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It Was a Great Party

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It was a great party, without a doubt. And yes, it was about the United Kingdom and its remarkable history, Scottish as well as English. But if what went before made us, it is as well to remember that today is tomorrow's past. As I have said before, I wish the debate about Scotland's future did not have to be couched in the language of Independence. It would be far better, surely, to articulate a vision for the Scottish people which is hard-edged and specific, rather than emotional and opaque.

The Westminster government's reluctance to allow a devo-max question along with the straight question "do you wish to remain part of the United Kingdom or not", is doubtless because polls suggest there is not a majority in favour of leaving the United Kingdom at present, and so, to my mind, is both cynical and unwise. To be fair, devo-max is a sort of open-ended pick-and-mix, but isn't that exactly what is required at present?

The Scottish National Party has always hung its hat on the independence peg. And that was good brand management, just as the Kellogg company has always tried to associate its cereals with healthy eating. The SNP's message has been crystal clear and consistent - until now. What has changed, of course, is that the party has attained power and its leaders are fast becoming Scotland's governing establishment. What more do they want? voters are inclined to think, happy to have a slice of independence but to keep their Union cake.

Electoral success has handed the SNP both power and responsibility. During the second in the series The Big Debate - choosing Scotland's future, hosted by the BBC, Nicola Sturgeon was forced to admit that Scotland would retain the British pound in the first instance and so be subject to the monetary policy of the Bank of England. What kind of independence was that, jeered a good many in the audience? This was pick-and-mix by any name, and quite sensible too. She then went on to suggest that Scotland would have a place on the Bank of England's monetary policy committee. But why should the Bank grant that, a few wondered? And so it went on as the reality of independence ran up against the reality of Scotland's situation.

Unfortunately the nature of politics is often crude, crass and frequently dishonest, with politicians more anxious to score populist debating points than face reality - at least a reality beyond getting re-elected. What Scotland needs, whether part of Britain, part of Europe, or just part of the world (and of course it must be all three), is good education, a healthy, motivated and broadly happy people, efficient government, prosperous businesses that can compete with the best and a sound system of defense with its allies. Whatever it takes to achieve these things I, for one, will support. And because I believe that most aspects of government should be as close to those governed as possible, I'll be voting for independence in 2014. I can't see us getting devo-max any other way. That's politics for you!

Yes, it was a great party - a joyous celebration of the past. The referendum will be about the future.