I want Scotland to vote Yes tomorrow. Not just by a small margin, but by an utterly convincing majority. Had you asked me a few weeks ago I would have been far less convinced of this; might even have been a little agnostic on the issue. But the events of the past couple of weeks have convinced me that Scotland needs to vote Yes, not just for her sake, but for England’s too.
I have watched all three Westminster party leaders be panicked by opinion polls into making rash and self-serving promises that will simply serve to send the Union into meltdown. Promises which they may not even be able to deliver on. Promises on behalf of other nations – England, Wales and Northern Ireland – which they have barely deigned to consult.
I have watched three Westminster party leaders scurry up to Scotland in the last couple of weeks of a campaign that has lasted for some eighteen months to deliver from their southern redoubt a plea for Scotland to vote No that has no basis at all in the real interests of the Scottish people who they have ignored for so long.
I have watched a Prime Minister who, eighteen months ago, was so dismissive of the idea of further devolution that he refused to countenance it as a referendum option, now embrace it fully and quickly offer it to the Scottish people.
I have watched a Labour leader muddle his way through his English leadership, ignoring his Scottish heartland and finally wake up to the realisation that his party’s vote is collapsing north of the border.
And is there anything still to say about a Liberal leader whose last unbreakable pledge was reduced to nothing within months of taking office?
There is no doubt in my mind that the Scots should vote Yes if for no other reason than that the referendum campaign, in its last two weeks, has found the Westminster leadership of the Union utterly wanting. Should they do so, the English parties may well each carry out a coup and install new, fresher, more creative leaders who will be forced to face the challenge of re-casting English politics. Scotland voting Yes not only gives the Scots a chance to form their own nation, but gives the English, the Welsh and the Northern Irish too chances to re-mould theirs. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it is in the hands of our northern neighbours. Please, please give us all the chance. Scotland is not just giving themselves the chance of freedom and a brave new world. If she can make the leap, she offers it to all the other parts of the United Kingdom too, and boy do we need it.
I love Scotland and I think the Scots people are inventive, down to earth, witty and wonderful. It is not much surprise that so many Scots have made their way south and then dominated. But my question to them would be why? Why haven’t you stayed to infuse your own nation with your wit and your cleverness and your articulate genius? And the answer surely lies in the fact that the Scots haven’t felt they truly have a nation. They have an adjunct province to a ‘united’ kingdom dominated by one of its constituent parts.
Well, now is the chance for Scots genius and Scots creativity to have a future in its own home. I hope the Scottish people ignore the fear-mongering that has been the only really substantive part of the No campaign. I hope they accept that the creating of a re-born nation is fraught with challenges, but that seizing those challenges with alacrity will offer a far greater opportunity than the reluctant acceptance of the status quo. Nothing worthwhile comes without difficulty, and that is as true of nation-building as anything. As the Scots have watched cynical English politicians troop north at the last minute with hastily cobbled together pledges they should ask whether they really want to vote to keep those same politicians as their leaders. Because that is what a No vote will do.
And as for England, what happens to us if Scotland chooses to go her own way? I have listened with fascination as well meaning English men and women have spoken up about the importance of Scotland and the Scots to the United Kingdom, and wondered where on earth their own sense of English pride has gone. If nothing else, Scottish independence will free the English to rediscover their own national virtues and character.
But there would be more. We would also gain a proudly independent northern neighbour with whom our relations should be able to remain cordial and arguably stronger than they have been before. No longer will Scotland see herself as subject to England, or England view Scotland wearily as a complaining drain on her resources. Two equal and independent kingdoms – united, perhaps, by a common monarch and probably (whisper it quietly) a common currency – will now be able to pursue their relationship in far greater harmony than will be the result from a whimpering No vote.
England will also get the opportunity to re-cast her own politics. The weak, visionless leadership of the parties that has been thrown into stark relief by the referendum campaign is ripe for removal – a Yes vote may just engineer that. We can talk of an English parliament. We may even start to see the flowering of a regionalism that might finally be able to break free of its overpoweringly mediocre leadership. The Welsh and the Northern Irish, too, can breathe new life into their countries either through independence or at the very least a far greater autonomy within a new federation of the island nations.
The United Kingdom is broken. Where once the referendum had the possibility of it continuing as before in the event of a No vote, the sudden U-turns of Cameron and Milliband have now removed that. A No vote plunges us all into the mire of constitutional chaos wrought by inadequate and poll-driven politicians with the political depth of half-filled paddling pools. A Yes vote provides a clear and fresh beginning. Not just for the Scots, but for all of us. For the sake of Scotland, and for the sake of the UK as a whole, I hope the Scots vote Yes tomorrow.