….so – why are we doing this, again? I mean – a Blog. 50 days to go, and starting a blog on the Scottish Independence Referendum. Why put myself through this? (So I know that is kind of 3 questions – why ‘Yes’, why get involved, and why do a blog – and I’ll hope to cover each of them over time. Yes. Those 50 days of time. Hopefully in the first of those days, to get on to more interesting stuff for the bulk of the rest of the time…)
Let me be clear (in case you haven’t got it already, from the lack of style) – I’ve never done a blog before, so this is an unexplored medium as far as I’m concerned (and I may well edit posts after publication, with additional information, to try and improve them, so don’t be surprised or complain if that happens). And it is not like it is even an ‘easy’ option to take: the Sunday Express revealed back in March, that those intending to vote Yes in the Referendum are almost three times as likely to suffer abuse or threats as those intending to vote No (21%, as opposed to 8%). As my favourite uncle once pithily put it, “if you stick your bum out the window, people will throw things at it” (Confucius never managed a line as snappy as my Somerset-based Uncle Will). So it’s not exactly a top strategy for making new friends. Yet I do feel that building sense of necessity – urgency, even.
I’ve just spent another Saturday indoors – knowing that there is a need for people to be out there, supporting the Yes campaign, covering stalls, canvassing, leaflets…just plain talking to people. But fear holds me back. A victory of the self-styled ‘Project Fear’? Not really…more a fear of politics. I should admit that I once got involved in student politics, and at that time, in the process of getting elected, I thought that the hardest aspect was to sell the idea of oneself to an electorate. In retrospect, that seems so easy – it is (comparatively) easy to believe in yourself, and if you fail you only let yourself down. But this? This is Huge. What if you say the wrong thing? What if someone provokes you? If you drop your argument at a crucial time, make a mistake? The fear of that kind of political failure – the potential resulting loss of some votes that could be critical – THAT is a sense of crushing responsibility.
I came close to starting a blog before, right at the very start of 2014 – the pressure was building then, too, the need to communicate, to be part of the interchange and dialogue. And then…there came the ‘Sermon on the Pound’ in the middle of February, after the spectacular implosion of Cameron’s Olympic stadium ‘lovebombing’ request – and (along with some others) I thought: ‘wow – have they just deliberately thrown the Referendum?’ The pressure to participate disappeared entirely – the opposition was happily shooting itself in the foot, so there was no ‘need’ for me to be involved, just sit back and let them get on with it – and gratefully I receded back into the darker shadows, filled with a new confidence that I didn’t really need to do anything after all.
But now its 50 days to go, and time is running out, and I know that now I have to do this. Earlier, I listened to an interview with someone coming from a very different context to myself, an ex-army Orange Order woman from Bathgate, Lauren Reid, saying that she would never forgive herself if there was a ‘No’ vote and she had not done everything that she could have done to try and get a ‘Yes’. And I got that. Because – either way, either result (to have lost without doing anything, or to win without being able to sincerely feel an ‘earned’ part of that victory) – I know that I would not forgive myself if I failed to actually take an active part in this. It’s important to take responsibility – and just as voting for independence is about taking responsibility for, and ownership of, our actions, so it is also important not just to vote, but also to participate in the campaign (on whichever side), and make it as widespread an expression of the will of the people who live in Scotland.
Don’t get me wrong – I’d love to not be doing this, or not to FEEL that I have to do this…but I just can’t. It’s not as simple as that, when you have a fairly good idea (from the mouths of the Westminster parties involved) of what is coming over the hill as a consequence of a ‘No’ vote.
And it is neither pretty, nor is it the status quo.
“There are times when a country needs troublemakers. This is one.” (Ian Hamilton QC)