By Sally Campbell
Featured image shows the author’s mother Doris aged 8, her sister Beryl aged 4 and Grandmother Gertrude Offer, in 1920
When I was eight and walking from the shops with my grandmother, she told me I must always vote. It must have been around the time of the 1950 general election. She explained what voting is for and I asked her why must I always vote? She replied she had not had the vote as a young married person because she was a woman and did not own a house, so had marched, made posters and campaigned for a long time to have a vote equal to all men aged 21 and to women aged 21, who owned a house. My grandmother was widowed in the last weeks of World War 1 with two young children and clearly had been left behind, forgotten. Since getting a vote in 1928, she had never missed a vote. It was important because then she had a stake in the country’s government choosing issues important to her, her family and her community. Having gained that voting right she was determined to use it.
I know more about women suffrage now and that it was not until the Equal Franchise Act of 1928 that women over 21 were able to vote and women finally achieved the same voting rights as men. The vote was the beginning of more equal opportunities for women. I have been interested in equal opportunities all my life. I am a third daughter in a family engineering business that wanted sons ! So, my interest in equal opportunities for everyone was reinforced even more, and my grandmother encouraged me the rest of her life. I was reminded of my grandmother when I was invited to speak in September 2001 at a Symposium in the USA to honour Isobel Myers, who worked on the theory of personality with her mother Kathryn Briggs and who was responsible for much of the research. Unrecognized during her lifetime as anything other than “merely” a woman, her son received her honorary doctorate and academic recognition 20 years after her death and on the centenary of her birth. My theme was “Men on Top ? New Paradigms for a New Century?” and I reflected on the ideas of leadership change, my story and invited each and every one at the symposium to reflect on theirs. It was just after the tragedy of the planes flying into the Twin Towers, at a time when the need to value difference and each other, had never been greater, to include gender, ethnicity, cultures and other systems. It was a fascinating weekend as stories were shared. Cultures change over time and are dynamic and complex. We have all seen and experienced changes in our own lives.
Covid has given us all an opportunity to reflect, consider our lives and those of our neighbours, our environment and the future of our planet. We have told our stories. We have really learned more about our community, what we really value as well as broader issues associated through our neglect of the environment and the climate disaster facing us, of our making. The economic and environmental realities of a consumer culture.
Wendell Berry wrote:
“When a community loses its memory, its members no longer know one from another. How can they know one another if they have never learned one another’s stories? If they do not know whether or not to trust one another…People who do not trust one another do not help one another, and moreover, they fear one another.”
We have had several years of interesting, sometimes complex, sometimes bitter argument, first the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, then the Brexit debates and Referendum in the whole UK and Gibraltar in 2016, with passionate views either way. Now, outside the EU we are faced with enormous changes, and as ever exaggerated or false promises. This has been combined in changes to reporting with the rise of social media, and fake news. This is history in the making.
Linda Grant wrote in When I lived in Modern Times
“History is no theme park. It was what you lived.
You were affected, whether you liked it or not.”
So to get back to the message, our votes on 6 May are a precious gift for us all. Now, as we are inundated with election notices, TV debates, zoom meetings, we have to make our choices. As my grandmother said so long ago, it is a duty and responsibility of each and every one of us to make those choices and vote with a X. Politicians are the servants of us all, and we must hold them to account. Do not duck out by saying “None of them are any good, so why bother?” We are fortunate compared to many countries in the world, where political freedom, and equal opportunities are curtailed, voting not permitted, authoritarian, right-wing or left-wing rule. So however hard the choices on 6 May, make them, so you can hold your elected politicians to account in the coming years. The regional vote in Scotland does provide for proportional representation of the electorate whatever your views.
For Arran and Scotland our concerns may be about community care, education, environment, ferry services, housing, unemployment, local statutory accountability, taxation and local services, salmon farming, defence contracts or even independence! Debate and discuss, but remember we all need to live together as a community after the vote and make whatever the results work for us all. For those voting for the first time, it is a gift of democracy. For regular voters, it is also that same gift of democracy so please all use it! Your stake in the future is then assured.