Tom Peterkin: Too often debates have become sideshows

SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: Earlier in this referendum campaign, Nicola Sturgeon said that she thought Scotland was a “really happy” country at the moment.

There are people who are puzzled that this independence movement seeks to deny them a vote at Westminster. Picture: Getty
There are people who are puzzled that this independence movement seeks to deny them a vote at Westminster. Picture: Getty

Scotland was happy, she thought, because of the “passionate debates” that are taking place in shops, pubs and on street corners. Having had my own conversations in shops, pubs and street corners, I find it difficult to agree with her.

One can see and understand that those, like Sturgeon, who have devoted their entire lives to Scottish Nationalism are loving it as they argue for the cause that they believe so passionately in.

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There are also those who are attracted by the arguments for a Yes vote and who have embraced the argument that today is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to change things for the better and that the benefits of independence will outweigh the risks. With the polls neck and neck these are incredibly exciting times for a Yes camp, which believes that only independence offers the chance to escape a discredited Westminster system. There are others, however, for whom the last few weeks have been far from an uplifting and liberating experience.

There are people who are puzzled that this independence movement, which has been characterised by its supporters as a great blossoming of democracy, seeks to deny them a vote at Westminster. There are also those who have been affected by some of the less-appealing aspects of this campaign. The shrill cries of “traitor” and “quisling” directed at No supporters and politicians have made for an unpleasant backdrop during this “really happy” time. The sinister phone calls received by some Scottish farmers who have dared to display “No Thanks” signs have been disturbing. One friend told me of the Scottish farmer who was accused of being an “English collaborator” when he chanced on someone defacing a Better Together sign in his field.

Admittedly, the Yes side does not have a monopoly on the stupid behaviour found on the fringes, but some of the poison has been deeply unattractive. Mercifully it has not yet gone beyond a nasty sideshow. Nonetheless, it is unsettling.

On a more cerebral level, there are those who feel they are being made to choose between their Scottish and British identities. Moreover, there are those who are dismayed that their country has been split down the middle and who believe that walking away is the last way to solve problems. But whatever the result, the sun will still rise tomorrow morning and life will go on.

There will, however, be a need for everyone to be magnanimous in both victory and defeat, because around half of the Scottish population are going to be desperately, desperately disappointed.