Gina Davidson: A long and winding road to decision day

A week to go. My how the time has flown. Kind of like a butterfly with waterlogged wings, or an oil-slicked seagull, or a penguin. You catch my drift.
Nicola Sturgeon  on the campaign trail. Picture: PANicola Sturgeon  on the campaign trail. Picture: PA
Nicola Sturgeon on the campaign trail. Picture: PA

It’s only been 18 months since the SNP government announced the September 18 date, but it feels like this independence referendum debate has been going on far longer, and I suppose it has ever since it became apparent that that Nationalists were in it at Holyrood to win it.

They might not have jumped when Wendy Alexander (remember her?) told them to come ahead, but they’re certainly now ahead in terms of momentum, as well as one poll, and may well still be next Thursday.

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I have no idea how the result will go. But for the record here are the few thoughts I have had along the road to the referendum,

1. There are no good metaphors for the relationship between Scotland and England. The whole trope that Scotland is a domestic abuse victim is in such poor taste it’s hard to believe anyone, especially a female MSP, thought it was a good idea to compare a country’s sovereignty to someone’s real life, life-or-death situation.

Nor is Scotland like apartheid South Africa. No-one was having their entitlement to vote withheld from them, and certainly not because of the colour of their skin. Nor is it an enslaved nation, requiring emancipation.

For too long there has been apathy when it comes to elections, possibly because of a feeling that it didn’t matter who you voted for, all parties/politicians are ultimately the same and nothing ever changes, but apathy is the luxury of democracy and Scotland is a democratic nation – more so even than England given our proportional representation system.

Also Scotland is not the giant at the top of the beanstalk demanding it’s golden egg-laying goose back. It is a nation flexing it’s constitutional muscle to see if it still works. Whether it will want to use it to land a knockout blow, or be content in knowing its own power, we’ll have to wait and see. Yes, yes, another poor metaphor.

2. Voting Yes and deciding whether or not to have another drink are not the same thing. If you are intending to split the UK and end a 300-year union, then you better have had a good think about it rather than just “What the hell, go on then, where’s the harm?” So perhaps you should read all those leaflets coming through the door and have an actual reason.

3. There are lies, damned lies and oil revenue statistics. Who really knows how much oil is left in the North Sea and how much money it might make and how much tax it could bring to either British or Scottish exchequers? Nobody. Not for an actual fact. It’s all could-bes and maybes, so let’s not pretend otherwise. Like much of what is said about life in Scotland post-independence. It’s about whether you’re happy with taking the risk.

4. It counts for nought how eminent, respected, learned or expert you are in your field. If your view does not coincide with the one I* hold, it and you will be trashed. Same goes for opinion polls.

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*I being one or more of the extreme elements in the campaigning groups, not me obviously.

5. Scotland isn’t a left-wing country. Centre-left to an extent perhaps, but there are vast swathes outside the Central Belt who would never think about voting for hard-left parties, and indeed the Scottish Socialists fail to be represented today at Holyrood while the Scottish Greens are just two. Surely, given our PR system, this would be different if people really wanted to head in the polar opposite direction to Westminster?

6. It’s hard to counter optimism. Being professional cynics, whose role in life is to question everyone and everything, it’s odd for journalists to suddenly be told they’re negative or scaremongering by asking the kind of hard questions people would expect them to ask of politicians in any other situation. Hope, faith and pixie dust is not what the media is made of.

7. There have been some wonderful, heartfelt feelings expressed on both sides of the debate. The whole question has made many people search their souls to discover how they really feel – are they Scottish or British? What does British mean any more anyway? The answers are incredibly personal, and should not be mocked by either side.

8. Nicola Sturgeon and Ruth Davidson are very fine politicians. Both have shone through this campaign and would no doubt raise their game even more in an independent country. Labour is in dire need of a new hand on the tiller.

By this time next week the polling stations will be open, and the fate of Scotland will be in the balance. Make sure you’re confident in your decision. Make sure you vote. And whatever the result, I hope we can all live with it.