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Why I'm leaving the country for the hurly-burly of the big smoke

There comes a time in everyone's life when they decide to slow down a little.

Leave the rat race, all the hustle and bustle - the hurly-burly of the big smoke and seek out a quieter life among the trees and mountains of Mother Nature.

But not me.

In fact, I've done the opposite. After a number of years spent quietly relaxing in the bucolic surroundings of Swifts Creek, a town of 200 souls in the rugged mountains of Victoria, I've made a reverse tree change, gone to live in the metropolis of Melbourne - population four million and rising.

There's a lot to be said for country living. The peace, the solitude, the intrinsic feeling of being at one with nature - and of course, the in-breeding.

I'm joking by the way. That's a joke. It has to be, they know where I live.

The reality is, I had a fantastic time in The Creek. Knowing everyone in town by their first name, the easy informality and absence of pressure in a place where there was only one pub, one shop, one café a post office and a school.

Teaching kids you habitually met at the Friday night raffle at the Albion Hotel - memories of five-year-old Bailey who greeted me with 'Hiya, Gazza' as he walked through the door with his parents. 'Strewth' said his Dad with palpable delight, 'five-years-old and he already knows blokes in the pub. How good is that?'

Riding a horse for hours across open countryside - indisputably Swifts Creek was the proverbial one horse town - but at least the horse was mine.

But hey, all good things must come to an end and anyway a change is as good as a rest - (it's amazing how you can justify almost anything with a couple of throwaway clichés).

After working in a tiny school with only a handful of students - like big Conor, a young man mountain I used to be able to best in an arm wrestle but latterly couldn't withstand for longer than a nano-second, I'm now a supply teacher in the Melbourne Northern suburbs.

Every day, it's a new school, a new set of students but strangely enough, pretty much the same issues and concerns.

Or maybe it's not so strange. After all, young people are essentially the same no matter where you go - people are the same no matter where you go.

There is good and bad in everyone, as Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney told us in song. And let's face it the two of them would know if anyone would.

I can always remember my first few weeks as a Probation Officer on the North Coast of New South Wales, not long after I first arrived in Australia.

The vast majority of my client base were Aboriginals - and whilst I would never want to minimise the blatant and sustained institutional racism and discrimination suffered by the indigenous population of Australia - the day to day issues they faced were incredibly similar to those endured by people I worked with in Glasgow's East End and peripheral housing estates.

Grinding poverty. Lack of opportunity. Discrimination. Not based on the colour of their skin admittedly, but certainly on the basis of their class.

Moving around, travelling as I have, hasn't in any way given me any answers to the continuing problem of hardship and adversity - if anything it's only provided me with more questions - but the one thing I do know is that most people, regardless of where they live, want the same thing.

A decent life, an element of personal freedom and some sort of state provided safety net when times are bad.

But most of all, they want - need hope. In fact, I'd go further. They deserve to have hope.

Which brings me to the biggest single political issue facing Scots at the moment. Not me, since not being domiciled in Scotland, I don't have a vote, but that doesn't and shouldn't mean I don't care. The referendum.

Would an independent Scotland be able to make a decent fist of poverty eradication?

So far, the only cogent argument for a 'Yes' is the notion that no longer would the residents of Scotland be condemned to a Government voted in by the English majority. We would have 'our own people' making the decisions, and these people would, so goes the reasoning, tend far more toward policies with a natural left lean.

Maybes, as Kenny Dalglish would say. And maybes not.

But what I do know is this: Poverty, deprivation and inequality doesn't begin and end at the Scottish border. Or the British border come to that.

In fact, in the UK - or Australia, or in the majority of the First World if we're being honest, the collected peoples, with some exceptions, are the lucky ones.

In Africa or Asia and even as I've recently observed, in vast swathes of South America, there are communities and groups who quite literally don't know where their next meal is coming from.

As Scots, or Britons or Australians, don't we have a responsibility towards them?

Will an independent Scotland develop a realistic policy to address the global issue of huge, undeniable, long-term poverty?

I really don't know. Does anyone?

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