quite a massive control of your life. You pay your tax and it all goes 600 miles away and someone else decides what to do with it. I lived in England for 28 years and I lived in Scotland until I was 18 and then came home just 13 years ago, so I’ve really had to get to know this place again. What really struck me was the terms of the deal – I didn’t realise that we weren’t equal. I’ve been voting for Labour or left-wing parties all my life because that’s what my family voted for, I just continued to do that. But what I discovered is that it doesn’t affect what gets in or out of parliament in London.”
Scotland matters to a lot of Australians. The 2011 Census showed that 130,000 Australian residents were born in Scotland and there another 1.7million with Scottish ancestry.
“I think there’s a lot of affection for Scotland and it’s clear to me in my travels is a real affection for Scottish people. I noticed in Australia recently that people feel a real connection to Scotland, every time I opened my mouth people wanted to ask me about it because they perhaps have a grandparent from Scotland. I was very touched by that.”
“But I think a lot of people have been unaware of the terms of the union, the contract. I myself wasn’t aware, so I think this debate that really took off a couple of years ago has actually made a lot of Scottish people ask the question, ‘What is the terms of the contract and why don’t we know that?”
“Most Scots are incredibly generous and most Scots want a union. I believe in a union. I am committed to unity, generosity and sharing, but there’s no sharing going on in this deal. Scotland receives a grant. For every public service pound spent by the government voted into westminster England gets 85 pence, Scotland gets 10 pence and Wales gets 5 pence.”
“The parliamentary union, as our democracy has grown, as women got the vote, as people who were not rich became people who could vote – nobody ever reassessed what the deal was so we’ve been living in this blind association which has caused frustration, resentment, blame and actual division – if Scotland is allowed to have the government it chooses, and spend its money the way it chooses, then I think we can create alliances with England which are much more solid and real. A true relationship is people that compromise with each other, this union we have isn’t really a union.”
Eddi Reader has been very vocal about her support for a YES vote for the referendum, but has been strongly criticised for doing so.
“I couldn’t believe it! When we were asked to make a democratic choice, I thought it was just a case of analysing what the deal was – it’s either yes or no. It was my duty to look at the deal and make a decision. I realised that I was falling down on the side that says ‘yes’ because I want my children to be confident, I don’t want them to leave like I did when I was 18. When I left at 18 there was no record industry in Scotland, there was no big publishing company – but now we’ve got amazing art. There are young people out there who know more about Scottish culture than I was taught. So there’s a confident nation happening here.”
“As soon as I said I was taking the YES position there was a headline in The Scotsman saying that my family were associated with the IRA. I was also told that in the House Of Lords, in the Hansard minutes, a Lord said that ‘if we had an independent it would be full of people like Eddi Reader murdering Robert Burns songs. Now I don’t mind if people don’t like my music but to stand in a public forum and attack my livelihood – I was getting a kicking by people who are very powerful. This is a powerful force that are against people making a democratic choice – it’s not like having 200 people on Twitter saying, ‘your music is rubbish’.”
“We have 59 MPs (out of 650), then there’s the additional layer of the House of Lords. There are about 775 of them, NONE of them elected. ALL of them appointed. So that means we have 4% voting power in the Westminster parliament.”
Eddi hopes that the rest of the world is bearing witness to Scotland as the referendum nears, “We’re a grassroots people. I’m an ordinary citizen making a democratic choice. I’ve been called a Nazi. I’ve been called a nationalist and I don’t even care about tartan! I just want to live in country where my vote counts.”
“There are a lot of scare tactics at the moment. Apparently people over the age of 75 have been told to stockpile food because they won’t get their pensions! We’ve been told all the banks are going to move out of Scotland, the businesses are going to move out of Scotland.”
“There are some people who have been really scared. But I’m not scared because of pragmatism. Finland is the same size as us, doesn’t have oil, and is doing fine. I just don’t understand why they think everyone is going to stop working if we vote YES. I’m still going to pay tax. I’m still going to do tours. My neighbours are still going to work. Why do they think Scotland can’t run an economy?”
“Scots in their voting patterns have voted for far more left-wing policies than they’ve ever been allowed to have but people say, ‘How are you going to pay for it?’ Well, the same way anyone else does.”
“My only worry is that if it’s a very narrow majority for YES, every single one of us will need to make sure we don’t get ripped off.”
Does Eddi think the referendum will be successful?
“I don’t know, I only have my one vote, but it can be powerful. I think that for people who vote NO, a lot of it will be because they’ve been scared.”