FIVE years ago today, we had the chance to vote for Scottish independence. The debate was fierce. I know that because I was running my mouth and typing like a menace daily for months leading up to it. I lost friends over it. People actually deleted me on Facebook, which is probably, in the modern-day world, the most hurtful thing that you can do to an acquaintance you never see in real-life and could have just muted instead. Some of the things that I wrote online offended people and I feel sad about that now. I don’t like hurting people and I find it painful when people fall out with me.

But let’s not kid ourselves on. The five years since we threw that chance away have been a disaster. The present state of affairs in Britain is more offensive than any strongly worded political viewpoint, and I think the placing of politeness above fighting for what is right is a form of cowardice; something to be ashamed about, not proud of.

We’re heading for a crash in the pound like we’ve never seen before, which is painfully ironic since keeping the pound was one of the big sticking points in the debate back then. We’ve got a cartoon character of a prime minister, the head of a government filled with so many preposterously comedic idiots that it stopped being funny ages ago. And people are angry. And sad. And miserable. Millions of human beings under intolerable pressure: a mass tinderbox, and we are bringing the lit match closer and closer.

Children have no childhood. Humiliated parents visit food banks to feed their families even though they work in full-time jobs. The government try to dress this up as a good thing, a laudable mass display of charitable kindness, when in fact food banks did not used to exist at all. All of the days they have existed so far are a blot of stains on the canvas of our memory, and every day we allow them to continue to exist is a national disgrace.

People are taking their own lives in numbers so high that almost everyone has lost someone close to them. We carry on, but our vision becomes narrow under the strain and we lose sight of each other in the fog. A woman gave birth in the stockroom of Sports Direct because she was too scared to take a day off, and Amazon has delivery drivers shit and piss themselves in their cars because their time deadlines are so tight. But people still shop with both of those companies. Because they’re the cheapest.

Alcohol and drug abuse is so normal that we actually celebrate it. Like life is supposed to be so shit that we have to get wasted to enjoy a moment of togetherness and mutual care. The NHS is being privatised right in front of our eyes and we still tell ourselves that it isn’t happening. But it is happening and soon we’ll be no better off than in America, where people die in hospital corridors because they can’t afford the medical bills. And the planet is burning up but we celebrate the fact that it’s sunny more often, instead of banging down the doors of our government ministers and demanding that they do something about it. All of the above has worsened over the past five years. All of it.

We had a chance to do something about this in 2014 and we threw it away. It brings me close to tears when I think about it. I know that’s not a polite thing to say, and it might make people feel bad or angry at me, but that does not stop it from being true.

It doesn’t mean, though, that we have to stick in our own camps and fight our own position in this modern disease that we all seem to be suffering from; a kind of war of attrition where people would sooner live in misery and anger than change their mind about something. All of the bad things I’ve written about above are really depressing but they are needless and they can be fixed and changed for the better. You have to believe that! You know what I mean?! You have to! The next time this thing comes around, please vote Yes. Even if you voted No last time. Please.

Stephen McLaren
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