Ever wonder if it’s worth it? Ever think to yourself that while you’re sure about independence personally, you have real doubts about your fellow Scots making it work?
I have to admit I do. The degree of self-doubt, ignorance, lack of interest and all-round cynicism is sometimes near overwhelming. And if that accounts for a majority, as the polls indicate right now, it must lead to concerns of how well we will cope if there is eventually a narrow Yes.
Will all those doubting Scots, the disparagers and naysayers, suddenly accept that it’s over and it is time for them to move on. They will then transform themselves into active, ambitious independistas and put their shoulder to the weal?
I had three encounters in the last week that led to these thoughts. The first was from a businessman who intervened in a discussion about independence which had been positive. We were developing points about inter-country relationships, Westminster shortcomings etc when he stepped in. “I would never vote for that balloon from Aberdeenshire (I assume Salmond) or that loser Sturgeon. I work in England a lot and I never have any trouble being a Scot.”
And that was it. In essence, he despised the First Minister and Deputy and wasn’t racially abused when travelling in the South. Therefore he didn’t need nor want his country to be independent. It was one of those moments where I simply didn’t know where to start so I didn’t. You can’t really argue with deep personal animosity and he is entitled to his view. But, I wonder, what will his attitude be if we vote Yes? I suppose whatever his misgivings he will have to carry on to keep the business going and will be irritated at any administrative loose ends created – if any – by cross-border trade, although I would think that can only relate for example to where he pays tax as there is no trade barrier in the EU. But his view seemed to be based on hatred of politicians – very common – and a skewed version of identity politics. To me, it didn’t sound as if Scotland has such played much of a role in his life.
The other example put to me is out of the Better Together Fear playbook. The question I was asked is, basically: Oil is the only real asset we have and what happens when it runs out. If we are looking ahead say 30 years, you are imagining a horizon of shifting sands. It’s hard to say what the economy will look like but that surely applies to the UK too. Oil is less a percentage of Scotland’s economy than it is in Norway and financial services is one massive basket of highly dubious value to the whole UK as events of the last five years have shown. In any case how do they think Denmark will survive in 30 years time – minus oil – or Norway or New Zealand, living without the open trade area of Europe and lacking its subsidies? I mean, how the hell does any country survive…?
Are we devoid of thrust, drive, ingenuity…have we no smarts, as the kiwis would say? How cowed have we become that some of our mature intelligent citizens have such a craven and self-denigrating view of themselves and their country? Do they look at the spires on Gilmorehill and see only Glasgow University or do they also perceive world class education which brings in students from around the globe and which enhances our society at every level including the economy…are they unaware of the strength of our renewables industry and its potential…or of life sciences…digital technology sector…our still strong financial companies and the massive associated areas of tourism and food and drink? And, yes, oil and gas. And fishing…
My point is that I wonder if we deserve independence because, let’s be honest, voting Yes is only the start. The real work begins afterwards and there will be no hiding place and plenty of opportunity for the doom-mongers to complain and criticise.
My third engagement was entirely different. It was with one of the leaders of the Yes campaign who was brimming with optimism and genuine belief. He told me: “You know we’re going to win this.” He is compelling – and logical. It isn’t just assertion. Yet I was burdened by the memory of the cynics and there is an aspect of the Scottish psyche that makes the gloomy ring true. Have we come to believe that were are not deserving of anything better? That getting the best and being bright and self-assured is something for others to enjoy.
We really are too ready to accept the criticisms of others. It’s as if we have no fight. That we are to be scoffed at, as if London ministers telling us no one will want to defend our country, that we wont be able to create an intelligence service or we will turn on ethnic minorities, is somehow what we deserve. Perhaps we really are broken as a nation. Perhaps the truth is that after all of those years and all that social conditioning, we accept deep down that we are in effect British now before we are Scots, something I believe a No vote will indicate.
The tragic side of this is that it isn’t really the fault of those British ministers. They’re actually giving us our cue to wake up and realise how they truly view us, which seems to be with ill-disguised scorn. The fault lies with the Scots, as it always has. It is our own people who are the block to the kind of change that might unlock a better future and yet so many of them are content to be led by those whose case is built almost entirely on emphasising our perceived inadequacies – not just subsidy-dependent and not clever enough to run our own institutions – but in the mouth of a self-declared leftie like George Galloway, incipiently racist. So – as Ian Smart and Jack McConnell also tweeted – we will eventually turn on immigrant people to vent our frustration when we fail. Can you imagine the enormity of the insult that implies to all Scots…that first, our attempts at running our own affairs will fail (because were not up to it?) and then, our cleverly conceal hatred of foreigners and Scots of overseas origin will erupt in what – a Golden Dawn riot of racist violence?…this from the so-called Left.
The depths of their national self-loathing seem to be unlimited. Of course if we believe in our country’s ability to run our own affairs, we are, according to the main party of the Left, a virus infecting everyone. Wasn’t McConnell proposed for a gathering of former First Ministers to help negotiate a deal with London? Why doesn’t that fill me with optimism?
The only brightness I encountered was with our friend at the Yes campaign where it seems the optimism is of heroic proportions. I know there are critics of Yes but when you look around at the unremitting tirade of belittling propaganda I think you have to salute their virtuous sense of mission and belief.
(and I’m feeling better now, thank you)