DCSIMG

100 voices part II

AL Kennedy, author

"The union is only a problem if the country that we are tied to happens to be going off in a direction that is not to the benefit of Scotland like the dissolution of civil liberties, the harbouring of nuclear weapons and whether or not to go to war. Things which the majority of Scottish - and British people - are not in favour of. If you are tied to a country that is driven by a different agenda that is never going to work in your favour.

"In theory it would be possible to be independent but it would not happen because we are being run by a bunch of numpties so we would end up in a worse state than we are in now which is a huge shame because we could be a great country if we traded on the good things about Scotland like our inventiveness, Europeaness and the fact we have travelled so much."

Professor Bernard King, Principal and Vice Chancellor of Abertay University

"It is practical policies, not forms of government, that will bring about real economic growth, and Scotland's future lies with the policies that will best secure its long-term future in the global knowledge economy.

"An understanding of policy, rather than emotional, historical or ideological concerns, should therefore be the over-riding consideration in deciding how best to secure Scotland's place in an increasingly competitive world. Those with the right policies will get my vote."

Professor Gordon McVie, leading Scottish cancer expert

"Having been a strong unionist, I have more recently been finding myself being drawn to the side of independence, especially with regards to issues such as health and education.

"I have been seriously impressed by the way Scotland has taken a lead in improving public health, and in particular with its smoking ban.

"The health service is generally in a better state than England and is less target obsessed.

"I am fundamentally against the notion that students should pay fees and Scotland has held firm on that.

"It is a fundamental human right and Scots have always held dear the right to free healthcare and education."

Linda Dunion, campaign director of mental health initiative See Me Scotland

"I was actively involved in the campaign for having a Scottish Parliament and I think it has brought a lot to Scotland.

"We now have free personal care and Scotland's work on mental health is exemplary and being looked at by other parts of the world.

"If there was a referendum on independence versus devolution I would need to be convinced that independence offered a real chance of improving quality of lives, particularly of those who are most disadvantaged in Scotland. As far as I am concerned, the jury is on the issue."

Donald Findlay, QC

"My view has not changed and it is with the Union, if for no other reason that, bad as the Scottish Parliament is, it would be infinitely worse if it were freed from the constraints of the Westminster Parliament. The damage it has done already to this country would be incalculable if it did not have those constraints."

Jack Irvine, PR and media manipulator

"The Nationalists are more hard left than Salmond or sweet-faced Nicola would have us believe; they support wind power over nuclear (utterly bonkers) and are violently anti-American (sadly predictable.) They would scrap our nuclear deterrent that has kept the peace for half a century.

"Our taxes would rocket because the Westminster subsidies would disappear, house prices would tumble and both jobs and companies, mine included, would head for the border. The Nationalist's policies on transport, education and the economy are at best incoherent and at worst dangerously naive. The final clincher is that I am diametrically opposed to any cause supported by political oddballs such as Tom Farmer or Michael Fry."

Billy Kay, broadcaster and author of The Scottish World

"I think the United Kingdom is a fossilised remnant from the days of the great nation states of the 19th century, and I have never been happy with the imbalance in Britain created by the huge numbers of English compared to the rest of us - it does us no favours. As one of the oldest and most distinguished nations in Europe, independence should be our natural state of being. We have made such an impression on so many cultures in so many countries that it is outrageous that so many Scots are still not educated in their own cultural history, and that would change dramatically for the better with independence. I have always supported independence instinctively. It is a slow but, I think, an inevitable process which is comin' yet for a' that."

James Robertson, Booker Prize long-listed author of The Testament of Gideon Mack and the first writer-in-residence at the Scottish Parliament

"My belief is the same as it always has been: that Scotland, like any nation, has the right of self-determination, and that, in broad terms, an independent Scotland is politically more desirable than one hobbled by a union that does not work in the country's best interests.

"However, the either/or dichotomy of independence vs union seems quite old-fashioned and unimaginative to me. The advent of the Scottish Parliament is a reality from which new political, cultural and economic stories have begun to unfold, and I see devolution not as fixed but as a rolling programme, which will almost certainly mean increasing political divergence between England and Scotland. This divergence will require that the devolution settlement has to be revisited and revised from time to time. If Westminster accepts this as a natural political process, then there is no reason why the relationship cannot be amicable and progressive.

"Difficulties will arise, though, as and when the interests of Scotland and England differ so much that they cannot be reconciled under current arrangements. Furthermore, wider political and economic issues (the 'War on Terror', energy resources, global warming etc), may create very great strains between administrations in Edinburgh, London and elsewhere."

