When I started to write about my cultural identity in terms of an independent Scotland, I was initially flummoxed as I have a plethora of identities rolled into one. Along with being female and having multiple roles as a daughter, sister, wife, mother and mother in law, I strongly identify with being a Scottish Muslim. I am also a student, researcher, teacher, activist and a firm believer in an independent Scotland.
My parents migrated from Pakistan in the mid - 1960s to Birmingham where I was born. At 19 my marriage was arranged and I moved to Saltcoats to begin my married life.
I fell in love with Scotland. The pleasure I would get waking up in the morning and starting my day by feasting my eyes on the vista of the Isle of Arran off the coast. Until moving to Ayrshire I had never visited the sea and each day the view would be different as the ambience would change according to the sun rising, setting, cloudy or sunny. It was breath-taking from every angle.
Having now lived in Scotland for nearly 26 years, still married, I have 3 children, all in their 20s, and a daughter in law who all have a strong affinity for their homeland which they identify as Scotland.
I have lived in Elgin with access to the most glorious beaches at Findhorn, Roseisle and Cullen. It was the most wonderful place for my children to grow up and the warmth of the local community was second to none. I wept copious tears when we had to move to Inverness for business purposes but soon cheered up when living in the picturesque Milton of Leys. We now live in Glasgow which is a much more cosmopolitan, culturally richer and diverse.
Whilst in Elgin, I decided to go back to college when the children started school and the learning bug has never left me. I put it down to the first class further and higher education system in Scotland and the inspirational staff who have believed in me. I am currently in the throes of a PhD exploring the concepts of identity with ethnicity and religion and how young people interpret the communities around them.
My informal observations have led me to believe strongly that independence is the best option for Scotland. We must have responsibility for all areas of policy such as fiscal, welfare and defence, if we are to eradicate poverty, further improve housing and design welfare programmes run by organisations with ethical and moral values, rather than just the profit margin in sight.
As Nelson Mandela said: “Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.”
The advantages for Scotland as an independent nation are many. Tory and Labour politicians in Westminster are making vague promises about “allowing” us more powers after the referendum, but have so far given no clear answers about what those might be.
That’s not what I want for my country’s future. Decisions about Scotland should be made by the people who live here and care most about this country. That’s why I’ll be saying Yes to an independent Scotland. Without a shadow of a doubt, we are ready.
Nighet Nasim Riaz is a PhD Research Student at University of West Scotland and Research Officer at West of Scotland Regional Equality Council