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Postcards From The Edge

imagesRight now I’m sitting in The Counting House, just off Queen Street Station in Glasgow.

It’s a little before eight on the night before Scotland votes in the independence referendum. I am writing this as my country stands poised on the edge of history.

I am sitting in one of the little rooms off the main body of the bar, with my back against the wall. To my right is a window looking out onto the corner of St Vincent Place and Queen Street.

Night is falling, but if I look up and into the next room I can still see George Square through the window, a sea of people, flags, muted colour. Things look calm and relaxed.

It’s an incongruous sight just the same. Earlier today I spent some time down in the Square, listening to people and talking to my fellow Scots.

It’s been a wonderful day, full of good cheer and folk who are excited and hopeful. The atmosphere is friendly and optimistic. Bella Caledonia has already called it The Butterly Rebellion, and that seems so very, very apt.

I spent some of the time today talking with a young guy called Matt Lygate. He is better known to Yes activists as the crazy dude in the rickshaw who told the people of Glasgow to “bow down to your imperial masters” earlier in the month, in one of the best, and most memorable, moments of the campaign so far.

Matt is everything you want the New Scotland to be, the perfect encapsulation of our dreams and our ambitions as a country. He’s articulate, smart, passionate and motivated by the things we all want New Scotland to strive for; social justice, equality, compassion, determination and hope.

His archaic, brilliant, irreverent and peculiarly Scottish response to Better Together’s last act of sheer desperation has drawn mixed responses, depending on the audience. The general public loved it. The world’s press embraced it as a wonderfully inventive way to make a deadly serious point.

In this country, the media response has been different. Here this act, indeed almost every act where Better Together has sent in the clowns and drawn a circus, has been treated as if it were an assassination attempt. Here, Matt and his guys have been vilified by a media that accused him of being aggressive and intimidatory. All I can say is that if a bunch of our most senior politicians really are spooked by two guys with a pedal bike and a tape machine then we’re in deep shit when we have to negotiate with Russia.

Confidence is high here, but then I’m literally in the beating heart of Glasgow’s Yes community, on the final day of campaigning before the curtain goes up on the most important day of our lives.

Better Together thinks we’re wasting that day, but if the people of Scotland haven’t decided yet then I don’t know that another full day on the stump would have convinced them. Scotland is as well briefed and as well qualified to decide as she will ever be.

The moment feels right. It’s our time now. The world is watching us, and all we have to do is vote to join the family of nations with hope in our hearts.

I’ve read people who said this is a weird confluence of historical circumstances. That it’s bad luck coupled with a general falling out of love with politics. I’ve read others say that we’re here because of a series of mistakes, and others say we’ve been duped. Millions of us.

We haven’t arrived here by accident. The momentum of history has carried us down this road, and if you wanted to you could trace it back, step by step, to the roots of the democratic deficit, to the years of Thatcher and some would trace it back even before that.

Independence is the natural evolution for all peoples and nations. The Union, like other unions, is an artificial construct. It cannot be sustained if it stifles national identity. The European Union might last because it does not do this. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics did, and thus it was always doomed to fail. Germany was a unified country, artificially split. The end of Communism was not the only thing that tore down the Curtain and brought down the Wall. They would have fell anyway.

Over two million of us look set to vote for this tomorrow, and we haven’t been duped either. Facts can be twisted, but they’ve been twisted by both sides. Exaggeration and spin are part of a political campaign. Arguments over economics are commonplace amongst economists, where there are more strains of opinion than Heinz has varieties. Most people don’t realise this, but how else do you think the senior politicos can find one to support any view they espouse?

In the end, many of our people simply switched off the voices of the “experts”. They realised, perhaps very early on, that there would always be someone to predict disaster, that there would always be someone who said things would be fine. The “facts” they were looking for were not going to come from a media which was more interested in process stories than arriving at the truth and that truth, itself, often comes down to little more than a well-argued point of view.

When they stopped listening to the media and the politicians, that’s when the real magic happened. Our people started listening to each other. The Big Conversation about where we’re going as a country was allowed to happen below the radar of special interests, of those with agendas, of the professional politicians and their media friends.

It was had in places like this, amongst ordinary people, and they knew what their priorities were, and they always have. We knew what we were voting for the moment they told us there was a vote.

There are a million of us who have never voted before. They arrived at their decision based on the simplest thing of all, something that requires no political selling or spin, something Better Together never offered us, and which their doom and gloom predictions could not sway.

Scotland’s people began to believe. In themselves. In their country. In each other. They started to hope, to dare to dream. Once that starts, all negative perception stops. Fear no longer has an effect.

When India wanted to break free from the Empire they had to endure the same fear-mongering as we have. Then, out came the batons and the guns.

Batons and guns, okay? The British Empire didn’t resurrect the careers and reputations of a bunch of clapped out, failed political hacks, to talk the population back into their box. They sent in the troops, with orders of beat and to shoot and if necessary to kill.

If the guns didn’t stop the people of India do they really think “negative growth projections from the Institute of Fiscal Studies” are going to stop us?

There is nothing quite so powerful as an idea who’s time has come.

Gordon Brown can talk all day. Nick Robinson can lie through his smarmy mouth. Jim Murphy can rouse the rabble and then hide from the eggs and Alastair Darling can criticise Yes supporters for speaking their minds in the same breath as he claims to support free speech until his contradictions wrap around and choke him … but none of it will move a Yes to a No.

We’re on a journey of self-discovery and self-belief, and we’ve completed our journey of self-acceptance. This is a country where, for the first time in decades, a majority of its population is completely at peace with itself.

Nothing will change that. A Yes vote will fortify it but a No vote can no longer destroy it.

Whether we freeze up here and peer over, and decide not to jump … this time … or whether we make the leap of faith to the other side … this is a Postcard from The Edge.

Sooner or later we’re going to cross over to the other side.

Some say change starts tomorrow. It’s started already.

(The author is a full-time writer from Glasgow. You can support his work, if you like what he does, by sharing this article on social media. Additionally, if you really like it, you can help by making a donation to the upkeep of the site, either at the top or bottom of the screen depending on your device. Thanks in advance for your support.)


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