When we wake up on the 19th, whatever the result of the referendum vote, the UK will be altered completely. And we have the blinkered establishment elites to thank for it.
If the vote is to regain independence the UK will be shattered, its influence on the world stage greatly reduced; the rump UK will be Belgium, only with a government. If the vote is for the retention of the union then we will enter into a period of federal readjustment with the justifiable demand for greater autonomy not only for Wales but for the regions of England. On the 19th we will wake to a radically different UK.
Since the beginning of the campaign two and a half long years ago those arguing for separation have presented a vision for a future Scotland. That vision may well be flawed but it presents a hope for a future. Those campaigning to retain the UK have maundered on about how it will cost every one of us either £500 or £1000 a year if we regain our independence. What they have never done in any coherent fashion is present a vision of a future UK.
This was exemplified last week when, suddenly frightened by the polls, the two main party leaders, David Cameron for the Conservatives and Ed Miliband for Labour were joined by Nick Clegg from the Lib Dems on a sudden cross-border raid into Scotland. Did they really imagine a quick visit from three posh rich boys from the south of England telling us how much they wanted us was going to be anything but counter-productive?
It is as if Westminster didn’t realise that a major reason for the demand for independence is the desire to be done with Westminster and its party fixers, shady political deals, outright lies and scandals. It’s all too easy to say ‘We can do better than that’. The idea that an independent Scotland will be free of shady political deals is a fantasy, but at least it is not the certainty of more of the same.
Ed Miliband did stay on whilst the other two rushed back to their comfort zone of London. But then Miliband has more to lose. Without a reliable block of Labour MPs his chance of gaining and keeping power is greatly diminished. Again his speech and the posters displayed were about the cash cost of independence. There was even a giant placard displaying the projected cost of household items before and after independence, as though we were going to decide the future of our country for many generations on the price of a pack of frozen peas.
In Scotland we have heads, but we also have hearts. This referendum is about the nuts and bolts of which currency we will use, how we will raise taxes and distribute them, and yes, even the price of frozen peas can be taken into consideration. But it is about more than that, it is about how we see our future, it is about our vision for Scotland.
We have rarely had emphasised the very real achievements of the UK, other than sporting achievements. The threat seems to be that if Scotland leaves the union we will win fewer medals at future Olympic Games; oh, the horror of it all.
More importantly we have never been presented with a clear vision of a future united UK. At a moment like this when the future of the UK is on a knife edge the prospect of more of the same is hardly enticing.
Since the union the UK has achieved a great deal. We certainly have made mistakes, but we have also given the world much. The UK has been a hot bed of innovation, development and culture. Together we have had an impact intellectually and politically far outweighing our numbers.
People decry the empire, and it is a good thing it is gone. But don’t be led down the path of chronological arrogance and decry it because it didn’t match up to 21st century political correctness. In an age of empire most of the subjugated peoples of the world would have preferred British rule to any other, especially the Belgian.
It was Britain and her empire who stood alone against fascism and Nazism whilst the rest of the world looked on. There is the story of the Scottish private on the beach at Dunkirk who remarked to his sergeant, ‘If the English surrender it’s going to be a long war’. But the English didn’t surrender and together we gave the rest of the world a chance to save itself.
Here in the UK we are far from perfect, glaring flaws exist in our society, but we still have much to offer each other and the world, much more than we can separately. Scotland can go it alone, there is no doubt about that. The question is not can we, but should we.
Never has the verse from Proverbs seemed more applicable, ‘Where there is no vision the people perish’.