On September 18th, the people of Scotland will face the most important democratic decision in their history. Asked if Scotland should be an independent country, the vote has – no matter which poll you believe – sharply divided the nation.
Just a few weeks ago, Clash asked Mercury nominated songwriter King Creosote his thoughts. “People shouldn’t be thinking about what it would be like to be apart from England,” he replied. “They should be thinking about what it means to be Scottish. I’m definitely in the no camp because I don’t think there’s an argument for independence.”
To Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite, though, this simply isn’t true. A casual glance at his Twitter feed – or even recent interviews – reveals a true passion for Scottish independence, one that is born from an enormously diverse array of influences.
“I’m a member of CND and that came after visiting Hiroshima,” he says. “It had quite a big effect on me. I just thought: ‘anything I can do to stop this ever happening again.’ To stop us wasting money on these evil contraptions. And that also feeds largely into my belief that Scotland should be an independent country, because the nuclear weapons in this country are about 30 miles from Glasgow.”
“I’ve got largely socialist beliefs too,” he continues, “and I find the idea of nuclear weapons which cost a £100 billion that no one has any intention of ever using being 30 miles away from the biggest city in Scotland - where people are having to go to food banks because they can’t afford to eat - I find that insufferable.”
To Stuart Braithwaite, these factors demand something radical – a break from the UK. “That is one of the main reasons why I want Scotland to be an independent country,” the guitarist explains, “because I don’t think an independent Scotland would want nuclear weapons and I certainly would like to think that the government that a Scottish people voted for would be more sensible than to spend that much money on them when there’s people to feed and hospitals to build.”
The first of three televised debates aired earlier this month, with Alex Salmond and Alaitair Darling clashing on issues such as which currency an independent Scotland could use. A much reported issue, the Mogwai guitarist feels that focus on this area has prevented the debate from fully exploring the reasons and implications behind proposed Scottish independence.
“Well, I think the currency is what the No campaign think is their strongest suit because there’s an air of uncertainty about it. Even though hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of countries have become independent without having to trade in salt!” Stuart jokes. “I’m not sure that it’s quite as big a deal to your average person. George Osbourne already came up and made this hilarious claim that Scotland can’t use the pound and the Yes percentages went up after that.”
Glasgow is home to some of the worst poverty in the UK, with the city’s East End – where Mogwai will incidentally perform this Saturday (August 30th) at Last Big Weekend – struck particularly hard. Clearly, seeing this first hard has left an indelible impression on the guitarist.
“I think the way the system is at the moment definitely benefits the richest people,” Stuart argues, “and I think that it was quite telling that after the banking crash the actual wealth of the richest people went up whereas the standard of living for normal people went down. I mean, this isn’t a guarantee - but it’s something I would like to happen - would be for future Scottish governments to have the powers to re-distribute wealth a lot more fairly. And certainly bring the lowest incomes and the very, very highest incomes a lot closer together. I think that some of the amounts of money people are making are pretty obscene – both in the high spectrum and the low spectrum.”
As he readily admits, Stuart was not always so politically active. Recently performing shows on behalf of the pro-Independence National Collective organisation, the guitarist has come a long way from his youth – when he doubted the necessity and value of the Scottish parliament.
“To be honest, I was quite sceptical when they opened the parliament,” he sighs. “I wasn’t as politically engaged then, I felt it was a placation and I was wrong. I’ve actually seen things improve vastly in Scotland. I think the way we feel about ourselves has changed. I think we’re much more comfortable with our neighbours than we were.”
So is Scottish independence the end result of the devolution process? “No,” he jokes, “I think world domination is definitely the end result.”
Ultimately, though, Scotland could still say No. Opinion polls – bar the minority – place No in the lead and with just under a month to go until the vote passions are running high. With strong words being exchanged on both sides, Stuart is eager to see this level of political engagement continue – whatever the result. “I’d like to think that just the level of engagement will change politics,” the guitarist insists. “People that have become engaged will stay engaged and maybe people will pay more attention to how the powers that be are behaving than they have done in the past. I think it will be quite tense, but you can always hope for everything to lead to something better.”
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The second instalment of Scotland Decides takes place tonight (August 25th) – tune in HERE. The vote on Scottish independence takes place on September 18th – if you are registered to vote, please use it.
Mogwai play Last Big Weekend in Glasgow this Saturday (August 30th).