Elaine C Smith, actress

"My long term goal for Scotland is independence, and I do think it is something that will one day be achieved. I'm tired of various campaigns celebrating Scotland as 'the best small country in the world', when the bottom line is that we're simply still feart. We're afraid of taking the leap, but I think independence would be a great thing for us. The war in Iraq is a prime example. I don't believe that an independent Scotland would have voted to send their young men off to fight in Iraq.

"I also believe that having our own media would be a big part of an independent Scotland. I'm fed up of watching the six o'clock news and seeing stories on health, law or education that only apply to England. I think it would be a great thing if we had our own six o'clock news, that viewed the world through the eyes of our nation. However, I do believe that as a nation, we don't celebrate what we are good at and we don't have much confidence in ourselves - perhaps we're still reeling from the outcome of the Darien Scheme!"

David Greig, writer

"I'm a bit torn on this subject, but I do think that independence is the future for Scotland. However, I do have issues with the word 'independence'. I don't believe that we could ever be truly independent, as so many issues facing us, the environment for example, need to be approached globally.

"I look at other small European nations who are not burdened by one of the world's superpowers, and they seem to have a much more flexible political system. I haven't felt that there has been a British government that represents my views since before Thatcher, and I think that an independent Scotland would be much more likely to represent my thinking.

"We would, however have to accept that we would no longer be a super power and our government might feel a little parochial in comparison. That would take a bit of getting used to, but overall I think it would be a good thing for us - I am confident for example, that if Scotland were independent there would have been no Scottish soldiers in Iraq."

Hannah McGill, director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival

"As a Scottish-born, Scottish-bred person who grew up in England and has an English accent, I'm fairly uncomfortable about separatism, and about the aggressive assertion of either 'Scottishness' or 'Englishness' as defining characteristics. I definitely feel both Scottish and British, so I don't have an immediate affinity with Scottish nationalism - or any nationalism. It's not that I get a big kick out of being the Queen's subject; more that I favour an acknowledgement of the mixed-up, mongrelly nature of the modern UK over any effort to divide people along lines of nationality and belonging. According to the lessons of history, such projects tend to end badly. I want to see Scotland be prouder of itself, more assertive, more positive about its own identity and culture - but I don't think separation is the way to achieve that.

"Scotland feeds into the rest of Britain in a positive way - talent, culture, future Prime Ministers, etc - and we benefit in return by being part of the general culture of the United Kingdom, and having our say in Westminster. Meanwhile, Holyrood can debate the solely Scottish issues, and make its own quiet leaps forward, like proportional representation and the smoking ban. I'm not saying I agree with every decision made, by any means; but out of all the options it seems a rational set-up "I'm in the process of moving back to Scotland after two years living in London, so I'm re-examining all of this. Living in England, the dilemma was over whether I could in good conscience continue to vote Labour at all. I feel much more comfortable being back in Scotland, but I still like the idea that I can belong in both places, and have a voice in both places."

Ian Pattison, creator of Rab C Nesbitt

"Whether we should have a British Scotland or an Independent Scotland isn't the real question. What matters is - how do we achieve a better Scotland? If we mean by that, a Scotland with a growing economy, improving educational and health systems and one that can address our social problems then these things can already be tackled through devolution. As yet, we haven't bred a generation of politicians with the skill, vision and confidence to use our existing powers to fullest effect. If we can't yet use devolution properly, how would we fare with full independence? At the moment 55 per cent of our work force is employed by the state. How sustainable would those jobs be in an independent Scotland? The best argument against independence is well managed devolution.

"A lot of this discussion is resentment dressed up in the clothes of rational debate. Sticking two fingers up to England isn't in itself, a valid economic or social argument for independence. Sharing a boundary with our bigger neighbour is always going to seem like we're living next door to a Lottery winner, whether we're independent or not. Having said which, I don't detect any popular will for independence. Nobody has come up to me in a bar lately and said 'You know what, Ian, I crave the day when Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon lead Caledonia into a bright new dawn.' Well one guy did - but he was on medication."

Roddy Martine, author, broadcaster, journalist and society commentator

Scotland has done rather well from the Union over the past 300 years, but times change. When Tony Blair launched Devolution, I said that it would be like rolling a snowball down a hill and watching it grow. Instead of stifling the SNP, as I am sure he intended, it simply gave them momentum. We Scots have too many hang-ups about our past: we have to stop apologising for it and start celebrating it instead. I always thought that it would take at least ten years or more for a Scottish parliament to be taken seriously. Sadly, it looks as if it will take a lot longer unless some of our elected representatives smarten up their acts and start behaving like statespersons. Having said that, I have no problem with an independent Scotland, if it happens. We Scots do have a strong sense of our own identity, even if some of us don't quite understand what that identity is."

