THE BLOG

The Scottish Referendum Is Dividing a Nation

10/09/2014 15:03 BST | Updated 10/11/2014 10:59 GMT

It will be like any other day. Across the lochs and glens, the ancient castles and moors, the stunning landscape of Scotland so beloved by its people and visitors alike will remain unchanged. The Scottish scenery will shrug off any upheaval, as it has always done, but her inhabitants will find that a harder course to plot.

There is much we know about what Friday 19 September 2014 will feel like in Scotland, and to her children scattered across the globe. We will have an answer to the question "Should Scotland be an independent country?" Whether a victory for Yes Scotland or Better Together, Scotland will be a far more autonomous country than anytime in its recent past. This will come either in the form of independence or a substantially more powerful Scottish Parliament. We also know that the vote will be close.

Quite rightly, many column inches are being filled with speculation about all these things. However, as a Scot living in London it is the latter point which most focuses my attention. For a close vote heralds a divided country -- that of a people in fundamental disagreement over the future course of their country.

Better Together have fought a relentlessly negative campaign, verging on scaremongering. More worryingly, Scottish nationalism has shown an ugly face in the form of Internet trolling, intimidating No campaigners and fellow Scots, and calling into question the patriotism of any who dare disagree with their creed.

A close vote, which all the recent polls now suggest is very likely, will exacerbate the tensions created by both sides. Not that these are equivalent. Only a complete partisan would disagree with the observation that the nationalists have been by far the more antagonistic. Therefore the question most occupying me is how will Scotland begin to heal, whatever the outcome of the referendum, come Friday 19 September 2014?

There is much talk among No campaigners, led by Gordon Brown, of a new settlement, conventions and gatherings to renew and enhance devolution. It is hard to see how this will please so many Scots who will awake having dreamt of casting aside the Union altogether. By the same token, many on the Unionist side will feel a dread chill if Yes carries the day.

For all their undoubted skill as political campaigners, are Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon the non-partisan figures to lead a divided country into the new dawn? Unlikely. Better Together is an alliance of necessity which will very soon publicly fracture (rumours abound it has done so privately already). There is no-one among them who can play the role of healer-in-chief. Perhaps the most natural figure is the Queen, though even that is to be doubted given the desire of many nationalists to abolish the monarchy.

My own family is divided over how to vote -- three are for Yes, three for No and one as yet undecided. This pattern will be repeated among so many families. Oddly, this seems the beginning of a solution. All of those who vote in the referendum ought to bear in mind that, regardless of our views, we Scots are a family. We love our country and, although we irritate one another often, we have a shared passion for Scotland. However the day dawns a week Friday, we should hold that truth close to our hearts.

But I don't have a full answer to how we can heal Scotland in the aftermath of the vote, only that I think it will be necessary to do so. My hope is that someone somewhere can rise to the occasion and play the part. We will need it.