Andrew Wilson: Independence chance is fleeting

THE tears came, suddenly and unexpectedly. I was ­sitting in my car, having just posted my referendum vote into the Royal Mail box in my village.

Scotland will vote whether to remain or leave the United Kingdom next month. Picture: PA

They only lasted a few seconds, and I quickly calmed myself, dried my eyes and headed off to work for another day. But the feeling stayed with me for hours afterwards.

These were not tears for the glory of Scotland’s journey – that’s not ­really my thing. Nor were they tears of joy. I was hit by something much deeper, more personal and very close to home. I’m not sure I can even ­explain what happened.

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But let me try. Earlier, I had marked a cross beside Yes on my postal vote while looking at the photographs of the three darling children I live with and try my best to be a good dad to. I am never quite sure how I am doing at that. For one reason and another we have been through quite a year ­together.

After posting my ballot, I climbed back into my car and looked towards the house of a woman who is good friend to me and to many others in the village. Her family has just been dealt some desperately tough and unfair news. Perspective, right there.

I thought about her, then I thought about one of my dearest friends who died this time last year at far too young an age. He would have given his soul to have done what I had just done. We met at university, and from then on were joined at the hip by our belief that independence would help the people we came from, in Lanarkshire, a hard land with soft hearts.

Tommy was never off my back ­telling me what I should be thinking, doing and saying. He was never ­happy with me for giving up on ­political service. Clever, passionate Tommy. I miss him so.

And I thought back to all the hours I had put in over the years for a cause in which I believed so strongly, St Jude watching over me all the while. I thought about the lampooning and pillorying I and others had taken for following what was then a minority pursuit. It continues even now, if less so.

I thought of love that had been ­sacrificed and lost to the commitment of time and energy elsewhere, and the mistake I made in doing so. That it all had come to this, all of a sudden, overwhelmed me in that ­moment.

And so I wept briefly but hard. And then remembered myself, perspective and the call of life. And forward I drove.

What strikes me more with each day that passes now is that the emphasis in our collective heart, mind and soul has left the fray of the fight behind. This for us is no longer about the noisy clash on policy or detail. We have heard what the politicians have to say. A mother’s calming finger is now resting lovingly on their lips. We know what we have to do.

This is no longer about the clamour of debate although on it will ring. This is no longer about promises or fears.

This is about something much deeper, more enduring and profoundly personal. This is about a myriad of personal choices about what this will mean for ourselves and the people we love. Hearts and minds are opening and reaching their own conclusion. The question is not what the project plan looks like or what the balance sheet will be. They will be.

It is not about economists, actuaries or accountants, less still about the lawyers. They will serve the people whatever we decide. We can all weigh up the evidence but the future cannot be proven either way. We can look back at the lessons of history. We can look around us to the lessons of elsewhere. But ultimately this is about ourselves and the future, nothing else.

We take this decision with more wealth and information at our disposal than any of the 142 other countries that took this step since the end of the Second World War. We start with a higher living standard than any of them did and much of the infrastructure and people we need already in place.

Compared to the risks that are real in a turbulent world the real risks of this choice are but a choppy wave. This is not about “couldn’t” or “can’t”, it is about “should”. And for me, at least, it is now about “must”.

This is our moment and we may not pass this way again. This is our chance to hand a magnificent toolbox to our children and work with them to build the country we can become.

This will be no Easy Street. This is no free lunch. Nothing will be for nothing. But the fruits of our labours shall be ours to earn and share with the world that needs them. This is the point.

Nothing becomes a person like the liberating power of self-belief and self-reliance.

Nothing makes sharing so sweet as knowing you have contributed to what is shared. This is the opportunity of the moment.

Only 18 sleeps to go and the decision will be done and one more step along the world we shall go.

This looks like it just might happen.­ It will be the making of us all. «

Twitter: @AndrewWilsonAJW