Richard Keith, former managing director of Scottish & Newcastle International ltd now retired, a Globalscot and consultant to various international enterprises operating in China, the Bahamas and elsewhere

"Devolution has surely been a disappointment in its failure thus far to capture the imagination through creative and credible leadership and policies.

"In the rapidly developing international community the successful scottish companies are consolidating with a broad horizon.

"In contrast the domestic policies, in an increasingly public sector oriented Scotland, appear to focus more on process,equalisation and a worrying sense of parochialism.Leadership,streetwise intelligence,accountability and a competitive drive allied to a national passion are but some of the characteristics under threat.

"The economy and business must come first. A dynamic and enterprising business sector can support positive social policies. Business needs leadership not local government.

"The Union is not the only answer but it does provide a bigger pond."

John Boyle, businessman and founder of Direct Holidays

"The future is unequivocably staying with the United Kingdom. I think that the prosperity of Scotland would be seriously reduced if we attempted to go independent. The strength of the devolved situation combined with the strength of the UK has given us immeasurable power. And I also think that Scotland gets enormous benefits economically, by being tied up with the UK. It would be nothing short of a catastrophe if we went for independence.

"Scotland is treated extremely favourably by the UK Exchequer. If we had to move to an even higher taxing environment it would have very serious implications. An analysis on any front, an analysis economically, or socially, would reveal that we derive considerable benefits.

"We also put a lot into the United Kingdom, it is a two way street, but I would be petrified if the idea of an independent Scotland gained any further ground. It seems to be being discussed at the moment, and I think people should sit down rationally and analyse what they would be losing."

Mary Contini, cookery writer and owner of Valvona & Crolla

"It's a tricky one. To be honest I really don't know what would be best, and I feel I have to sit on the fence. Part of me thinks it would be great if we did it alone and the other part of me thinks the more people doing it alone the less power everybody's got.

"So I would say yes it would be fantastic if we were doing our own thing but I don't think it is for the best. I suppose it depends the way the European Union is going. It's such a huge thing now that it will either keep being positive or it will start to disintegrate.

"I'm not a historian but I feel that when people are co-operating it's better than trying to be independent and compete. But I'm hedging my bets. I just don't know."

Tony Higgins, Organiser, Scottish Professional Footballers Association

"I think the union will last in some shape for at least the next 20 years or so. But I do see greater devolution of powers from Westminster to Edinburgh in such areas as more fiscal autonomy.

"That would be my own personal preference - that Holyrood has more powers, and that it chooses to exercise them. I'd especially like to see parliament use tax-raising powers, as an experiment at least.

"It would be good if for the next election at least one of the major parties says it will use those powers if elected. I think that would be a real test of our ability to govern ourselves, especially if we're talking about scrapping or revising the Barnett formula.

"I've been pro-devolution for some time, and my views haven't changed an awful lot over the years. What I think we need now, though, is the evolution of devolution, if you like, and I think the next step is the use of tax-raising powers. I'd certainly be in favour of that, particularly if the extra revenue was used for specific purposes - health, or education, or both, because they are real problem areas for us."

Patrick Andrews, chief executive, Shepherd and Wedderburn

"Whilst devolution did not break the Union, the cracks are showing and recent events, policies and politics will shape the future. The failure of the Northern Assembly mean that political power is unlikely to be devolved on a UK basis and as a result there will be further pressure from both north and south of the border to re-examine the relationship between the Scottish Parliament and Westminster.

"The Scottish Parliament has to an extent pursued a populist agenda the consequences of which have still to come home to roost. A toll free Scotland, free care for the elderly and tuition fees are laudable enough but only if they and other measures are affordable and do not create a country of two halves. There will be further need to examine the area where power is devolved to the Scottish Parliament but where there is a pressing need for business to be given the same rules and breaks north and south of the border, The recent debate on corporate killing brings all of that into sharp focus and could have seriously damaged Scottish business had common sense not prevailed. Clementi for lawyers and business generally will be another issue that calls for a level playing field.

"There is equally a tension between the Scottish Parliament and local authorities and a need to review costs and the allocation of responsibilities to ensure that Scotland plc does not bear a disproportionate burden compared with the benefit devolution should confer. It makes no sense for example for renewable energy to be a central plank of Holyrood's energy policy if the planning process blocks development and burdens developers with disproportionate costs and unacceptable delays.

