Monday, 15 September 2014

A Question of Identity

I don't normally delve into politics with a large P on my blog too often, but I think it's hugely important to explain why a Glasgow born Brit, has benefited quite so much from the wonderful union of the United Kingdom.
I wondered what would happen to me if I was born into a Glasgow that was the largest city in an Independent Scotland? The scary conclusion I've come to, isn't something I would ever wish for my own children, if it had been the case.

I wondered if I would have been able to have the help of the British Epilepsy Association, Epilepsy Action? I wondered if I would have been able to move and make an impact in the cycling community in London with such ease, if I was a foreigner? What scares me most however, is the idea that the NHS wouldn't have been as strong in Scotland, as it was in a United Kingdom and thus the idea that the utterly life changing surgery I underwent, wouldn't have been able to happen at all?

No matter what the situation, I have never known fear like I used to experience numerous times a day, from my petit-mal auras I went through as a child. Before or since. I can't comprehend a world through my own eyes, where I hadn't lived the second part of it almost totally epilepsy free. But what's more, without the Olympics, there's no way I could have had the opportunity to gain publicity, for the cause of raising awareness of my condition.

What happened to me on the 26th of July 2012, has so far been the single most amazing thing to occur in my life because of how I view sport. I've talked about it before in the blog, but for some reason, it felt only right that I should bring my torch out with me to the 'Let's stay together' rally in Trafalgar Sq, London. Because without being British I believe I would be in a very different, incomprehensible situation. It scares me so much to think about what would have happened if I had not been in the care of the NHS, that I don't even feel I could say it out loud.

I don't believe that any young girl born after next week, who could develop epilepsy like I did when I was 4, should ever not be able to have the truly, utterly, life-changing neurosurgery, that I had. Because the situation where that wouldn't be the case, is unthinkable and having to go through a decade of the condition in the extreme states in put me in, was enough.

But there is another question of identity for me above and beyond epileptic, or a cyclist. If Scotland becomes independent, what nationality am I?

Despite being born, brought up and educated in Scotland, before serving the city of Glasgow as a Police Constable, I can't vote on Scotland's question of Independence. So it confuses me about how I'm viewed and it makes me upset because of this. I have a British Passport, but in London I'd be viewed as being Scottish, even more so if Scotland were independent. Knowing I can't vote in the referendum means I'm being made to feel as if I'm not Scottish enough though?
So who am I? Am I just epileptic? I don't want to be totally defined by my condition, but at the same time, it's the only identity I'm certain of in a world where Scotland and the UK are divorced. It's written on my ID band, so it must be who I am when I no longer feel Scottish enough to have a say, or British enough when I speak to people with my Scottish accent in London.

I'm proud to be born in Scotland, to be Glaswegian, but have the comfort to know, that also made me British too. This country has brought out the best in me, be it living in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Durham or London, I feel I'm a better person for being born into a United Kingdom.

There are a million reasons I could give to vote to stay part of the UK and say No Thanks to Scottish Independence. But I'm just an example of why I'm lucky to be born British. Not Scottish, not Northern Irish, not English, not Welsh, not Manx, not a Channel Islander, but British. So I'm trying everything I can to make sure if there's a young girl born in Scotland next week called Katie and if she were to develop epilepsy like I did, that she have the same amazing opportunities and help, support and treatment, I have had.

So that's why I went along to Trafalgar Square this evening with my torch clad in the Union Jack flag of my Team GB jacket, wearing my Scottish cycling jersey underneath, to join so many other Brits that feel the same way.

What's more, I had some help holding my torch from a young girl in a Scottish football top called Eve. She had an English accent and mother, yet a Scottish father. I was the girl in a GB top, with a Scottish accent and mother, yet an English father.

It was easier to hold the torch with her help...

...Some might even say we were 'Better Together'!