So the games are over. Who among us didn’t enjoy the spectacle, and who didn’t feel at least a little bit proud and uplifted? You there, with your hand up, stop being a curmudgeon.
Then we had the big debate. I had been looking forward to this since it was announced so when it finally rolled round I, like many others on the side of Yes, finished up quite disappointed. Both combatants played true to political type and, apart from a few exceptions, acted as though the nation’s population would be happy with the usual parliamentary obfuscation and half truth. I don’t think we are happy with it though. I think we are well beyond that and it’s time the politicians caught up with us. But that’s what expectation does for you, eh? Ours for expecting better, theirs for thinking we weren’t engaged. The next one is on the 25th of August, maybe we’ll expect less and maybe they’ll up their game?
The battle is becoming more intense, it’s approaching its climax. In a few short weeks we’ll all finally get to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’, and I hope everyone who votes does so having seriously considered the question. I do feel confident that most voters will have looked more closely at this debate than they have ever looked at the different political positions in a normal election. That’s a good thing, a very good thing, and it feels to me like politics in Scotland has changed forever, for the better.
But this vote isn’t about politics, no matter how much the talking heads of the unionist camp attempt to make it so. They are all trying, and often managing, to bury the very idea of independent statehood in short-termist minutiae that are essentially irrelevant to the question of whether we should govern ourselves or not. The referendum is asking a question which should have us looking 50 or 100 years ahead: what kind of nation do we want our children and grandchildren to live in, but we are letting ourselves get in a mighty fankle about issues that really won’t make much of a difference in those terms. Will it matter in 50 years what currency we started our journey with? Will the EU even exist in 100 years? How different was life in Britain 100 years ago… 50 years ago… 30 years ago… 15 years ago? The future is uncertain and risky no mtter which way you vote, don’t let them persuade you otherwise, but a Yes vote is an enabler, whereas a No vote is a disabler. Surely what is important is that we get to decide every single issue for ourselves, with a government of our own choosing, rather than having the decisions made for us, miles away, by people who really don’t get what our country is about, or much care?
There’s a blight spreading across our nation; one that has been there as long as I can remember, but it is being sorely inflamed by the debate. It’s that deep rooted belief that we in Scotland are just not up to the task of self determination; we are ‘not genetically programmed to take decisions for ourselves’; we cannot possibly achieve what Denmark, or Iceland, or Switzerland, or New Zealand, or Holland, or Norway, or any other small independent nation on the planet can achieve. Compared to any other group of people we really are too wee, too poor and too stupid.
You and I, individually and collectively, are simply not smart enough or capable enough to stand on our own two feet and make a fist of things. Not a single anti-independence politician would say this openly of course, but their entire approach to independence, their questioning of our vision, their undermining of our aspirations and our abilities, their condemnation of our hopes and plans, says this loud and clear to everyone listening. This pernicious argumentation is infecting the debate, affecting the people, and it’s what may just lose us the referendum. Not facts and figures, not hope for a better future, just fear that we aren’t good enough and need to be looked after by our big sister. The Scottish cringe writ large. How awful is that?
Here’s a question though, what are Alistair Darling’s plans in the event of a Yes vote? What about Jim Murphy? Danny Alexander? There’s a paucity of information about their intentions beyond the 18th of September. Could it be that, if we choose Yes, they will all head back north, steal seats from sitting MSPs, and take up their ‘rightful’ place ruling over us in our independent parliament? Surely not? Can you imagine the howling hypocrisy of Darling or Murphy or Alexander standing for election in an independent Scotland, having just spent two years trashing the very institution they want to enter and the people they want to govern? It would be laughable if it wasn’t so real a possibility. Watch this space. Though if any of you, Yes or No, have any shred of decency, should these charlatans show up, send them packing with their cocksure tails between their legs. If we are too wee, too stupid and too poor to run our own affairs, but choose independence in spite of that, then maybe we’re not too stupid to give these opportunistic, carpet baggers the bum’s rush.
I’m constantly pulled up short by the way our minds work, by the way my mind works. We don’t remember things linearly, we remember things almost randomly. Firstly, the major moments get tucked away, the joys and disappointments, the traumas and the wonder. Then, perhaps, the little moments get tucked away in between these big memories and remembering little things often triggers a memory of bigger things.
When I hear Darling, or Cameron, or Osborne, or Murphy preaching, telling us how rosy the future will be within a union that will protect us and look after us and our children and our children’s children, I remember things from my own past. I remember the politicians of the 70s and 80s telling us what was good for us, from the safety of the Westminster redoubt, many miles away. I remember my own home town turning into an economic wasteland of unemployment, boarded up shops, litter and despair. I remember the mines shutting down, the factories closing, the steel furnaces switching off, the shipyards shutting their gates. I remember the utter barrenness of the employment sections of the papers. I remember bringing friends from England to visit my Mum and feeling ashamed at the state of Scotland. I remember feeling inferior. Scotland was sick back then. We had been made sick. Yet, at the same time, we had the resources to be on of the wealthiest nations on the planet. Can you imagine where we would be today, as a country, if the McCrone Report had leaked in 1979?
I honestly don’t understand how anyone in Scotland this summer, knowing how the Westminster government lied to us back then, hid the truth from us, manipulated facts and figures to prevent us taking charge of our own resources, can possibly believe what they are now telling us about our prospects as an independent nation. Or about the rewards we will reap from staying ‘better together’.
Throughout my lifetime, the treatment the Westminster ruling elite have meted out to Scotland has consistently been at some point on a sliding scale between unremitting indifference and relentless contempt. How is it possible that so many of us can be so blinded to reality? What the unionists are currently telling us is this: “If you choose to vote to have no real power over your own affairs, we will give you a little more token power than you have just now, but not enough to permit you to make a significant or lasting difference to your society, or to make us in any way uncomfortable”
Please, don’t let the constant questioning of our abilities get you down, don’t be dragged into doubting our purpose, don’t be bogged down by the incessant negativity. Keep your eyes on the prize, because we really can be that nation we all believe in. Make no mistake, we are big enough, and rich enough, and smart enough to carve out our place in the world and show the planet what it means to be a successful, caring, socially progressive nation with a conscience.
Image by Alex Aitchison
The deadline for registering to vote in the referendum is September 2. Click here to download a registration form.