"Corporate and social responsibility is and should continue to be at the heart of the Scottish agenda but that is as much about preserving Scotland plc and generating new wealth on a sustainable basis as it is about delivering social justice. Whatever the agenda and what you think of it joined up government is as essential as clear and enforceable legislation. For business that will require the Scottish Parliament to come of age and to face up to the difficult decisions a head because you cannot have one without the other."

Sandy Crombie, chief executive of Standard Life

"The issue of Scotland's status within the union is one that I am happy to leave to the Scottish electorate next May and beyond.

"What we require is an environment where business can operate freely and effectively on a global scale. When change is necessary, as it has been at Standard Life, we look to politicians for understanding and a considered response. I believe that we are currently well served in all of these matters and would hope that this continues - whatever the constitutional make-up of our country might be."

David Watt, executive director of the Institute of Directors (IoD) Scotland

"Devolution has, on the whole, been a positive step forward for Scotland, although the business community continues to have its reservations.

"I welcome the investment which has been made in our transport infrastructure, although we have yet to see the results, and I also applaud the Executive's successful drive to increase broadband connectivity. It's encouraging too to see that education and skills investment is a priority.

"But there have been missed opportunities along the way, and it's frustrating to read recent reports like the one referred to in Thursday's Scotsman which show that the Scottish economy is lagging well behind the rest of the UK.

"There are strong arguments on both sides on whether or not an independent Scotland could perform better, although I think that we currently benefit from being part of the Union. But however the political landscape changes over the next 10 years the message remains the same - we must raise our game."

Jim Spowart, founder of Intelligent Finance, Standard Life Bank and Direct Line and now chairman of Peopleschampion.com

"My view is that the future lies within the union and always has been.

"We are going through dangerous times though when people are talking about a Scotsman not becoming a prime minister of the UK parliament. That would be a big issue that might even change me.

"The Scottish parliament is becoming more into the play of things. There may be more of a rationalisation of the local government network, with more prominence of the Scottish parliament network. We may see less local authorities with bigger regions, with more power from the Scottish Executive."

Mark Strudwick, chief executive of the Prince's Scottish Youth Business Trust

"People are taking more responsibility since devolution for the way we operate. There are more and more young people believe self-employment is a possible outcome as far as they are concerned.

"Any change will depend on the budgetary process. We have got to be more prepared to make our spending in Scotland absolutely relevant to our needs.

"The future of Scotland lies totally with the Union. Independence would make us such a small player. How much influence would we have in the European Union? How much would we have in the United Nations? As Britain, people recognise us as a nation that delivers - and the Scots have been a big part of that."

Amanda Harvie, chief executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise

"Since devolution, Scotland has had an increased international profile and identity. There has been more time for Scottish legislation. But that is a double-edged sword. Legislation should be measured on quality rather than quantity.

"It is inevitable that there will be further significant change. The pace will get faster and we have to keep raising our game to increase our competitive position in the global economy.

"When it comes to the union or independence, we must have informed and open debate about all the issues facing Scotland. The top priority is to use our existing powers to improve Scotland's economic position and global competitiveness. My position has not changed on that."

Jim Raeburn, director, Scottish Print Employers Federation

"The birth of the Scottish printing industry, which will celebrate its quincentenary in 2008, predated the Act of Union by 200 years. I doubt whether the legislation opened up new markets for an industry which at that time was local in character.

"Today, printing is a high-tech, global business with geographical borders largely meaningless. It would be absolutely essential that our legislators of whatever persuasion recognise that printing, like much of manufacturing, is under intense pricing pressures from low wage cost countries and that its ability to compete and retain jobs must not be undermined by additional taxation or regulation."

Robert Burgon, director and secretary, Scottish & Northern ireland Plumbing Employers' Federation

"Having been sceptical pre-devolution, my position on this is changing. Scotland's Parliament has demonstrated that it can make decisions which take account of the needs of Scottish businesses.

"It delivers on its promise to consult and to listen. The frustrations business now has are about the grey areas of devolution and those where decisions are still taken in a remote Parliament in London. Although on issues such as defence the Union probably still makes sense, I do wonder whether in a business sense a Westminster government as any real relevance to the people of Scotland."

Bob Fisher, head of Colliers CRE in Scotland

"Devolution in itself has had little impact on business in Scotland and, disappointingly, has had little positive effect in stimulating growth in the private sector, with the over reliance on the public sector continuing.

