I moved to London from Athens in September 2008. The financial crisis had just exploded and looking at the papers you’d be excused for thinking capitalism was tearing itself apart, and we’d all soon be feral cannibals or something.
Of course that didn’t happen, but for my generation, the so called "Millennials", things only got tougher as we suffered disproportionately, targeted by austerity and cuts after 2010. Still, it was possible to carve a place for yourself and your friends in the big city.
It quickly became clear that doing this was near impossible. It’s not only the housing crisis; culture is suffering too. Who wants to live in a theme park for the super-rich? London has become progressively more void of any discernible youth culture. Inside the bubble of the capital, everything outside the luminous ring of the M25 is deemed irrelevant. But in reality, this is exactly what London is becoming — irrelevant.
The current situation doesn't work for anyone, yet there's still a surprising resistance towards any change.
In late 2013, my partner and I travelled to Scotland for work. We had various links in the country, but our trip took us all the way from Edinburgh to the Outer Hebrides. The stunning landscapes, beautiful even in deep winter, became the background for a conversation that had started a few months earlier. It was time to leave London for somewhere else.
While we were both well informed around the independence referendum, it was the first time that I got to talk to people actually taking part in the debate, from across the country. The prospect of change animated a conversation unlike any I’ve seen in my time in Greece or the UK. After we returned to London, the possibility entered our heads: maybe we should move to Scotland?
A few months later, and with the referendum kicking off into full gear, my partner declared her intentions to come and campaign in a piece for the Scottish Herald. We’re here now, taking advantage of friends and family willing to take us in, and making long-term plans to come back next year if there’s a Yes vote.
I am looking forward to living in an independent Scotland, for both practical and idealistic reasons. The quality of life in Edinburgh is already dramatically higher than the one on offer in the south, while the vibrancy of Glasgow puts London’s overpriced nightlife to shame. The countryside is stunning. The people are every bit as friendly as my old neighbours in N16.
But that’s only the practical side of things. As anyone seriously involved with campaigning in Scotland will tell you, Thursday the 18th is only the beginning, especially if it’s a Yes vote. Activists are already gearing up for a new campaign, one to remind those negotiating Scotland's future of the reasons the people voted for it. If we’re going to see a Scotland breaking with the Westminster paradigm, it’s up to us, and I want to be a part of this.
Who can resist something as hopeful and urgent? The politics of hope I expect to see in an independent Scotland simply dwarf anything the capital can offer me, as a young person, right now. I am also convinced that Scottish politics will be more conductive to the thoughts and desires of my generation, and we will have the opportunity to create a strong alternative to Westminster politics, that will benefit and revive English and Welsh politics too.
I’m not kidding myself. It’s going to be hard and it might end in heartbreak, and that’s even after we get a Yes vote. But sometimes we have to take a leap of faith. At this moment, I’m putting my faith in the people of Scotland and vouch to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Damn it, I might just move to Scotland whatever the result. Whichever way people vote this week, I couldn’t wish for a better place to work on reviving democracy across these isles.
Yiannis Baboulias is a journalist and co-founder of Precarious Europe. Follow him on twitter @yiannisbab
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