Today I had a great discussion with my new colleagues about the referendum on Scottish Independence and there were strong views held on both sides. But what struck us all in the end was the lack of answers we had about any of the issues or indeed the standard of the public debate on the issues involved. The conclusion we came to is that the only losers in the whole thing will be us.
While I am against the separation of Scotland from the UK, I am interested in the discussions that surround this issue and how we will be affected by the decision either way. Here is where the problems start – we are less than a year away from voting on this but the campaigns from both sides have been largely tit-for-tat arguments about the semantics used, or the questionable stats used on both sides, or even the figureheads on either side of the debate being divisive characters with both Salmond and Darling polarizing opinion.
The debate has predictably become about the political parties and less about the issues with the on-going nonsense about the Labour for Independence fracas with allegations of lies and fakery on both sides. The thought that I am left with is if we can’t have decent public discussion about a hugely important issue then we’re not ready for the outcome either way. This should be about more than the silly stories, it should be about this country and why we are or aren’t better off in every sense of the phrase with being a sovereign state.
I think we got things the wrong way round – we should have had the conversation first about the kind of country we all want to live in before worrying about polling stations, percentages and wording of questions. We should have had a grown up talk about the poverty issues, the decline of traditional manufacture, the cultural heritage, the services this country needs and more without the political parties playing games with the discussions trying to win points off each other. The sad truth is that we haven’t actually started having a real debate – it’s been primary school level mudslinging which doesn’t show us in a favourable light. We need an independent source of facts and figures, the Office for National Statistics and the treasury have the basic details the layman on the street wants to hear about how it will affect their lives, their families, their mortgages and their livelihoods.
With the basic in place then the discussion would open up. Then it would become a real chance to make the country great regardless of the outcome of the vote because we would have collated all the ideas and possibilities that were desired by the five million people here north of the border. All that I see happening is that this is causing divisions that will not be forgotten after the vote – and if it’s a close vote then the problems that have led us to this point will not go away and we will be worse off as a country whether we go it alone or not. I want a discussion, not a shouting match; I want a conversation, not an accusation; I want Scotland to be great, not split.
As one of my colleagues put it, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for everyone to have their say regardless of their political stance or even where they fall on this specific issue. We’re losing grip of that and that is something that will be regretted in years to come. Yes the press have their bias, yes both sides will lie and deceive, yes the propaganda will be spun until we’re all dizzy – but this about where we live and who we are and if we can’t take that seriously and sit down as a nation to talk it through we don’t deserve a country as vast, varied and fantastic as this one.
While I’ll probably vote No come next August, it won’t be with any sense of pride in either Scotland or the UK; it will be an act of mercy to save us from ourselves.