Leaders: Temper referendum passion with respect

Picture: Jane Barlow
Picture: Jane Barlow
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A year from today, Scotland will go to the polls to decide whether the United Kingdom has had its day, or is to be given a new lease of life.

The referendum on Scottish independence will be a truly historic moment for this country. Inevitably it is one that will see passions run high as each side tries to best the other on arguments of the head and the heart.

That is how it should be. Each side’s positions must come under searching scrutiny by the other. This decision is too important to be decided on half-baked and under-developed thinking, on either side. Rigor and clarity must be the watchwords as we approach some extremely thorny problems of state and statehood.

But we also have to be realistic. What has become apparent in the past 12 months is that not all the questions a reasonable person might be expected to ask of the Yes and No camps will be answered by the time we get to 18 September 2014.

Some questions – such as the terms under which an independent Scotland would gain entry to the European Union; or the arrangements for sharing the pound; or the terms of entry into Nato – are only likely to be answered in full in the detailed negotiations that would follow a Yes vote.

Similarly, the exact terms of any extension of devolution that might follow a No vote are unlikely to be known in minute detail before polling day.

These are the known unknowns, to borrow a phrase from another context. And we would be wise at this stage in the campaign to accept this state of affairs as unavoidable. Each side’s offering to the voters this time next year will, by necessity, be partial.

Put these factors aside, however, and there is a wealth of other ideas and information that will be crucial to the process by which individual Scots will reach a decision about their nation’s future, and by extension their own future too.

These will, as we say, be debated with passion, and no-one would want that any different.

As we move into the final 12 months, however, one consideration must be paramount. The debate must be carried out in mature and respectful tones. We must guard against the referendum entrenching a division in Scottish society that survives beyond polling day. When the dust settles on this referendum, we are all going to have to get along with each other, living and working side by side, in whatever new political climate prevails.

That means the way all interested parties in this debate conduct themselves will be crucial to Scotland’s long-term social and economic interests.

This debate must be conducted with passion, of course, but it must also be conducted with responsibility.

The conduct of both sides must not be inflammatory, derogatory or insulting. We must respect each other as fellow Scots, with a longer term focus than the vote a year from today.

Tracking success of homegrown hero

Between them, the careers of Sir Jackie Stewart and Dario Franchitti span half a century of Scottish success at the top of the world of motor racing.

They are exemplars of the disproportionate influence this small country has had in one of the most glamorous and high-octane sports of them all.

This week they have come together to promote the cause of a fellow Scottish motor racing star whose influence, they argue, we should be doing more to remember, and to honour.

Jim Clark was more than just a great driver. He was a man whose admirable personal qualities – bravery, quiet confidence, inner calm – were demonstrably the basis for his sporting success. And in a sport perhaps too full of big egos and swaggering arrogance, his modesty made an impression on everyone who witnessed it.

Perhaps as a result, he gained a following worldwide that was attracted not just by his great triumphs behind the wheel, but by the man who achieved those triumphs. He was – is – undoubtedly one of the greats.

Fans of Jim Clark – and Sir Jackie Stewart and Dario Franchitti are proud to be counted among them – are pressing for an extension of the small museum that already exists in the Berwickshire town of Duns to encompass a range of sporting memorabilia and some of the cars he drove to global success.

This is a commendable project, and it has this newspaper’s backing.

For such a sport-loving country, we are sometimes guilty of not sufficiently celebrating the individual achievements of some of our own. Backing a new Jim Clark museum in the part of the world he called home would be a good way to start remedying that.