It is all so turbulent. Many people are nervous and sleepless at the moment, but there are no guns and bullets, only two eggs so far, which by global standards is not half bad. I swing from yes to no as I weigh things up.
But I have woken today as a No voter. There is so much we need to change. Remove Trident/ build social justice/ make peace/ spread tolerance – but I don’t think we achieve that by independence and walking away from the thing we have responsibility for creating with all its achievements but manifest flaws. We are taking the lead in reshaping it and tomorrow is the day we need to find the grace and generosity to live by the “better angels of our nature”.
The risks are huge and there are so many unknowns. What concerns me is the fact that so many people in politics misjudged this so very badly.
In the 19th century William Gladstone had two attempts at a Home Rule Bill for Ireland knocked back by a complacent and, some might argue, arrogant political establishment. It has been persuasively argued that the whole island of Ireland might still be a part of the UK if we had been able to have a grown up and generous conversation about our constitutional arrangements at that time. Think of all the lives that were lost in the troubles and all the poverty that Ireland had to endure because they could not get the establishment to take their aspirations seriously?
We are now in a situation where we could end up with an independent country with all the attendant uncertainty all because “Devo-Max” was ruled out because people thought that this was a flash in the pan. I think there is an appetite for constitutional reform but not a sweeping mandate for complete separation. (Not even Alex Salmond wants that – he wants to keep the pound, keep the Queen and keep the social union – and a lot else besides!)
The demands for political reform, the extension of democracy and social justice for those marginalised by the concentration of power wealth and opportunity that is so focussed on the southeast runs right through the UK. The old order needs to change and I believe that at its best, the “yes” campaign has articulated the need for reform and a new approach to politics. The establishment of the Scottish Parliament was at best half-hearted and completely overlooked the issues of the “West Lothian question” and the aspirations and needs of the rest of the UK.
Perhaps the pledges made recently will be fulfilled if we have a “no” vote. But they are also likely to be savaged and ridiculed by the likes of John Redwood. There are people who’d want to put the genie back in the bottle. Equally, it may be that a “yes” vote will lead us to negotiating some kind of reform throughout the UK, though my fear is that it will mean separation which I have never wanted. It simply doesn’t feel right to walk away from a Union we Scots have been so instrumental in shaping. You don’t mend things by walking away and leaving it to others to sort out.
So, the challenge is to lead on the changes that we all need and stay together. We Scots (and by that I mean all the people who live here regardless of ethnicity or origin) need to be so mature and grown up to do that and we need to have the courage to overcome any sense of inferiority, bitterness and chip on the shoulder resentment. We need people to believe in a better country.
Whichever way it goes, don’t give up on this great country and on our brothers and sisters throughout the UK and the world and never for a moment doubt the bonds we share that run so very deep.
There, I have said it now! That is how I feel. Later today – God willing – our whole family will go together to cast our votes and return home for a now rare but special family meal. As Mavis Staples said “family is the strongest thing in the world” and whatever happens – love will prevail.