Last week I read a beautifully written piece from Jenny Marra (Labour MSP) about our shared values of Scotland. It was thoughtful, visionary and inclusive, something we all need in this debate. Jenny brought up the date none of us is really talking about yet, 19 September. Oddly enough I know what I'm doing that night. I'll be attending The Hydro to see my good friend, Greg Hemphill's opening night of the comedy Still Game.
I've often wondered aloud what the atmosphere (pre show) on that night will be like.
In her article Jenny asked a similar question. Come 19 September we will have made up our minds and all of us will have to get on with making Scotland into the country we want to live in whether it's a Yes or No. What unites us all is our ability to focus on that next stage. We Yes people will be fairly well adapted to carrying on and making the devolution settlement work as it's what we've been doing all our lives. Many of us didn't really expect to be making this decision as early as 2014 but of course no one saw the SNP winning such a decisive victory in 2011. Since then it has been their policy to present a referendum. It's here too that they deserve huge credit. Most opposition parties tried to goad them into holding a snap ballot that would only have suited those who wanted to dismiss all this as side show. That didn't happen and we've ended up with a two year campaign that, although fairly exhausting for participants, has succeeded in pushing people to get involved. Scottish electoral registration is at an all time high and there is every reason to expect a very high turn out on 18 September. Personally all this delights me, but what of that earlier question. What will the atmosphere be like in Glasgow's Hydro and many other civic places, schools, factories and homes on 19 September?
If the answer is 'No' I suspect there will obviously be huge disappointment from the Yes camp but equally there will be a familiar shrugging of shoulders too. We've lived with the Union all our lives and we will carry on before. We will work to make Scotland the best it can possibly be, and I doubt whether any friends I know on the Yes camp would say anything different. Personally I would have a list of things that I would want to see happening under a continued Union. I would need to see real possibilities for the music business here in Scotland that don't exist at the moment and we would need to establish that Scotland is a Nation, not a region, in all areas of life, not least culturally. The list could go on and on and we would all add into this I'm sure. What can not go away however is the enormous appetite for democracy and political change that has been stirred up in the referendum debate. You don't suddenly get 16-year-olds voting then expect them to go away quietly. Similarly you can't expect the massive unaligned Yes campaign who are unattached to SNP or other parties to stop being interested in the questions we've all been asking. I might also add that there may well be young people stirred up by No who, so far, are unattached to political parties... but as yet I haven't met any.
So if the expectation is that we pick up from where we left it and the answer to the referendum is a flat 'No' then I suspect Yes supporters will be able to do that. But what if the answer is 'Yes?' How will the 'No' people carry on from there? My hope would be this: There are great Scottish people on the No side. They passionately share many of the broad social aims that we have. They want a fairer society that is better educated, housed and cared for than the one we have. They don't want welfare cuts and they do want a greener Scotland. Given that the vast majority of Yes and No supporters already want this kind of society would it be so difficult to imagine us all pulling in the same direction. I'm prepared for No. Are we all ready for Yes?