Apologies for those of you who check in here mainly for ford updates, cycling rants and incompetent veg growing, but I have realised that until I actually try and put down my thinking in writing I’m not really going to come to a decision before Thursday, and I have a feeling that going into the polling booth and tossing a coin will go down rather badly.
I’ll say one thing – I was rather dreading the months running up to the referendum. The initial debate was pretty testy and I did worry that as an obvious non-Scot making a decision on Scotland’s future I might get tangled up in some unpleasant arguments either in person or online. This hasn’t happened. The few discussions I have had have been largely thoughtful and respectful of the other person’s point of view (this may not have been everyone’s experience but it has been mine). I also thought I might just get bored of the whole thing, but instead I’ve found it increasingly fascinating. Compared with the utterly pathetic standard of debate that surrounded the last referendum on changing our voting method, the discussion around Scottish independence (as long as you stay away from any actual politicians) has been for the large part illuminating and compelling and has challenged me to examine my own assumptions about politics, economics and ethics and to think very hard about what I myself want of the country where I live. It’s so rare that we get a chance to vote in an election where every vote counts, on something of vital importance. It’s been, in fact, a privilege to be here right in the middle of it all and whatever the outcome on Thursday, Scotland has already done itself proud.
So, pats on the back all round – but that still doesn’t answer the question of how I should vote. It won’t be out of fear: while I have no doubt that the period after independence will feel at least as uncertain as the financial crash of 2008, given that the financial markets react to even the slightest uncertainty like a maiden aunt trapped in a cellar with a mouse, I think once the panic has settled down Scotland will prove perfectly able to run its own affairs. Nor am I starry eyed about it; and independent Scotland won’t be that much different from a devolved one; we’re not suddenly going to become Denmark but with haggis. Realistically, I expect it to be slightly poorer than it might have been, and slightly too dependent on oil for comfort, but also less unequal.
On the other hand, neither will I be deciding for nationalistic reasons one way or the other: I loathe nationalism in all its forms and I’ve never felt particularly patriotic either about England or the United Kingdom, let alone Scotland; flag waving of any kind brings me out in a rash. It’s to the credit of the Yes campaign that they have kept the worst excesses of nationalism at bay in these past 12 months.
Patriotic or not, however, I do want to live in a country that I’m not ashamed of. The current Westminster government have filled me with growing despair: a government, elected on a wafer thin mandate that has proved massively ideological, that promised to be the greenest ever yet is letting fracking rip while rolling back support for renewable energy, one which promised to save the NHS while running it down at every opportunity and dismantled half the structures that made it work, openly denigrates the most vulnerable in society, and is even dismantling legal aid so that justice will soon be something only for the rich. The UK appears to be sleepwalking out of the EU just for short term electoral gain. I have a lot of beefs with the current Scottish government – particularly their goal of ‘modernising’ the Scottish transport system into the 1970s by tarmacking over most of Scotland – and I would never vote SNP, but they don’t make me want to bury my head in my hands every time I open the paper.* Of course that’s just one government, but some of the same mood music on benefits and immigration is coming from the Labour party too. While I do know that the Scottish electorate aren’t as egalitarian and as liberal as the propagandists would have us believe, at least the Scottish parties aren’t in a race to the bottom when it comes to the tabloid agenda. Add in the fact that Holyrood is elected on proportional representation, which means there’s more chance of the Green party – whose politics more or less chime with my own – will have some influence over a future government.
I have to say right now, that I don’t believe that all the hasty promises of extra devolution being dangled in front of us if we vote no will come to much. If Devo Max had been on the ballot, I’d have voted for it like a shot, but whatever the Westminster politicians are saying now, there’s no guarantees that any of it will come to pass. The UK does not do constitutional reform, not unless it’s forced to and even then in the most half-arsed manner imaginable. You only have to look at the House of Lords – where the only people actually elected to it are the remaining hereditary peers – to know that. There is no ‘best of both worlds’ on offer.
So the choice before me seems to be: run while we still can, or stay and fight for a better UK. My lefty English friends are uniformly begging me to stay and fight the good fight with them, not to abandon them to an uncertain future with Nigel Farage calling the shots. My lefty Scottish friends paint a picture of Scotland as a beacon of fairness, leading England by example into the light. I have sympathy with both perspectives. I am genuinely torn.
So has all this brought me any closer to a decision? Not really, if I’m honest. I’ve tried imagining how I’ll feel on Friday morning to one result or the other, but my gut feeling is that whatever Scotland decides, it won’t be a disaster for either Scotland or the UK. Yes would be exciting but a little scary, with a long roller-coaster ride ahead and no clear picture of where we might end up. No would be perhaps a bit of a relief but also a disappointment, as all those tantalising possibilities evaporate in favour of more of the same. Either way, it’s unlikely that separatists will blow up Balamory – tantalising as that prospect is.
In lieu of any actual decision, then, I shall let Twitter have the final word:
*cynics may point out that as I read the Guardian – home of the headless UK map – that’s because I never hear anything about what the Scottish Government is up to, which is a fair point.