news Thursday, January 29, 2015 - 05:30

Rebecca Megson | The News Minute | September 17, 2014 | 08:39 am IST

It was a bout of insomnia a couple of weeks ago that first got me into the Scottish referendum debate. Unable to sleep I turned first to one online news channel and then to another. Eventually I ambled onto Twitter and Youtube to see what people were saying there.

I have wondered if something similar happened to Prime Minister David Cameron. One night, about a fortnight ago, unable to sleep he must’ve checked his phone and come across some extraordinary figures that suggested that the unthinkable was happening: The Scottish ‘Yes’ to independence campaign was catching up, and rapidly too, on what had been a comfortable lead for the ‘No’ campaign.

I imagine this was worse than any ice bucket challenge nomination for the Prime Minster. Politicians aren’t, on the whole, very good sports. They don’t like loosing things, like elections or wars, for example. But I expect losing part of the country whilst you’re in charge of it is probably high on the list of things ‘Definitely Not To Do’ when Prime Minister.

Up until my sleepless research I’ll confess, I hadn’t given the referendum too much thought. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t care, I didn’t really know what there was to care about. And it wasn’t my referendum, I didn’t really feel invited to have an opinion on the subject.

I thought it was good that the Scottish had the opportunity to vote on the matter. Conversation around me on the subject didn’t stretch much beyond the theoretical discussion about redesigning the union flag if Scotland did leave. It was pleasant, distant. Probably not unlike the feeling that the Scots have when things are being decided upon in the Westminster parliament…

David Cameron

My late night Internet ramblings however suggested that loosing Scotland had some bigger implications than I had thought about. Firstly there’s the issue of Trident. Relocating the UK’s nuclear weapon system is going to be neither logistically nor politically straightforward. No one else is likely to want to house the thing and nowhere, outside of Scotland, do we have the capability right now to transfer it to.

Then there are economic issues associated with North Sea Oil and whether Scotland will have her own currency; what will happens to the banking system and the national debt. It quickly becomes dizzyingly complex and bears all the hallmarks of the now overworked metaphor of the failed marriage.

But what struck me hardest was the idea that the door to Scotland would suddenly become shut to me. I’d have to get permission to cross into a country that I can freely move in and out of right now. I imagine Cameron feels the same. It’s one thing if you’re not bothered about your spouse. It’s quite another to find that they’ve changed the locks on you and you can’t get in anymore.

Talking today with a passionate advocate for the Yes campaign however I feel less personally rejected. Scotland is rather like the neglected wife who has decided to stop waiting for hubby to pay attention to her and treat her with respect. She has instead accessed her ‘real woman’ sense of self without him. And she looks stunning with it too. She’s got attitude, she’s got a plan and she’s shaking that grey haired, middle-aged mediocre man off, in pursuit of adventure. Dave’s ‘devo-max’ promises look like a bunch of wilted petrol station flowers – a feeble attempt at wooing sexy, confident Scotland back. But it’s just too little and it’s likely that it’s way too late now.

And I suddenly find myself hoping that it is too late. Because what if Scotland can do it? What if she can go it alone, maintain her 97% registered electorate and develop into a society that is focused on social justice and welfare? What if we lived next door to a country that was able to prove you don’t need to privatise your schools and your hospitals? What if our neighbouring country was able to offer something different to austerity measures? What if she could become an example to us of how democracy can engage and work? What if devolution spread further south…?

We’re increasingly a politically apathetic lot in the UK (I’m excluding Scotland at this present moment, obviously). We don’t vote and what’s worse we don’t care because so many of us don’t truly believe that it makes any difference anyway. All our politicians look the same and talk the same. They went to school together and that binds them more effectively than any political party affiliation they profess to share with us.

South of the border we didn’t engage in the Scottish referendum debate because we weren’t encouraged to by our centralised government. This same government is as dismissive of and distant from us in England and Wales and Northern Ireland as it is of Scotland. And it suits them that we don’t engage in politics and we don’t differentiate between them. It means we ask less of them and let them get away with (in the main) whatever they want to do.

But. What if there was another way? What if loosing Scotland helps us find our own route to democracy? What if issues like nuclear armament, that have long been taken off any table that the common people are allowed to sit at, are returned, to the electorate, for them to have their say?

So, on the eve of the referendum I say, Go Scotland! Take that independence and make it work, for yourself, and for the rest of us. Be the democratic role model that we can look up to and say, ‘She did it, so can we.’

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