"The creation of the Parliament in Edinburgh, however, has assisted greatly in cementing Edinburgh's position as a leading European capital and financial centre and has added to the city's attractions as a modern city to visit for business or holiday purposes.

"The policy of office dispersal from Edinburgh to locations throughout the country, and particularly Glasgow, is expensive and may undermine Edinburgh's status as Scotland's administrative centre. It could also unsettle the Edinburgh office market which is already sluggish."

"From a business perspective, coalition politics has achieved very little and more stimulus in the business sector would be welcome, perhaps via policies being advocated by the SNP of reducing the tax burden through the lessening of business rates and corporation tax, combined with the creation of low tax zones to create additional private sector employment."

John Lowrie Morrison aka JoLoMo, artist

"In the past I've always been for the Union and I still love being British as well as Scottish, but I'm getting to the stage now where I feel we're going the right way with the Scottish Parliament. It's beginning to work. It'll still take time but now I feel that we actually could be independent.

"In the past few years it's been bubbling under. Devolution started the ball rolling and I really do think it will come at some stage. If you think about all the inventions that come from Scotland we're actually quite good at what we do, and we could probably do well as an independent nation.

"I also feel the artistic world would benefit from independence. I'm not racist in any way but I do feel a lot of posts in Scotland in the arts are filled by people with either an English or a foreign backgound. It would be quite nice to see more Scottish people involved in government and the arts."

Bernard Gallagher, European Ryder Cup captain in 1991, 1993 and 1995

"As a Scot who has lived in England for more than 30 years, it won't come as much surprise to learn I'm in favour of the union rather than independence. I come back regularly to Scotland to see family and watch the Hibs. Whatever the polls say, among the Scots I meet and talk to, I don't feel any seismic shift in favour of independence. Almost the opposite, in fact.

"From the few dealings I've had with the Scottish Executive over golf related matters, I think First Minister Jack McConnell is doing a decent job and that devolution has worked well. It seems to me to be right and proper that Scotland should look after its own domestic affairs. I've been impressed, for example, by the way the Scottish parliament has shown the rest of the UK the way in areas such as the ban on smoking in public places.

"But I also believe Scotland benefits in many ways from being part of the UK and it's right we should continue to be involved at the Westminster parliament with a say in running Britain. I've lived in England since becoming the professional at Wentworth in 1975.

"Although I'm not much of a political animal, I do like the way things are run at the moment. I'm all for devolution but against separation."

Graeme Obree, former world champion cyclist and record holder

"I think it's great being both Scottish and British but when half of England disappears then I think I'd rather be Scottish. It will happen - and it is happening, because of global warming. People are preoccupied with trivial arguments about what we call ourselves, or what it says on your passport, but we live in a global economy and there are no borders any more. Global warming is more serious and that's what people really should worry about.

"Whether Scotland is independent or not is not going to affect the price of beans in the supermarket, is it? If anything, I'd like to see Scotland independent from Europe, not Britain. But people should concentrate on the bigger picture. I do worry about what will happen when places like Norwich disappear - where will everyone go? Will everyone come to Scotland?"

Chris Hoy, Olympic, Commonwealth and world champion cyclist

"In an ideal world I'm sure everyone in Scotland would want to be independent and to stand alone, but whether that's feasible in the real world, I really don't know. Ideologically, it sounds great, but it's impossible to know whether it would work. We could be better off, we could be worse off, nobody really knows. I think it might be a case of better the devil you know.

"From a sporting point of view I think it would be a mistake to go it alone as Scotland. It would dilute the resources we have. Having said that, there's nothing like standing on top of the podium in Scottish kit, with the Saltire flying. That's when you feel this very strong sense of identity. But it's not like we've lost that through being part of the union. People don't really know what it means to be British a lot of the time, but I think as Scots, wherever we are in the world, or wherever we live, we know who we are and where we come from."

Craig MacLean, Commonwealth gold medallist cyclist

"I'm proud to be Scottish but I consider myself British as well. I always put my nationality down on forms as British. As a sportsman we compete for Britain most of the time and very rarely for Scotland. If we competed for Scotland all the time I think we'd inevitably get less support. Peter Nicol, the squash player, is a prime example. In squash they don't have a GB set-up - you can only compete for Scotland or England. He felt forced to start competing for England, not for political reasons, but purely because he could get the backing he needed through the English system.

"I love the idea of Scotland being independent but whether it's viable or not is a different story. When you're abroad and you say you're British people assume you're English - it must be confusing for foreigners. I feel British; I feel Scottish as well. It's pretty special representing Scotland, but maybe that's mainly because it only happens once every four years."

