Did anyone tell you there’s an election coming up? Quite soon, in fact. This Thursday! Tell yer pals!
qmunicate spoke to eight student voters from across the political spectrum. Each voter was sent the same set of questions – introducing themselves, explaining what matters to them, and why they think you should vote the same way – in the week running up to the General Election.
Ever wondered what an undecided voter thinks when making their decision? Did you assume that all Yes voters automatically became SNP voters? Think you’ve never met a Scottish Tory?
Disclaimer: the views expressed in these interviews represent the personal views of each individual voter, and do not necessarily represent the views held by [qmunicate magazine] or the Queen Margaret Union. These interviews seek to understand the breadth of political affiliation, rather than endorse any one party or set of ideas.
Our fifth interviewee is Dovydas. He can’t actually vote in the General Election, however if he could, he’d vote SNP!
qmunicate: Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m Dovydas, a twenty-year old student. I’m a Lithuanian citizen, resident in the UK only by right of EU free movement, so can’t vote in this General Election. I did vote in the Scottish parliamentary election last year, and the local election last month. Both times I voted for the SNP, and would vote for again if I could.
qmunicate: What are the issues that matter the most to you this General Election?
The answer, quite predictably, is Brexit, specifically freedom of movement. It is by that right that I am here to begin with, able to study at Glasgow, live and make my life at all. In my opinion it’s quite worrying that both two major parties have all but committed to taking that right away, whether by [Theresa] May’s “better to have no deal than a bad deal” or [Jeremy] Corbyn’s “obviously free movement ends when we leave the EU”. On Brexit Day, I will ‘only’ have been in the country for four years. Will this new ‘fair’ migration system that is being promised permit me to stay? Or is it not long enough? I don’t have a lot of trust in the Home Office – no matter who runs it – and without a clear commitment to either guarantee the retention of free movement, or the right to stay of every EU national in the UK, I don’t feel safe enough.
qmunicate: And what issues do you think matter most to your demographic as a whole?
For EU nationals in particular, Brexit and specifically immigration policy will be our number one concern. Equally terrifying is May’s intention to penalize businesses that employ non-citizens, as even if free movement were to be guaranteed, it would massively harm employment prospects in the future. Many Lithuanians, specifically, might also have some concerns about foreign policy, especially what defence cooperation with the rest of the EU may look like. We’ll worry if reduced cooperation may or may not pose an indirect security threat to our homeland, located unpleasantly close to what Russia perceives as its ‘sphere of influence’. This government’s decision to delay the creation of an EU army, for as long as it remains within it, was seen by many Lithuanians as very dangerous and uncooperative at best.
qmunicate: How do you feel watching matters like Brexit being dealt with when you weren’t, and still aren’t, given a say?
Difficult to accurately summarize, but I would start with the word ‘angry’. There’s a Guardian article on the matter written by a Polish resident of the UK, which accurately described the attitude towards us as one that seems to think we’re “an underclass that can’t read”. Those words have stuck with me for over a year. People don’t seem to understand or empathise with the fact that we, entire communities, millions of people in the UK, live in constant uncertainty regarding our fate. Even the best-intentioned people seem to treat our rights in very abstract terms, to talking about us as though we’re not there and can’t hear. EU national rights – the basic human rights of nearly three million people on this island – are being treated as a minor issue in the election debate. Something that can be relegated somewhere in importance below Corbyn’s supposed links to the IRA and barely above fox hunting.
Very few people genuinely understand how terrifying it is to feel like this, and how infuriating it is to listen to people who you thought were your friends talk about their hatred for the EU and how employers should prioritise British workers. It causes me and thousands of others pain to watch this debate go through without us being so much as asked for our opinion. It’s because of this I’m incredibly grateful to the SNP for not just standing up for our rights, but repeatedly, through major party channels, having voiced that we are welcome here and that European values are paramount. I previously supported the party because I agreed with their main principles, but this spring I decided to join the party.
qmunicate: Would you describe yourself as ‘politically active’? Do you think your demographic are more or less politically active here than in other countries?
I’m definitely politically active – hell, I juggle campaigning and other activity across two countries! In Scotland, I’m a member of the SNP, Campaigns Officer at GUSNA, and the dude who yells a lot online about politics. In Lithuania, my activity is a lot more limited these days, but I’ve been involved in protest movements, civil disobedience, that kind of thing. With a couple of friends, I run a (right now on hiatus) blog on left-wing thought and politics. Many EU nationals don’t feel they have the right to participate in UK political life, though there are some exceptions, such as the current Lord Provost of Glasgow, Swedish-born Eva Bolander.
Young people, however, definitely participate more in politics here than in Lithuania. I think that when a poll was done on what countries’ young people find politics interesting, Lithuanians had the lowest interest rate in the world. Here, this is true to some extent – young people have a far lower turnout in elections – but generally they understand politics and at the very least find it worth their time. This is not true in Eastern Europe at all, where politics interests only a small minority of young people. As surprising as this may sound to people in the UK, disillusionment with politics is much higher in Lithuania. By comparison, the UK is a shining example of engagement and trust in politicians.
qmunicate: Regardless of the party forming the next government, what do you want to see delivered over these next five years?
At the risk of sounding like a broken record: the retained right of free movement with the rest of the EU. That aside, I want an end to disastrous welfare cuts, downright economically unintelligent austerity, and something done about student debt and the price of higher education.
I also – to the point where I would agree to put nearly all other concerns on hold for its implementation – desire a much more humane attitude towards asylum seekers and refugees. The current system is full of absurdities, from the way asylum seekers can be detained at any time, to the fact that there’s only one exact place in the UK – aside from ports – to apply for asylum, that being in Croydon. Imagine the struggle to find your way from, say, Aberdeen, when you barely know the country or language. The way that no assistance is given to refugees who have already acquired refugee status and thus frequently end up in destitution is also utterly inhumane.
qmunicate: Finally: you have thirty seconds to pitch to someone to vote for the party you would vote for. What do you say to convince them?
The SNP is more than just the party of independence or Scottish nationalism. It’s a party of social justice, of collective and individual freedom for every resident of Scotland. That’s yes voters, no voters, young or old, native or new Scot. It’s the party of progress, equality, and a bold, new, European Scotland, where every resident will be able to fulfill their full potential.