Margo MacDonald: ‘Yes’ camp must pick right fight

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Glasgow University students? Who needs them? The students who voted against having a sovereign parliament in Scotland are either genuinely and deeply tied to Britain or they’re suckers for sweet-talking snake-oil salesmen.

It’s quite understandable that some students, like their parents, and possibly the community of which they are part, are emotionally drawn to Britishness, rather than Scottishness. There are aspects of our national community which stress the admirable nature of the achievements of Britishness, for example the British Olympic Team’s success at the 
London Games.

The Union flag was everywhere; a photo a day of Sir Chris Hoy – or other medal-winning Olympians – on the front page, each Olympic champion wrapped in a Union flag. And, of course, no matter where we lived, be it Cornwall or the Black Isle, Shetland or the Scilly Isles, we could truthfully claim some little part of the Olympic Team GB as ours, and it was great to be cheering on a winning team at last.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with choosing a team and giving it all the support you’ve got to give. There’s everything wrong with allowing others, whose motivation is different from yours, to take over – for their own advantage – your jokey, lightweight, attachment to the sort of Britishness that only lasts for the duration of the Olympic 
Games.

For most of us, it didn’t go any deeper than that, possibly temporary, total support for Team GB. But the political pundits on telly and radio discussed how the huge support for the Olympics and Paralympics would influence the referendum. No doubt there were some people whose attention was drawn to the questions fluttering around Holyrood, who decided that it was GB that was written on their hearts, but for most people who proudly wore the red, white and blue to events in the stadium or the aquatic centre, there was no real linkage from their passion for sports and their political analysis.

Yes campaigners would be wrong to conclude that the Britishness brought about by supporting Team GB could not be manipulated by the Better Together campaigners. Opinion polls record a very high percentage of Scots who do not yet know which way they’ll vote. On TV or radio news, chat shows and sports reports during the summer of sport, open-minded Scots were nudged towards Brits Forever. Although they weren’t completely huckled into the Brit camp, they became more vociferous in demanding another option as well as independence or “as you were”. They wanted the “Best of both worlds,” but that phrase is casually over-used to mean anything from minimalist political control from Westminster to all the big ticket powers over the economy, defence, foreign affairs remaining firmly with Westminster. Sooner or later the Yes campaigners have to challenge what is meant by the 
phrase.

Is it that Scots will be able to depend on the English running an economy that reaches into the wastelands in Central Scotland and finds good jobs with the promise of skills and personal development for the thousands of young, jobless, 
Scots?

If we vote to stay in the UK, will our economy be controlled, as it has been for far too long, by politicians and businesses which do not prioritise Scotland?

Do the great promises they’re making about Scotland punching above her weight in the world as part of the UK, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, mean that there will be more careers in the armed services for Scots boys and girls?

How can the Better Together campaigners keep a straight face? They’re still singing along to Julie Andrews’ greatest hits when Britain loses Triple A credit status.

That’s the judgment of the institutions from whom governments
borrow.

They also invest in countries they judge capable of using borrowed money to grow, creating jobs as they do so. Does the “UK forever” lot blush when they hear that investment in the oil industry is at its highest for the past 30 years... holding out the promise of a whole new start for Scotland?

It’s quite likely some of the Glasgow Uni students haven’t a clue about the hard economic facts. But the “Brit” bandwagon is more cool, for the moment.

Students have been known to follow fashion before. The Oxford Union once voted 275 to 153 that “This House will in no circumstances fight for its king and country.” The same students did fight, and win, the real thing.

If the Yes campaign picks the right fights, it’ll have the weight advantage of relevant facts... and it can’t lose.

Still my friend

CARDINAL Keith O’Brien and I disagree about almost all the huge questions facing society and his church... but he’s been my friend, he is my friend, and he’ll remain my friend.

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