Tomorrow, 18 September, we will not be voting in the UK divorce referendum. We will not be voting in the UK separation referendum. We will be voting in the Scottish independence referendum.
Independence is one of the most basic of human aspirations. From the moment of our first unsteady steps, we seek to be independent, autonomous beings. We make our way through life in pursuit of our own true selves – as infants discovering language and movement, as teenagers starting to find our identities, as adults seeking our own place in the world, as partners following our own paths within loving relationships. Independence is a natural, healthy state to wish for and one of the primary wellsprings of self-esteem. Its opposite, dependence, however unavoidable it may sometimes seem, is neither.
What we are voting for tomorrow is the choice between those two states – and the fact that it involves nations, not individuals, makes no difference. One state is fundamentally less healthy than the other. As in personal relationships, the one between two independent neighbouring countries can only be healthier and more mature than one in which the many entanglements of dependency cause resentment on both sides.
But enough of the lofty stuff… I’ve done all the thinking about this that I can now. I’ve tried my best to write in as measured a tone as possible over the last few months. The truth is that tomorrow I‘ll be voting from the bottom of a heart that has amazed me with its depth of feeling about the future of Scotland. If that makes me a nationalist, so be it, though I’ve never liked the word and I don’t really care for the word patriot much either. I prefer to think of myself simply as someone who imagines an alternative future to the one currently on offer, with independence the necessary first step towards it.
So I will be voting in the absolute conviction that independence is a natural state of affairs and that we have all we need and more to make a resounding success of it, to take our place among and make our contribution to the family of nations; and in the equal certainty that it won’t be easy, but that taking responsibility for our achievements and mistakes is an essential part of growing up.
I cannot pretend that I won’t be voting with a sense of deep indignation at the efforts of the UK political establishment, along with a lazy, smug, ignorant metropolitan press, to belittle us, patronise us, demonise our leaders, threaten and then, at the last minute, cajole us – all the while failing to offer a single compelling reason, other than that of sentimental attachment to an idea (which is exactly what we stand accused of), for staying.
Nevertheless, I will be voting in the certainty that the vast majority of my fellow countrymen and women feel the strongest bonds of affection for the marvellous country that is England, the English generally, and their relatives and friends who live there; and with nothing but contempt for those who reveal by their behaviour that they feel otherwise.
I will also be voting with an acute awareness that in 48 hours’ time we will need to begin a process of reconciliation; that somehow we will have to channel the passions of the last few months into the creation of something that we can all feel we own and wish to belong to.
I will be voting in awe of the energy, the creativity, the humour, the passion, the intelligence, the depth of self-examination, the breadth of engagement, the embracing sense of community, the sheer belief that this campaign has unleashed. For that alone it feels as if the battle is already won. It gives me enormous hope for the future.
And I will be voting with the thrill of knowing that I am living a moment of history – living it with the wind at my back.
I will be voting YES.