Whatever the vote we need to unite
Whom do we believe? Whose data do we trust? How do we predict the future? Not only entirely pertinent questions but, it seems, ones on which we are precisely split in two when it comes to deciding answers.
With such an evenly balanced schism facing us, I believe it is now less important which actual choice we make and far more important the manner and mindset in which we make that choice. It is these that will determine our ability to realign our common interest in making Scotland increasingly successful henceforth.
The facts and opinions that therefore become all the more relevant today are not so much whether we will be better off/worse off voting Yes/No, across a wide range of hard-to-predict economic and political variables, but whether, in the wake of a very close call, we will move to a collective national emotion, that gives us the very best chance of succeeding in the new world ahead.
Whatever the outcome, we are set for materially greater self-determination.
The difference between success and failure as a nation, with whatever degree of self rule, relies on our ability to accept and respect the vote result and to accept and respect the motives of those who didn’t quite fall into a slim majority. Failure is fuelled by lingering dissent, resentment, distrust and regret.
Therefore, if we are to embark on our new national existence, with the best chances possible of retaining our advantages in internal Scottish, UK, European and global markets, communities and alliances, surely we have to start by demonstrating that a near 50:50 split vote will do nothing to diminish our ability to cooperate and compete successfully in the future.
When I started looking into how to vote many months ago, I resolved that I should remain as open-minded for as long as possible and make up my mind as close to polling day as I could. I like to think I’m fair minded but boy has that been difficult. I’ve found my natural inclination to side with certain types of people, to be put off by certain campaigning tactics (many of which were actually clearly intended to win me over!) and to discover that my capacity for bias, pre-judgement, cynicism and selective choice of data is frighteningly large. It is unnerving to discover the extent to which an urge to take sides, often with very partisan results, is hard-wired into one’s DNA. And I’m being entrusted with a vote on this issue!
Ultimately, is it possible to simplify this down to a personal contest between boldness and caution? The history of mankind, at every event, can be told in terms of events where caution outweighed audacity and vice versa, sometimes with a successful outcome, sometimes disaster. It is hard to find two words that convey, in wholly equal balance, the two sides of the dilemma we face but those two must come close. For me, each is equally capable of implying something positive as something negative. By next week it will be interesting to see if the rest of the world regards us as cautiously optimistic or boldly optimistic; I just hope they all perceive the optimistic part!
I hope we can demonstrate to the world that we deserve to have greater self-determination and that we can manage our future affairs better than the way in which we built our own parliament building or tram system.
This may all sound piously moralistic, like some relationship guidance councillor; it certainly does so to me! However, I write it because I am really concerned that we make the most of whichever outcome we vote for on Thursday. I am insistent that our leaders embark on subsequent negotiations in a manner that does not alienate friends and neighbours to our long-term detriment, just for short-term gain. It’s up to us to demand that they do.
So, whichever way you vote this week, do so for what you know to be the best of constructive reasons, which you will be proud to admit to and share, whatever the result, so that we can align our hearts in achieving Scotland’s destiny with the best possible chance of success.
In years to come, if I find myself thinking or hearing others say “if only I’d voted the other way”, I’ll consider our referendum to have failed. It is only us that can make it succeed, even if it is inevitable that only a handful of votes determine the result. It is our hearts on Thursday and how they react on Friday that will determine the longer term consequences.
There is a phrase that some would say is synonymous with the Scottish Borders – “its aye been.” The referendum campaign has proved that stereotype is no longer applicable.
Across this region, in every town and village, a small army of Yes campaigners have turned conventional politics on its head. Whatever the outcome on Thursday, things will never be the same again. A social and political phenomena has been created in the so-called sleepy back waters of the Borders.
The Yes campaign has mobilised people in numbers previously unseen in any political campaign in living memory. The hard work and efforts of these motivated and dedicated volunteers have proved to be decisive in shifting the balance of public opinion and building momentum towards a Yes vote today.
The Yes side have been motivated, not by narrow nationalism but instead by a progressive politics with social justice, fairness and equality at its heart. We don’t believe that we are better together with foodbanks, pensioner freezing in the winter, a privatised NHS and one in four children living in poverty in 2014.
In the face of an almost entirely hostile media, the best efforts of the three man parties of Better Together and the British Stare calling in favours from its big business friends, the Yes campaign has made huge strides towards securing Independence simply by engaging people in conversation, answering questions, allaying fears and promoting a vision of a better, fairer, independent Scotland.
In contrast the paucity and negativity of the Better Together camp has been exposed. There is no similar mass, vibrant campaign here in the Borders or anywhere else for that matter. They have relied instead on a compliant media and a never-ending diet of fear and negativity to try and hold on by their finger-nails to ensure a narrow victory. They’ve told us we’re too wee, too poor and too stupid to run our own affairs. With each passing week more and more people are rejecting their politics of fear and embracing our politics of hope.
Instead of its, “aye been”, thanks to a huge grass roots campaign, it’s looking more and more likely it will be an “aye”!
No barriers to reconsiliation
As I feared, the debate over independence has grown more vituperative and divisive as it has proceeded. It has nonetheless raised important issues which have to be addressed. No-one can quarrel with the argument that those who live in Scotland know what is best for Scotland. But equally Scotland has a vital role to play in the United Kingdom. The question to be resolved is how these two viewpoints can be reconciled. They will not go away whatever the result of the referendum.
