As I sit down to write this last article before the referendum vote I’ve been looking back on what I wrote in my first article for Newsnetscotland. That was just after the SNP victory in the 2011 election(Keep calm and carry on, 9/5/2011).
I was surprised that so much of what I wrote then had come to pass. I was right that as people became more educated in the subject they would turn to Yes. It also came to pass that the No vote was soft and it wasn’t just a battle for the undecideds. Depressingly I was right that the electorate would be subject to propaganda and media bias.
I wrote too that this was a referendum for the people, not politicians and I’m pleased that was increasingly reflected in the debate. Near the end of the article I wrote, ‘The appeal has to be directly to the people. If I was in independence HQ tonight that is what I would be thinking about, how do I get it to the people’. I didn’t foresee then how the campaign would be a grassroots explosion of activism. A glorious collection of people from all backgrounds forming their own groups, artists, lawyers, health workers, farmers, far too many to list. As many have observed, this surge of people power, the idea that people organised can bring about real change, is here to stay.
A last chance now then to convert the undecided, to bolster the nervous and get out the vote.
For some independence is a practical choice, for others an emotional one and for many of us a mixture of both. The practical case is irrefutable. On the day that Scotland becomes independent we will be wealthier even before we implement the powers to grow our economy. We are in the top 20 of the world’s wealthiest countries.
We will be free of a corrupt and deeply undemocratic system of parliament and government. At last able to elect a parliament and government that is 100% reflective of our views, 100% of the time. We will have the power to pursue and develop renewable energy without the dead hand of Westminster to hold us back or to push a nuclear agenda. We can redirect our resources creating jobs, protecting our health and social services and providing a decent standard of living for our elderly. We can seriously tackle the issues that poverty brings decoupling ourselves from the 4th most unequal country in the world. We can banish nuclear weapons, properly defend our interests and not be dragged into imperial or illegal wars.
We can at last regain our place in the pantheon of independent nations and play our part in the great international organisations. This country is blessed with abundant natural resources and the best educated workforce in Europe. No country in history has been better prepared to be independent.
The emotional case is equally strong. Too often we shy away from expressing that case for fear of being branded bravehearts. Rather a braveheart than a faint heart. Ironically it is the No Thanks campaign that has relied heavily on images of British nationalism, the evocation of Team GB, defeating nazism and many other nationalistic references.
I’ve always felt more Scottish than British and that is a feeling that has grown since devolution established a separate political identity for Scotland. That is coupled with a feeling that Britain is not just politically different but increasingly socially different too, it is a different society difficult to identify with. Unionists would have you believe that Scotland will become insular, cut off by narrow nationalism. The truth is the exact opposite. It is society in the south that is becoming more insular, less welcoming, more xenophobic. Scotland by contrast seeks to engage with Europe and the rest of the world, it holds its identity open to any from anywhere who want to embrace it.
I’ve believed in Scottish independence from the day I could understand a history book. Long before a drop of North Sea oil reached the shore and when the SNP were considered a fringe group. As I’ve grown older and understood the modern day economic and political arguments that belief has only grown stronger.
One of the advantages of being a Scot is that even if you have little knowledge of your immediate family history you belong to a clan and that history is written down. My clan was present at many of the defining moments in our history. They fought at the battle of Largs when the Viking hold on Scotland was broken. They took the field with Bruce at Bannockburn and secured this nations independence. They fought for the Jacobites at Killiecrankie and Sheriffmuir and supported the ’45. After the Union they were involved in some of the famous battles of the British Empire. The clan chief was killed beside General Wolf storming the heights of Abraham to take Quebec. Another commanded a regiment at Waterloo. In modern times my grandfather fought in France in WWI and my father and his brothers in every theatre in WWII.
That’s an awful lot of fighting. We’re in a fight of a different sort today but the stakes are just as high. We have the opportunity to achieve more with two strokes of a pencil than our ancestors could achieve with the all the strokes of their swords. We don’t have to face the terrifying sight of Edward’s cavalry but the tactic from the No campaign remains fear. It has been the same throughout the campaign and has intensified to a peak of ferocity in the last few days. It is the tactic of the bully. And like all bullies they are secretly afraid. They bully, they misrepresent and they lie because they have no arguments to put forward. It is one of the more astonishing aspects of this referendum that after 300 years they cannot articulate any argument for the continuation of the UK.
We can’t change history, even if we wanted to, but we can make history. Let’s protect our fellow citizens who are still fearful. Let us give them heart. You can curl up in a corner and say please don’t hurt me but the bully will hurt you anyway. Or you can stand up and say no more, I will make my own destiny. You won’t stand alone, you’ll stand with our thousands, our tens of thousands, our hundreds of thousands, our millions.
We have an opportunity we may never have again. On Thursday between 7am and 10pm the people of Scotland will once again be sovereign. In those few hours we bear the responsibility for the future of our nation. It is a great responsibility but is is an even greater opportunity.
My mind was made up long ago. When I enter that polling booth I’ll be thinking of those forebears and voting with my heart. Whatever your motivation I hope you’ll join me and vote for a more prosperous country, a fairer more peaceful society and start to build a land that our children, our grandchildren and all those to come after will be proud to inherit.
Now’s the day an now’s the hour