By Alex Mooney
All recent polls show the undecided will be the decisive factor in the outcome of the Scotland referendum – and you have to sympathise with the plight of those still sitting on the fence.
The poor folks have been bombarded from both sides with figures, claims, counter-claims and a barrage of words and hot air on the subject – leaving them more confused than ever.
This is shameful as almost all of the campaigning is utterly irrelevant. Why? Because it comes from politicians and pundits who thunder on about the issues – the politics. And they miss the point. This is not about politics. Not at all.
The economy, health, education, defence et al have no place in the referendum. To use your vote wisely there is only one decision you must make – would you like to run your own affairs or not? It’s that simple. And that important.
This is not about Alex Salmond or David Cameron. Or any political party. Or manifesto. Don’t listen to them. Or trudge through 600-page White Papers. Politicians of all shades and abilities will be around forever. They will come and go as the electorate sees fit and make decisions on your behalf. For better or worse. Whether in the Union or not.
Be sure of this – regardless of the outcome, Scotland will be governed by elected politicians. As any democracy rightfully is. So don’t become obsessed with their plans about your future in an independent country or as part of Britain. All sides are inevitably flawed by self-interest and will promise the earth for your vote in a general election. But this is not an election – it is a single issue.
Consider only this. You love your daughter. She is married and lives, say, 10 miles away with her husband and children. She runs her life and household in the way she sees fit. Is this an acceptable state of affairs for you? Do you love her just as much now that she has her own life and you have yours? Then vote yes for independence. Or would you prefer her to take over your life and decide how it will be run. Then vote no.
There is nothing else to ponder. The independence question really is that easy. Don’t be fooled by those who try to make it difficult with ‘issues’. All that you have to decide is whether Scotland – a country that has given so much to the world – can produce enough good people, of whatever hue, to run its own affairs.
On that basis then, you would expect the yes side to be overwhelming favourites to triumph. After all, who in their right mind would want their next-door neighbours to be calling the shots in your household?
Rather a lot, it seems. Clearly they are feart about what might happen to them outwith the UK. An unholy alliance of the right and left has gathered under the Union banner – for different reasons but aiming for the same result – to spread the fear. And they have certainly made an impact.
Let’s take a closer look at two of the leading lights of this campaign from opposite ends of the political spectrum. Representing the right is Charles Moore, former editor of The Daily Telegraph and The Spectator, who added his Old Etonian-Oxbridge weight to the debate. Writing in defence of the status quo, the official biographer – and admirer – of Margaret Thatcher gave us his thoughts recently.
Now, you can imagine Moore, the embodiment of the English intellectual establishment, composing his essay at home in a splendid country pile in that green and pleasant land. Sitting at a mahogany desk in his oak-panelled office, his thoughts come pouring out on the screen and you wait for his patrician wisdom with bated breath…
“The kilt, the tartan, Balmoral, the novels of Walter Scott – almost every famous emblem of Scottish self-consciousness – arose from the defeat of Scottish independence, not its assertion. They were distinctively Scottish elements to help compose the new Britishness.”
So there it is. When the Scots became uppity 300 years ago, the English offered a few placatory morsels, even creating the tartan and the kilt for them – a sense of identity so they might feel worthy in their own right. Is there anything more patronising? Or insulting? Or so out of touch? Three centuries out of touch, in fact. Does he really not see the massive changes in the world in all that time? To compare Scotland then and now is nonsense of the highest order.
Yet this man is a heavyweight of the Union who wants Westminster to rule Scotland in perpetuity. If following this relic of the empire’s advice is your idea of a prosperous future for you and your grandchildren, then good luck with that.
Representing the left is George Galloway. He is also a relic and as out of touch as Moore – though coming at it from more recent times. He is touring Scotland, as he does in his unique narcissistic fashion, warning us guid folks about the dangers of independence. His views – like his pompous vocabulary and sectarian scaremongering – are 40 years out of date.
In the sixties and seventies the independence movement had a distinctly anti-English tinge to it that was unsavoury and put many people off – including myself. Galloway believes those dark xenophobic days still exist and calls for a unity of socialists across the UK instead of a ‘racist’ independence. Of course, the world – and Scotland – has moved on hugely in the last four decades or so. Back then, racism was almost institutionalised throughout the ‘civilised’ world. However, the difference between the independence camp then and now is vast.
I know of no-one voting yes who is doing so because they hate the English. Scotland is shaping up to be an open, welcoming country to all its communities and there is certainly no element of England-bashing that I have witnessed in the yes campaign. As an example, just recall the amazingly warm welcome Scots gave the English team at the opening of the Commonwealth Games.
Galloway has been away from his country of birth for too long as he strives – and fails miserably – to become a major figure on the world stage. His views on independence are not just offensive and inflammatory – they are as archaic in their own way as Moore’s.
I lived in England for some years and love the country and its wonderful people. I could no more hate the English than I could hate my family. I just don’t want them to run my life. And I have no yearning to run theirs. We can get along famously without a political alliance.
Of course, many complex issues will have to be confronted down the line – but that’s two years away. Regardless of how you vote now, politicians will decide on these things and you will have your say in a general election in an independent Scotland or as part of the UK, as you always have.
What you must ask yourself now – and only this – is whether or not Scotland has the gift to thrive in its own right. For me, if I must have politicians running my life – and I do – can I at least have people who live and work in Scotland, and whose minds are in the here and now, to do so.
Much as I have a soft spot for the eccentric Charles Moore curiosities who will go to their death-beds dreaming of empire, I really don’t want them running my affairs. Their world of patronage deservedly vanished decades ago. A new world is still forming and it is so much better.
There is one other thing you should know before you decide. Your vote is a legacy. It is not just about you – it is also for your descendants who will have to live with the consequences long after you have gone. That’s how important this is.
So don’t be feart. Be bold. Be proud. Be brave. Let your country take care of its own affairs. And may it be a new Scotland that is warm and welcoming. A land that has decency at the heart of everything it does.
Only you can give it that chance to be worthy of handing over to future generations. It really is that simple.
Alex Mooney is a retired journalist