Lloyd Saltman, Leading amateur golfer who won the Silver Medal at the 2005 Open

"I think people of my generation are more apathetic about politics than our parents and this isn't a subject I'd talk about with my friends. It's not something to which we pay much attention. My older brother is 24 and he's yet to vote. If there's a shift among people of my age in Scotland, it's towards political indifference rather than nationalism.

"My own personal opinion is Scotland should remain a part of the UK. I think it would be hard for a small country like our's to go it alone. From what I can gather - and I read the back pages of the newspaper rather than the front - things aren't going too badly. I'm a great believer in the old adage: if it ain't broke, why fix it?

"Independence for Scotland would be such a huge change. I do know people who would back the SNP because they're caught up in the whole braveheart, Scotland forever mentality. But I don't have any sense of that being a majority view or one that's become more widespread.

"As I golfer, I see myself as Scottish first, second and last. I've already played for Scotland, as part of a Great Britain and Ireland team in the Walker Cup, and then I was invited to play for Europe this year.

"So I've had a taste of all those things. But in thinking about myself as a Scottish sportsman, I don't feel the country needs to become independent in order to underline my identity. I would never describe myself as British, but that doesn't mean to say I want to see the break-up of the UK.

Roddy Smith, Chief executive of Cricket Scotland

"Since devolution and having our own parliament, albeit without it being all powerful, I believe our nation has progressed in many ways. We are still however seen as in a no-man's land between independence and being part of the Union.

"One of the main characteristics of all Scots is our passion about our country and our sense of national pride. If this can be harnessed with a political structure and togetherness that concentrates on improving the quality of life for all Scots, then I believe independence would be a beneficial step for our country.

"I am sure many people's views on independence have changed since the last referendum, and I cannot see anything but positives from this debate being re-opened and put before the population. It would also be very encouraging and positive for the parliament for some high profile Scottish politicians like Brown, Darling, Reid, Campbell, Kennedy and Alexander to follow Alex Salmond's lead and return to Scottish politics.

"From a sporting perspective the current government has made many positive strides forward for participation in sport but the positive strides have not gone far enough. Sport is crucial to our population, its health and our sense of well being and Scottishness.

"If we were an independent nation I would hope it may be the catalyst to put elite sport further up our political agenda and allow our top athletes from all sports to be supported financially to represent our country with distinction at world level. The recent success of the football and rugby team, our Commonwealth Games swimmers and Andy Murray have all brought smiles and pride to Scotland - as will Scotland playing in next years Cricket World Cup against the best teams in the world."

Alex Ferguson, Manager of Manchester United

"I think being part of the United Kingdom is important at the present time because I think in terms of independence it may be a little too soon after the restoration of the Scottish Parliament. Maybe at some point in the future I would be for independence.

"When you're younger you tend to be pro-independence but as you get older and learn more about the politics and the structure of things involved that view tends to change.

"We do have great culture and a wonderful tradition of intelligence and inventiveness that is still there to this day. You can see it in a number of Scots in prominent positions in so many different fields throughout the world."

Ian McLauchlan, Former Scotland and British Lion rugby international

"I think Scotland could go its own way very well indeed. It's the best small country in the world, and if the best small country can't succeed then there's precious little hope for anyone else.

"If we marketed and sold it well enough then we'd have no bother. Maybe more of those who are presently fleeing south would then stay and help develop it further. I always felt very strongly that Scotland should be independent. I think when you are 'protected' - or under the wing of another nation - you never really fully develop. It's the same in business. If you work for someone else, you don't drive yourself as much.

"I just think that whichever way you slice the cake at the moment, England will always be better off. If you go it alone then you are more determined to make it on your own."

Pat Nevin, Former international footballer and current media pundit

"I am not a huge fanatic either way although I am leaning towards independence. That's my tradition although it's not a fanatical 'let's do it tomorrow' and go kick down the doors of Parliament.

"I just think as a nation we should me moving towards independence. You don't see too many nations around the world moving towards independence then suddenly backing off. I think we have been moving towards it for a long time, and that's a view I have always held, since I went down to Chelsea at the start of my career.

"Many of my friends were heavily into the SNP back then, though I wasn't as passionate as them. Funnily enough, I just think it would help our relation with the English in the sense that it might lessen the antagonism some people feel towards them. I think a couple of decades down the line, it will happen."

