Last week marked the one year anniversary of the Scottish Independence Referendum. Blogs, newspapers and my Facebook newsfeed were filling up with memories on both side of the debate. Whilst these memories and anecdotes are on point and I have a lot to say myself (you can read my contribution to Charlotte's post here) what I did want to talk about instead is the anniversary of my decision to join a political party.
Like a lot of people who voted yes, in the aftermath of the referendum I felt I had to do something. Like a lot of people, this something was join a political party. However, my decision to join the Scottish Green Party had been final after I heard Zara Kitson talk at a Republic meeting in Glasgow about two weeks before the vote took place (the same talk that convinced me to vote yes).
For the bulk of my life I considered myself a floating voter. For the most part I voted Liberal Democrats but that was also largely because for most of the years I've been legal to vote I lived in a constituency where the SNP and the Lib Dems were the only ones who could legitimately win. I had voted for the Scottish Greens on occasion but usually on the regional list or as part of the council voting system.
But I was sold on the Scottish Green Party on that night with Zara.
Admittedly I was still hesitant to join a party for the same reasons I never joined the Lib Dems. It felt like I was putting myself in a box. Even though I can still vote for another party when I'm alone in my voting booth it can still feel like a badge you have to carry with yourself. And not every member of a political party thinks exactly alike - could I be okay with some stances the Scottish Greens carry that I don't agree with myself? I was worried that me joining might have been a knee jerk reaction to the vote not going my way.
But one year on, despite some of my initial worries, joining a political party has been a great decision. Maybe one of my best decisions. Some of the benefits have been an increased knowledge of how the political system actually works, an increased knowledge of Green Party policies, the feeling that comes with knowing you're playing a part in making a difference, and even the social side of being a member (does give me something to do on a Tuesday night other than watch Holyoaks). And I also get to be a part of the election counts, including the count in Glasgow when the SNP broke the BBC swing-o-meter (Nicola Sturgeon was also there - she actually is tiny).
So far in the party I have just helped every now and then, from leafleting to counting the votes to taking part in some social media planning to attending my very first Women's Network Meeting last weekend. If you're wondering what being a party member entails, it can be different things to different people. The roles can range from official election candidate to admin organiser. Political parties still need several functions just like, for lack of better term, a business organisation. I'm yet to find my feet on where exactly I fit in and where is best to dedicate my time, but that's okay as I'm still enjoying my journey.
Obviously, joining a political party is not for everyone. Not everyone feels that their political beliefs fit nicely into one box. But if you feel yours do than I'd whole heatedly recommend joining to help make change a reality. Or if your beliefs don't fit a box you could join a pressure group. I joined the Vegetarian Society but won't be renewing my membership as I haven't gained much from it and I'm not sure about its place in developing the vegetarian movement. But the Republic movement is gaining pace in Scotland and it might not be long before I put my money in the pot and become a formal member rather than someone who casually goes to meetings.
But whatever you decide, I've personally found it rewarding and worthwhile and will definitely be renewing my membership.