As one with family ties on both sides of the border, having lived much of my life in Scotland, and now very happily retired to Kelso, I treasure the fact that when I drive to Berwick on the south side of the Tweed, I am never quite sure where Scotland ends and England begins. Carter Bar is a different story, but so is the view.
If Scotland votes for independence the border, instead of being a hazily drawn line on a map will become a barrier that will have to be crossed, in a variety of ways. I hope devoutly that this will not happen.
There is safety in numbers
Much has been written about the negativity of the Better Together campaign, despite the fact that the negativity is surely with the Yes camp as it is they, not Better Together, that wish to leave the United Kingdom. That is surely the most negative statement of all!
Much of what they have said seems to indicate that this is a horrible country, uncaring, unfeeling and everything is broken. They should travel more, even within Europe. In a dangerous world this is not the time to separate. On the contrary, we need to stick together, future threats are here now. As an island nation we will have to preserve our integrity.
They will, of course, fix everything, but will not tell us how they will pay, nor with what currency, for all the free gifts they have offered to the voters.
Their hypocrisy on the Monarchy, defence, and energy is matched only by their lack of answers to the crucial questions about job losses, medical research, a falling oil revenue and replacement for the damaged financial sector, which is currently leaking billions of pounds south.
Like it or not, for all the free child care, care for the elderly, free prescriptions, bus passes, free university education for all, etc, somebody has to pay. And when the jobs have moved south, who will pay?
I love my country. I take huge pride in the fact that our overseas aid budget has been preserved by this UK government and our generosity is making the difference to lives in so many poor countries. As members of the Security Council of the UN, our country has had a major influence on the UN’s activities throughout the world. Within Europe we are one of the most prosperous nations which have had to bail out the weakest. They are now recovering, for the benefit of all. Scotland has played its part. We should be proud and stop running the United Kingdom down. It is a great nation and we can continue to enjoy its benefits.
It will cost millions of pounds to create this new country. Hundreds of millions of pounds to create a new bureaucracy that will have to come from other budgets. Everybody will suffer to pay for the egotistical ambitions of a few. If you don’t want that, then please consider your vote and look to enhance the UK as one of the world’s most stable and safest countries in which to live.
Councillor Sandy Aitchison
Passport to a secure future
I value my British passport and I am concerned that those who vote Yes are determined to deprive us all of our British passports and the international recognition that that brings.
So much of the campaign for independence focuses on short-term political promises like childcare and the NHS, when the real issues are for the much longer term – issues as to how a very small country occupying the underpopulated part of a small island can make its way in an increasingly hostile world.
A recent aspect of the Yes campaign has been to tell us that the future of the NHS relies on a Yes vote, whereas the truth of the matter is that, during the SNP period of Scottish government, English spending on the NHS in England has increased by 5 per cent whilst the SNP have not increased spending on the NHS in Scotland at all. Also, although the SNP would not like to admit it, chunks of the Scottish NHS have been privatised already.
Please let us lift our eyes from the day-to-day politics of what is beginning to look like a general election campaign and think about the real issues. These are that, for evermore, regardless of which (Scottish) government might be in power, an independent Scotland would just be a small insignificant nation somewhere in the North Atlantic.
Yes is a step in right direction
Those who tell us that businesses will flee the country told us the same at the last referendum, and the one before that. They did not flee, of course. It was nonsense, designed simply to scare. We were told back in 1979 that self-determination would wreck our industries, but it was Westminster who wrecked our industries, using North Sea oil money to pay for the mass unemployment they caused. This fortune from the North Sea could have been put to work to provide infrastructure, re-capitalisation, modernisation, but no, it went to London to fuel a financial and property boom which has left us with a UK National Debt of over £1 trillion and not a penny in the pot to pay for pensions.
We’ve had our fill of empty threats in this campaign too – with the Blood Transfusion Service and Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital having to step in to reassure people that Better Together’s scares were completely without foundation. We’ve had the Scottish Police Federation having to warn Better Together about trying to stoke up fears of “carnage” at polling stations after Jim Murphy was hit by an egg in Kirkcaldy.
We’ve had Lord George Robertson invoking the “forces of darkness”, claiming that Scottish independence would have a “cataclysmic” impact on the world, and then, in another interview, describing us (his own country) as just “a minor entity at the north of Britain”.
And of course, there’s the oil, “running out by the end of the decade” as it has been since first discovered, despite record investment in the sector and massive new developments taking place right now east and west of Shetland.
Better Together’s UKOK campaign has been awful. One minute they threaten us, then they love us, then they threaten us again.
As public opinion has swung away from them, they’ve simply become more hysterical. It’s time to put that behind us now and focus on the Scotland we can build together after next Thursday.
We are a rich country, both in our people and our resources. Our children shouldn’t have to leave to find jobs elsewhere, we shouldn’t be seeing massive pockets of poverty across the country, our health and other public services shouldn’t be under financial threat because voters in the south and east of England (who outnumber us massively) seem to want to privatise theirs.
We are an enterprising people. We can do so much better for ourselves and our families by controlling our wealth and spending it on those things that we decide are important for us. There’s nothing selfish about this. It’s what nations do, and besides, there are many, many people south of the border who wish us well, people who see our step as an important one on the journey to rebalance and reinvigorate Britain itself.
A huge and historic opportunity indeed. It’s there for all of us – for ourselves, our families, our futures. When we were growing up, we learned that the monsters of fairy tales didn’t exist, and we stopped looking under our beds every night before we went to sleep.
Let’s grow up as a nation today and look to the future with confidence in ourselves and our fellow Scots, wherever we were born, to create together a better nation for us all.