Alan Brazil, Former international footballer, and current radio host

"For me I don't want the present circumstance to change. I have lived down here for most of my life now but home is always Glasgow. I am still a proud Scotsman. But I am just happy the way it is.

"I was always pretty one dimensional as a player. All I thought about was football, football, football. When I was asked to go down to Ipswich, I thought - where? I didn't know where East Anglia was. Like everyone else I hated the English when we played them at Hampden or Wembley, but they are not really that different from us, are they?

"At the end of the day we run the country anyway, with Gordon Brown, John Reid and all the others in the Cabinet. I don't think Scotland going on its own would achieve anything."

Hugh Dallas, World Cup referee

"I am not hugely politically motivated but my own opinion is that I'd like to see Scotland remain within the union and have the support of the UK. I do think it is good we have a Parliament now, one that can deal with decisions that are close to the heart of the nation.

"Westminster can seem a long way away when local issues are under the spotlight, but I am still comfortable with Westminster making the major decisions.

"I am just not sure whether we can raise the finance necessary to go it alone. While I support the Scottish parliament and thinks it's good we have MSPs working for the greater good of the county, I just think the present situation, where we are still a part of the UK, is preferable to anything else."

Jim Leishman, Manager of Dunfermline Athletic FC

"I have mixed feelings about it. I am very Scottish, but it's just whether we can survive on our own. Scotland has lots of strengths and positives, including the beautiful countryside. I never really appreciated it in my 20s, when it would all be about flying over to Benidorm or somewhere for holidays.

"But now I step back and enjoy Scotland for what it is, and appreciate the scenery in places like the East Neuk of Fife. We have the whisky, and we have the oil too, but I wonder whether this added to tourism is enough to sustain us should we go it alone.

"I have a feeling we are not ready yet. I think maybe in a few years Westminster might get fed up with us mumping and moaning, and say 'why don't you just go it alone - give it a try'. I can see it coming, just not yet."

Tommy Gilmour, Boxing promoter

"I think Scotland is much better off as part of the Union and nothing that has happened in the country in recent years has persuaded me that is likely to be any different in the future. Put it this way, if the performance of the Scottish parliament is any indicator of what life would be like for an independent Scotland, then I am certainly totally against the idea.

"For me, the parliament is nothing more than a glorified PR department which has given us another layer of buraucracy we could do without. It hasn't provided me with any confidence that we could run our own affairs properly. The whole farce of the cost of the parliament building just sums it up. If I ran my own business that way, I'd be in real trouble.

"I'm fiercely patriotic, being Scottish is very special for me, but I don't think we need independence in order to either feel that kind of pride or to prosper as a country. Our sense of identity is a very strong one and it has flourished within the Union for a long time. A lot of my work is based in England and I feel our relationship with them is part of our strength."

Lex Gold, Chairman of the Scottish Premierleague

"I believe the future of Scotland lies within the Union and my views have not changed recently."

Ian Doyle, Sports promoter and entrepeneur

"I'm a committed Unionist and have no doubt Scotland's future will be best served by remaining in the Union. Our Scottish identity is something to take great pride in, but so is our relationship with the rest of the Union, the value of which is too often underestimated these days.

"If we became independent, I believe the Scottish public, and more especially the Scottish taxpayer, would pay a heavy price. Economically, I cannot possibly see that we would be better off. Those who want to run an independent Scotland want to bring in higher taxes which, for me, is the wrong road to go down. A country has to be run like a business and politicians in Scotland have shown very little aptitude for that since devolution.

"The overspend on the parliament building is one of the greatest scandals of all time, yet it has been swept under the carpet to a large extent. Who is paying for it? The taxpayer. Could we really trust these people to run our vital services, like the NHS, in an independent Scotland? I don't think so."

Tommy Gemmell, European Cup winner with Celtic

"The only way being independent would make a difference to Scotland is if it improved the country's financial situation and I don't think that would be the case. Maybe if it had happened years ago, and we had got all the money from North Sea oil, then it would have been a positive thing.

"I don't believe it makes the slighest difference to us whether we are being run from Westminster or from Holyrood, because at the end of the day we will still be being run by politicians. I've only voted twice in my life, the last time when I was 25 years old, and I've just got no time for them anymore."

Jackie McNamara senior, Scottish Professional Footballers' Association

"I have always believed Scotland's future lies in independence and while I feel the Scottish parliament has been a huge disappointment, I haven't changed my mind.

"As a committed socialist and an internationalist, I am uncomfortable with many aspects of nationalism which I believe can be unhealthy for a country. That's the reason why I could never vote for the SNP. I do believe, however, that we are capable of running our own affairs as an independent Scotland and there are ways of achieving that status without putting the SNP in charge.

