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In focus: Referendum

August 31 2014
If you live in Scotland right now, people are chasing your vote. And they don’t care that you’re homeless.

It’s September. And it’s time for Scotland to vote. Is the United Kingdom really ‘Better Together’, or it time to vote ‘Yes’ to independence? We asked both camps why Scots should vote for them.

If you live in Scotland right now, lots of people are chasing your vote. And they don’t care that you’re homeless. They just want to know the answer to one question: will it be ‘Yes’ or ‘No’?

Homeless charities such as Crisis, whose Skylight Centre in Edinburgh has been preparing people for months, or Glasgow's City Mission, which held a hustings last month, believe it’s a chance for homeless people to get engaged in political debate and are encouraging all to register by 2 September, using a local connection declaration if they do not have a fixed address.

But as Ruth Campbell of social enterprise Comas points out: “More recognition is needed by politicians that our communities and our people are part of the solutions they are looking for in terms of public spending cuts and sustaining services.” She hopes more engaged homeless voters might make them take notice.

And if you're in England? It's hoped a more engaged Scottish electorate might prove an inspiration, whatever happens.

Vote ‘Yes’

We know that Scotland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world – richer per head than France, the rest of the UK and Japan – but for far too many people it doesn’t feel that way.

Instead, Scots are suffering at the hands of Westminster austerity. Our Scottish Parliament, with limited powers, can only do so much to mitigate the effects of harmful policies such as the Bedroom Tax. A Yes vote will change all that by ensuring that we always get the governments we vote for and that Holyrood has the full range of economic powers needed to create a fairer and more prosperous society.

Since devolution, Scotland’s legislation to tackle homelessness has been described as world-leading. We have used our ability to make our own choices to pursue a progressive agenda, and the decisions we have been able to make have better matched the priorities of the people of Scotland.

Yet still, some of the most important decisions affecting us are made by a parliament in London where our MPs are in a tiny minority and our interests are often ignored. UK governments that the people of Scotland didn’t even come close to voting for impose harmful policies that hit the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.

Social housing remains an essential part of Scotland’s housing system, catering for 23 per cent of households. The harsher Scottish climate and the challenges of heating remote homes call for an ambitious approach to energy efficiency and carbon emissions reduction.

With a Yes vote, we will remove constraints placed on us by Westminster and have full flexibility over Scotland’s budgets, meaning we will enable future Scottish Governments to broaden action to make more affordable housing available to alleviate homelessness.

Gail Lythgoe is a campaign organiser with Yes Scotland

Vote ‘No’

On September 18, Scots will make the most important decision that we will ever be asked to make. We have the choice between remaining part of the United Kingdom or taking a leap into the unknown with separation.

It is important that everybody living in Scotland has their say in the referendum. It isn’t just a debate for politicians. It is important that every voice, right across Scotland, has their say in what is an irreversible decision.

By pooling and sharing our resources across an economy of more than 63 million people UK-wide, rather than just five million people in Scotland, we are better placed to support the most vulnerable in our society.

Expert analysis from the Institute of Fiscal Studies has shown that independence would lead to extra spending cuts of £6 billion. Those cuts would affect everyone, but would hit the most vulnerable the hardest.

Six billion pounds’ worth of extra cuts would result in the slashing of spend on public services in Scotland. It is clear that it is the neediest who would suffer the most from independence. The Nationalists want us to take a massive risk with our future but can’t answer the most basic questions about their separation plans.

As part of the UK, we can have the best of both worlds for Scotland. We can have more powers for our Scottish Parliament to tackle poverty and inequality, while at the same time we can have the back-up of being part of the larger UK. We should say no thanks to putting that at risk.

Craig Wilson works for Better Together

• For more about how to vote in any the referendum or other elections: www.aboutmyvote.co.uk

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