I will always remember going to vote in the 2014 independence referendum fondly – not because of what I put down on the ballot paper, but because it was the first time I was able to cast a vote.
I had been too young to vote in previous elections, much to my disappointment.
But when it came to September 2014 as a student, I and my three flatmates made the short walk to a nearby primary school to say whether or not we wanted Scotland to be an independent country.
And we all know the result of that referendum – ‘Yes’ only got 45% and Scotland remains part of the UK, and six years later the union is now 314 years old and one of the oldest in human history.
But this week First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her programme for government, and said work will restart on planning for a second independence referendum.
Although it will only happen if Scotland has emerged from the coronavirus pandemic, this second referendum will take place before the end of 2023.
In 2014, lots of people got involved
Only a couple of months before the 2014 referendum, Glasgow hosted the Commonwealth Games.
I was fortunate enough to work at the games in the press seats at Hampden Park.
Despite the competition lasting less than a fortnight, it was an amazing experience (how many other jobs do you get to watch Usain Bolt do his magic?).
Every single day to get to work I would get the train from Glasgow Central to Mount Florida and then walk with thousands of others through a few streets to get to the stadium.
One thing I distinctly remember is how many windows on that short walk had ‘Yes’ and ‘Better Together’ posters in them.
I also remember a rather heated debate on a late night train home from the Edinburgh Fringe only a few weeks later – almost the entire carriage got involved.
And then when I went back to university, the topic seemed to take over every conversation, whether that was in the corridors on campus, or in the bars in the city centre.
Suddenly, everyone was talking about politics and Scotland’s future, and this translated into a record turnout at the polls of 84.6%.
Will IndyRef2 have be as angry as 2014?
Perhaps this is a good thing to have come out of the referendum and I hope if a second independence referendum does go ahead this will be replicated.
It would be good to see more people taking an interest in politics, more people wanting to have a say in politics, and more people going to cast their votes on referendum day.
No one could say it is not important every single person has their say on what they want to happen in the country where they live.
But one thing I am not particularly looking forward to is the anger, the shouting and the division.
There were people who fell out with their friends and family after the referendum, and while I do believe this is the minority, there are still some people who won’t talk to each other because of how they voted and then reacted in the 2014 referendum.
We can already see this happening – the heated exchanges between the first minister and Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross in the chamber immediately after this announcement may very well spark two and a half years of division and anger in Scotland.
Mr Ross says the SNP is putting another referendum ahead of recovery from the pandemic.
Labour leader Anas Sarwar says some things are “bigger than independence”.
The Greens say they are looking forward to working towards independence.
Continue the momentum of engagement
I am well aware there are some valid reasons for having a second independence referendum so soon after 2014.
Brexit and the way the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns have been handled will have made a lot of people change their minds on independence, whether that is to yes or no, and will have made more people eager to have their say on what should be done.
And the large amount of demonstrations for and against independence over the past six years also cannot be ignored – my Timehop app reminded me this morning that exactly two years ago I was covering an independence rally attended by thousands in Perth.
But right now, at the very start of the journey to what might be ‘IndyRef2023’, I really hope there will be a bit less anger, a bit less shouting, and more people wanting to get involved and have their say – whether that is yes or no.