Scotland Independence Vote: Could It Be a Feminist Utopia?

ByFaith McDonald

Should the majority of Scottish voters tick "Yes" on 18 September 2014, by mid-2016 Scotland will be an independent, sovereign nation, with its own written constitution. This will result in a more socially just and equitable society by "Yes"-camp accounts. But there's an arduous road of opinion-swaying ahead for those who feel independence is Scotland's destiny. The latest Ipso MORI poll published this week shows increased support for maintaining union with the United Kingdom, with a widening gender gap of more women voting "No" than men; some reports have referred to this as the SNP’s "woman problem" ­(yes, really).

Hysteria aside, it should be no surprise that woman are weighing up independence more with their "heads than their hearts." Every citizen should use their wits rather than their emotional impulse to draw conclusions (unfortunately, it’s often the latter resource these debates tend to excite). If the Scottish people are promised a new constitution in the event of independence, one that "expresses our values [and] embeds the rights of its citizens," could it also be one that enshrines feminist ideals for social equality? 

The new constitution may be an effective way to demonstrate the SNP's commitment to a socially just and equitable society by, amongst other things, ensuring equality between the sexes. The "No" gender gap gets picked up by the same polls showing that Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is the most popular political leader in Scotland at the moment. With a strong female leader in a key role, the "Yes" campaign also have their own women's organisation campaigning for a "Yes" vote. And yet the gap continues to widen, with more and more women intending to vote "No."

Enshrining access to free healthcare as a constitutional right, as well as free access to education, are two of the most day-to-day-relevant pieces of prospective independent legislation that could be enacted in a free Scotland. Should Scotland become an independent country, Scotland's leaders (and by extension its people) will have an unprecedented opportunity to frame whatever they want constitutionally. Let's allow a flight of fancy here and imagine if feminist principles got shot up the priority scale (arguably it kind of is, if you bear in mind intersectionality and the SNP's already-mentioned preoccupation with social justice and equitability).

Equal pay for equal work. Better working-parent or stay-at-home options. An equitable, modern definition of marriage. An "all people are created equal"-type statement. Scotland could be the first country in the world to frame feminist principles constitutionally.

So far the nationalists have ticked all those "we're for the ladies" boxes any observer would expect visible female leader: check. Women-who-vote-for-us group: check. But more women are saying they’ll vote "No" come September 2014 than in previous polls, despite these attempts to address the so-called "woman problem." Perhaps this is because women who plan on voting with their heads, not their hearts, aren't swayed by a bit of identity politics. If an independent Scotland means a self-determined nation leading its own destiny, with liberty and justice for all, it might garner more female attention to put independence campaigners' attitudes towards feminist issues and "women's problems" (like institutionalised sexism and that stubborn glass ceiling) higher up on the agenda. Any vision of an equitable society which does not take that into account is a near-sighted one that doesn't take into account feminist views.