SOMEONE said to me recently that Alex Salmond has “divided a nation” with the independence referendum, but if division is about discussion, about debate, even friendly argument, with so many people engaged in something as important as the future direction of my country, then I’m absolutely all for it.
I heard someone discuss this on the radio the other morning and he said his family were Italian – and they often have loud, vociferous family arguments about kinds of things – but they still loved each other…
I think it’s wonderful that a small nation like Scotland can reach this point in considering its future direction with what has been a campaign of hope, optimism and positivity.
But before I set out my reasons for voting Yes I should remind folk that I’m not a politician – mind you, that’s not stopped Danny Alexander from becoming First Secretary to the Treasury!
I don’t think anyone who has watched any of my television programmes could be in any doubt as to my love of Scotland, my passion for the hills and mountains and wild places, its history and legends, but of course independence is much more than that.
I’m at an age where the result next month won’t actually make all that much difference to my career, or my finances, or how I feel about Scotland, but I actually have two very important reasons for voting YES – and they are aged seven and five!
I really don’t want my granddaughters to grow up in a Scotland that is governed by a Westminster elite that has no concern or vision for a more equal society.
I don’t want them governed by a privileged few that have absolutely no commitment to the protection of the most vulnerable in society.
I don’t want them to grow up in a country that harbours weapons of mass destruction.
I don’t want them governed by people who, when they talk about “times of economic uncertainty”, actually mean fluctuating oil revenues or increased borrowing costs, rather than the economic uncertainty of insecure or poorly paid work, and food banks, and pay-day loans and the kind of deprivation that sees one in four men in Glasgow die before the age of 65!
I don’t want them to grow up in a Scotland where one in five children are in poverty.
In my lifetime the UK has had five Tory governments, and the people of Scotland didn’t vote for any of them.
I want my granddaughters to grow up in a Scotland where, if our government is cheating on us, or telling us lies, or producing legislation that puts the most vulnerable at risk, we can simply sack them, by not voting them into power again.
With a Westminster government the like of which we have at the moment, we can’t do that, or we can, but only with the unlikely help of Middle England. And it’s become increasingly clear over the years that the political aims and ambitions of Scotland and Middle England are poles apart.
I believe, like many others, that Scotland’s future should be in Scotland’s hands, so that we can together build that better, fairer, greener, more prosperous country that we all know is possible – a fairer and more equal society, a nuclear-free society, an environmentally sensitive society with a burgeoning renewable energy industry, and one in which we can bring to an end the grotesque situation where 7% of people own 84% of the land.
We talk endlessly about the importance of democracy but how democratic is the current UK set-up?
Let’s not forget that as a nation state the United Kingdom was an imperialist construct. To this very day it retains the undemocratic trappings of such a concept:
A hereditary head of state,
An unelected second chamber,
No written constitution and
A ruling elite drawn from a narrow, privately educated strata of society.
It’s time for fundamental change.
Let me ask you a question. How do you see Scotland? Do you see it as a poor, wee, grey northern country with its hand out for more and more subsidies?
If you do perhaps you need a paradigm shift. You know these drawings you see of an ugly old person, but the harder you look the vision changes to that of a handsome young person?
An optical illusion that demonstrates the way in which a paradigm shift could cause you to see the same information in an entirely different way. Maybe some of us need to start looking at Scotland through different eyes.
A Scotland with the potential to be amongst the five wealthiest nations in the world.
A Scotland with enough natural resources to create a huge renewables energy industry that could be the envy of the world.
A Scotland with massive oil reserves,
A Scotland with a hugely successful whisky industry,
A Scotland with enormous agricultural and fishery resources,
A Scotland that has the best educated society in the world,
A Scotland with a diverse and hugely talented workforce,
A Scotland that has a well loved song that is sung around the world every New Year,
A Scotland whose people are welcomed wherever they go, from Tibet to Timbuctoo…
Think of these things, then look at that grey old picture of poor wee Scotland once again.
Two years ago I walked through Scotland from end to end, 470 miles from Kirk Yetholm in the Borders to Cape Wrath.
I walked through the country because it’s only by walking that you can actually hear the heartbeat of the land; it’s only by walking that you can read the small print of a nation.
In the course of that long walk I saw a land that was rich in potential, from the fertile argricultural lands of the Borders to the world-leading engineering example of the brilliant Falkirk Wheel, to the natural resource potential of renewable energy – wind, wave, tidal and of course, the world famous landscapes of Scotland that attracts visitors from all over the world.
Earlier this summer I cycled the length of Ireland, from Mizen Head in the south to Malin Head in north Donegal.
In the course of that my mate Hamish and I were astounded by the apparent affluence of the place. We cycled on roads that were well cared for and smooth.
We never had less than four bars on our mobiles and even in remote places like the Aran Islands or the west coast of Clare we had Wi-Fi in every bed and breakfast and hostel we stayed in.
And in the course of dozens of conversations no-one at all, absolutely no-one, thought it would be good if Ireland once again became part of the UK.
And do you know this – recently Ireland was voted as the best place to live, in the world. A small, independent nation, just like Scotland could be.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Scotland is too wee, or too poor, or too dim, to go it alone.
Let me finish by sharing the advice of the arch-capitalist himself, the former pin up boy of Margaret Thatcher – Richard Branson.
This is what he said; “If someone offers you an amazing opportunity and you’re not too sure you can do it, say yes anyway – then learn how to do it later.”
I think that’s fine advice. On September 18th let’s say YES, and set out on that adventure together, overcome the difficulties and strive for the summit.
I’ll be voting Yes so that Scotland and England can enjoy the relationship of equals that the Union, in over 300 years, has never actually delivered.
Thank you. Saor Alba gu Brath!