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Who decides?

The Scottish independence debate

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage students to consider how they feel about the way decisions are made by them or by others on their behalf (SEAL theme: Social Skills).

Preparation and materials

  • Choose readers (a mix of adults and students).


  1. Leader: Every day there are decisions made that affect our lives.

    Reader 1 (student): I can decide many things myself. For instance, I choose what I'm going to eat, whom I'm going to talk to, how hard I'm going to work, and what I do in my spare time.

    Reader 2 (adult): The staff at school make additional decisions that affect you, for instance about lesson content, uniform and appropriate behaviour.

    Reader 3 (adult): Parents also have a role in the decision-making process about your life, particularly up to the age of 16 or 18.

    Leader: And then there's the government: at local authority level, regional level and at Westminster, lots of decisions are taken on our behalf.

    On Thursday 18 September, the Scottish people are voting in the Scottish independence referendum. They're making a choice about who takes the major political decisions about issues in Scotland. At present, the government in Westminster takes a lot of those decisions, and Westminster can at times seem to be an awfully long way from Scotland. How easy can it be to understand what it's like to live in the wilds of the Highlands and Islands when you live in a comfortable suburb in Hertfordshire? Some people also think that the Westminster government doesn't represent the political climate in Scotland. The joke has been made that there are more pandas in Edinburgh Zoo than there are Conservative MPs in Scotland! Therefore, many Scottish people think that decisions about Scotland should be made entirely in Scotland.

  2. Reader 1: I don't mind other people taking some decisions on my behalf. Life's so complicated when it comes to health services and defence, to banking and the legal system. It's reassuring that adults with more experience and knowledge can be in charge in these areas. But there are times when I wish I had more control over my life, more autonomy. Or maybe what I mean is that I wish there was a lot more consultation and explanation as decisions are made, so I can learn to take responsibility as I grow older.

  3. Reader 2: In school, there are many ways to participate in the decision-making process surrounding your career and personal life (give details of consultation groups, parents' evenings, tutor mentoring, etc.). Often we've got the official information about your performance and the requirements set out by the government, but we need to know how you yourself feel about the options open to you. Sometimes we're good at listening but we know we can do better. Don't be afraid to talk openly and honestly, and also to listen to our responses, so we can make good decisions together.

    Reader 3: It's similar with relationships between parents and children. Parents have the experience already. They've made the mistakes and often are simply trying to save you from repeating them. You'd probably argue that the world is different now and that they don't understand. More than anything it's about talking and listening on both sides. Hopefully then most decisions are taken together.

  4. Leader: With government decisions it's a bit more complicated. When you're 18, you'll have the right to vote in a general election but, even then, I predict you'll feel frustrated at some of the decisions the government you voted into power takes on your behalf. You may even feel like applying for independence for (name your local city or town).


Time for reflection

People in Scotland are facing a massive decision. Independence appears to offer the opportunity to create a new style of government, but with that opportunity there are many problematical issues: how does a newly independent country relate to other countries, what is the best currency to use, should nuclear weapons be allowed to remain there? To remain as part of the United Kingdom is tempting because of the history of the Union and the many benefits it offers. But in the end the issue is about what it feels like to be independent, to take control of the future direction of the country, to put it into Scottish hands. 

It's no different for you. We can discuss the logical reasons why others take some decisions on your behalf. What matters most is how you feel about that. If you trust others to listen carefully and to have your best interests at heart, then I believe you can be happy about the future. If, for some reason, you don't feel your voice is being listened to, then we all need to know and try to create better communication (give details of how to set this process into motion within your school). In the end, what we all want is the right decision, taken happily by everyone together. 

Dear Lord,
thank you for the good decisions that have brought us to this moment in our lives.
Help us to clearly voice our ideas and feelings,
to listen carefully to the advice of those with knowledge and experience,
then to take further good decisions together.



‘Do you know where you're going to?’ by Diana Ross

Publication date: September 2014   (Vol.16 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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