The single most heart-breaking aspect of the Independence Referendum in Scotland, is to hear intelligent, thoughtful, worldly people list all the things that could be positive about a Yes vote only to tank it all with a hypothetical doubt and declare themselves a No.
The concern is usually financial in nature, but what it represents is a lack of faith in Scotland's economy, their fellow countrymen and worst of all doubt in their own abilities. Yes they know about food banks; yes they know about how awful Westminster is; Yes they hate Trident ... BUT... and there is always a 'but'. Often this doubt is not acknowledged as self-doubt but projected onto the current Scottish government, "I just don't think the SNP can deliver", no matter how many times you point out they are welcome to vote them out in 18 months' time.
Two of the most admirable qualities of the average Scot is their commitment to concepts of community and loyalty. However, when it comes to issues of politics, these tenacious beliefs can sometimes be abused by those in power, and can occasionally veer towards the darker concept of tribalism. Traditionally in Scotland, your party affiliation was not the result of personal ideology: it represented what class you claimed as your identity. Labour for working class, Tory for toffs and LibDem for the middle class because they had a choice. Disdain for the SNP was conveniently encouraged and available to all three classes because they drained voters away from their right and proper place. The SNP actually encouraged people to get ideas above their station and dream bigger for themselves and for their country - how vulgar!
The main issues for every No Voter I speak with are: concerns for their immediate finances (either they or a partner work in finance), the belief that Scotland will be worse off financially after a Yes Vote (thanks in no small part to digital & print media blitz), and that their "country" is not necessarily Scotland but rather Britain, and they would be bad people if they 'abandoned' the people down south to Westminster Tory Rule. If I understand their argument correctly, the feeling is that it would be foolish and even greedy for Scotland to take control of its resources and electorate for fear of what may happen to those throughout Britain not based in the South East. No, they say, we will not have tuition fees, lose our NHS or be punished with lack of investment because the rest of (presumably Labour Britain) won't let it happen to us.
And that is where my heart breaks.
It is easier for me - I get it. I come from a country where notions of Independence and Self-Determination are celebrated at every turn. My sense of self was not on the receiving end of a 300 year old bad PR campaign. My childhood was not set against the backdrop of BBC authority, with Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris lauded as heroes. I don't have to come to grips with the fact that the rest of the UK does not see Scotland as worthwhile net contributors, bravely joining forces to support the workers across the country. I don't have to flinch from threats from the very banks that ruined our economy that they "might" leave Scotland, when I know American banks are based in London are implementing a plan called Brexit to relocate to Ireland in the much more damaging event of Britain coming out of the EU.
It reminds me of the time my first marriage was coming to an end I was fighting tooth & nail to keep it going, not because I was happy, not because I wanted things to stay the same but because I had pledged myself dammit. Isolation and infidelity aside, I had to work within the bond to overcome fundamental differences in world views that were damaging us both - because I was a person of integrity and that is just what you do. And then a friend very gently pointed out that although the intention was a good one, there really wasn't anything noble about maintaining your end of a contract when the other person had done nothing to honour theirs.
The penny finally dropped.
And this is what I want to convey to my lovely, thoughtful community minded No Voting friends. Britain does not have your best interests at heart. Even more painful to hear, the Labour party doesn't have your best interests at heart either. If you don't believe me just look at the shocking poverty and life expectancy figures in Glasgow where Labour has been in control on almost every level for over fifty years. Things are not going to change unless YOU take this opportunity to change. Right here, right now. I know that you think that you are doing the right thing by claiming all of Britain as your family, but the cold hard fact of the matter is that is not how they see you.
They rest of Britain will not only NOT support our right to free university tuition, prescriptions and bridge crossings. And worse, they will make sure that those things seen as perks by the whinging Scots are the first on the chopping block. If you really, truly want to do what is best for the workers, mothers and children in the rest of Britain. Vote Yes, and show them how it is done properly. Be the inspiration, be the makers of the better way, and then give them real options to either join us, or to tackle the inequality in their own communities through legal, democratic involvement. Have confidence in yourself, have confidence in the people of Scotland and from those pools, you can elect people you have confidence and accountability to do what is best for your community.
I know your motivations are honourable, but you are trying to uphold your end of a partnership when Westminster based politicians and parties have done nothing to uphold their end of the deal. Food banks, the Bedroom Tax, Trident could have been solved or prevented from ever happening ages ago but somehow they never were. The three main parties snapped to it quick enough to bond together and travel north to tell us we couldn't use the pound. Well, if they could do that, you really have to ask yourself why they haven't acted as such for the betterment of many more of the populace who keep them in their cushy jobs.
What the people of Scotland need to remember is whenever you are on your journey - you should always put the oxygen mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting the person next to you. Only then do we have a chance, otherwise we all just lose consciousness and crash. And our votes, our will and our values will be trounced for evermore.