Andrew Wilson: Don’t fear the referendum vote

STOP what you are doing. Stand up and walk to the nearest window. Look outside. Is the world still there? Still spinning on its axis? Does life go on? Funny that. It always does.
Scottish voters will go to the polls next month to decide whether to become independent or not. Picture: HemediaScottish voters will go to the polls next month to decide whether to become independent or not. Picture: Hemedia
Scottish voters will go to the polls next month to decide whether to become independent or not. Picture: Hemedia

This referendum was, we must remember, wrong-headed and pointless. Illegal and illegitimate and unsustainable. Until it wasn’t. The Edinburgh Agreement 22 months ago kicked the long campaign off in consent.

This referendum was to damage inward investment through the uncertainty it caused. Until it didn’t and reached record levels instead.

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This referendum was to drone and bore the country into disengagement. Until it didn’t – we are as engaged, enthused and energised as any generation for decades in the question of how we are governed.

This referendum was to go ethnic and identity driven. It hasn’t. A civic democratic choice made with open hearts that cheered the English team with joy at the Commonwealth Games. Shame on those that would stoke the alternative.

Like a new millennium bug scare, the masters of our small universe ask us to believe the world will always end if we grab the oars of our boat from them. Passengers or captains in a stormy sea? That’s the choice.

There were 51 members of the United Nations in 1945. Today there are 193, that’s 142 new countries in 69 years, or roughly two per year. Normal, yes? We make our choice with more information and resource at our disposal than any one of those 142 countries before us.

“Irreversible,” we are told our choice will be. Well, possibly, but then only birth and death truly are. The rest is choice. What’s interesting is that no country in the modern era has chosen to reverse. Ever wonder why?

But still the stories come with the official stamp of disapproval. Dissent, disaster, discord, disruption. “Don’t you dare, Scotland, don’t you dare.” “We love you, don’t leave.” “Don’t you dare Scotland, don’t you dare.”

We have one month to go until the referendum vote is complete. Some of us will be able to start voting by post in under a fortnight. This, unless you were under any illusion to the contrary, is for real now.

When you hold that ballot paper in your hand, for a moment I encourage you to pause, slow down and think like you never have before. Connect head and heart and make your final choice as a whole person. Savour a time in history and democracy that is so very rare.

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Politicians come and go. This is the moment when we, the people, will truly have the power to determine how we want to be led and by whom. This is it.

Forty-seven generations precede us since Scotland was born in 843AD, and countless, we hope, will follow. We are unique in our story to have the power to determine the course of our nation in such a substantial way. Choose well and for the best of reasons, whatever you choose.

Whatever you vote, do so with a long future in mind. Think of the tide of history rather than the choppiness of the waves of the moment. Think about the country and society you want for yourself and the generations to come. This is a big question and the answers we offer in return must be too.

It would have been truly splendid if the choice was between two ambitious and positive visions of what the future of our country could be like.

Instead it is between one ambitious vision on the one side and a litany of “couldn’t and can’t” on the other. The conservatism of “can’t” has a nuclear powered megaphone and the pull of the moon on the fearful.

Reading through all of this to the truth must seem impossible at times for the Scottish Switherer.

Whatever we choose, the world won’t end. The sun will rise in the morning and our daily routine will unfurl much as it did today. But the tide will have turned one way or another and our direction of travel will be set, for generations to come.

We have 193 exemplar countries to learn from. Having Scotland as the 194th will be a positive natural moment for the world. And on it will turn and night will follow day.

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You can’t prove the future. And politicians certainly can’t. The last UK budget had 56 decisions with financial implications. Not one (as far as I can see) was signalled in the party manifestos. This is how it goes. The question in the end is not “show me your project plan” – that’s for managers. This is about who leads us and therefore always “whom do you trust?” and “what future will you choose?”

I choose a free and open world with as few borders as possible. I choose the ties that bind us by family, culture, trade and history. I choose collective endeavour to eradicate poverty, fear and violence wherever it stains our world. I choose to move the power in our politics from Whitehall and Westminster to home.

Mistakes will be made, for sure. They always are. But they will be our own to be fixed. But when we get it right? Just imagine the power for good.

So if you don’t know who to trust in this noisy debate, trust yourself and the people you love. Because together we have the best chance in history to make our own lives – and those that follow – all they can be. This is it. Choose well. «

Twitter: @AndrewWilsonAJW