"I'm very patriotic, very proud of Scotland, and I am convinced independece will come. It is what we do with it that will count."

Bill McMurdo, Football agent

"I am 100 per cent behind the Union, I always have been and my views on it will never change. I think it would be a disaster for Scotland if we became independent, not to mention a disaster for the rest of the United Kingom.

"I was very much against devolution in the first instance and the performance of the Scottish parliament since, not to mention the disgraceful cost of the building, has simply proved what a mistake it was. Scotland's strength going forward lies in the Union."

Jim Aitken, Scotland rugby Grand Slam captain

"I absolutely disapprove of the way the country is going, but it's difficult to say precisely which direction that is. That's because we're in the hands of nonentities and I don't think they know which direction they're trying to take the country in.

"The [Scottish parliament] is being run like the Scottish Rugby Union - it's full of failed schoolteachers who couldn't get a real job. I've never been in favour of a Scottish parliament, and my feelings against it have got stronger with the passage of time. The calibre of people who tend to drift into these situations is pretty poor.

"I'm a Scot first and foremost, and have never left anyone in any doubt about that, but what would we get from independence? Perhaps the only advantage would be that we'd then be governed by just one layer of mediocrities rather than the two we have at present.

"I need someone who could give me a bit of confidence that they know what they're doing. Dare I say, the only guy who has any kind of fire in him like that, whether you agree with him or not, is Alex Salmond. He's the only one who's an astute politician. Certainly, if you compare him with the present First Minister it's just no contest."

Kirsty Balfour, European swimming champion

"I don't really know what direction the country is going in politically, whether it's heading for independence or not. And to be perfectly honest I don't think the most relevant thing is whether we are ruled by a parliament in Westminster or one at Holyrood.

"There is a bigger picture we have to look at. For me, as a Christian, the country is going downhill. Laws have been passed that are not in accordance with the will of God, and things aren't good.

"Politicians are all as bad as each other, to be honest. I'm not sure if any of them has the right attitude to life. We have to accept that we cannot do everything for ourselves, and that we need God's help. Unless the people who run this country realise that, things are going to get worse.

"Scotland used to be called the Land of the Book, but it's not been a truly Christian country for some time. I say vote Jesus Christ."

Craig Wright, Scotland cricket captain

"I think Scotland has a strong enough identity as an individual country within the status quo, so in that sense I don't think we'd need independence. I must be honest and admit I don't know enough about the financial implications of independence to say whether I might agree with it.

"But if you look at the crowd at Murrayfield or Hampden singing Flower of Scotland, you have to say we've got a fantastic cultural identity already as part of the union. And from my experience with the Scotland cricket team there's no problem with people getting confused and thinking we're part of England.

"I've always felt that to be the case, and the Scottish parliament hasn't made a difference in that respect. So at least from a sporting point of view I think we're reasonably well served by the status quo.

"While I don't necessarily agree or disagree wholly with one camp or the other on the devolution debate, though, I must say Alex Salmond is a very impressive politician. He's a big supporter of ours and has come to a few games."

Shirley Webb, Scotland and GB athlete

"From an athlete's point of view it's good to be Scottish and British, because it gives you the best of both worlds. It's nice being part of a larger team when you represent Britain because that keeps you on your toes and increases the standards.

"People accuse athletes of getting complacent when they're British number one, so imagine if you could only compete for Scotland. We're lucky, I think, to be able to represent both Scotland and Britain. As far as the question of independence goes, I'm not too hot on politics, to be honest."

Rob MacLean, Setanta TV presenter

"I'm not strongly a political animal, in fact I may be more of a member of the Apathy Party. But I am a patriotic Scot, and when devolution happened I was pleased that we were to have greater control over our own destiny and have our own parliament again.

"Now, though, I'm not sure how much good it has done. The quality of the debates at Holyrood maybe doesn't inspire confidence, and I'm not convinced where it's all leading to.

"But that's neither made me think that devolution was a bad idea, nor that we'll have to move on to full independence. I've always thought that full independence was a dream, and nothing that has happened since the opening of the Scottish Parliament has made me think otherwise. It is an option that will still be talked about and come to the fore from time to time, but I can't see it being any more than that.

"Having criticised the parliament, I would add that I think Tommy Sheridan has been impressive, whether you go along with his views or not. He's a very able politician. and has probably grabbed more headlines than anyone else since the parliament opened. Maybe that tells us something about everyone else."

 
 
 

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