SHOULD Scotland be an independent country? Simple question. Simple answer: Yes. Is Edinburgh up to the job of being the newest capital of an independent country? Most definitely.
It’s not a city of pomp and circumstance. It is place of quiet quality. We enjoy a very international mix of people and outlook among our small number.
Sometimes you have to pause and soak in the sheer world-class beauty of the place. I step out of my office on North Castle Street and turn left to look across to Fife and right to view the wonder of the Castle.
This is a special place and the world will have its eyes on it tomorrow. Will the people of Scotland embrace hope and place enduring power into their own hands? Or will they be cowed by the wall of “can’t” from London telling us not to dare?
If you trust in the strategy of fear laced with pledges of more power made from Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband with hours to go, then you will have only yourself to blame. We’ve heard this song before. Mr Clegg once pledged not to put up tuition fees and could only sing “sorry” for that.
The choice we make is take a chance on getting policies we need from Whitehall and Westminster from a government we tend to elect less than half the time. Or trust ourselves.
The choice we make is about shifting the administration of government from a market in central London where offices costs ten times as much as Edinburgh and the labour market is amongst the costliest in the world. Or spending our hard-earned money on government closer to the people with the knock-on benefits of being the capital enjoyed here in Edinburgh and spread throughout the land.
Imagine the buzz this city will ring with. Government functions will create jobs, diplomatic missions from abroad will do also. International companies will set up subsidiaries here. Visit Vienna, Copenhagen or Oslo and you will get tangible sense of what I mean.
It’s a normal thing for countries, independence – 142 other nations have chosen that path since the war and joined the United Nations. None of them have chosen to go back the way. Funny that. Self-responsibility and self-reliance enriches us as people and, I believe, as societies too.
Scotland makes this choice with more wealth at our disposal and more information than any of those countries did when they chose it. We also have much of the machinery of running a country already in place.
As an economy, we have possibly the finest starting point any country has ever enjoyed when making this choice. For a small country of five million people we have got so much going for us in terms of the natural, economic and human resources at our disposal.
We have problems, yes of course, many inherited from the current system of centralised government from Whitehall and Westminster such as colossal national debt beggaring future generations. But we will have to fix the problems we inherit and face them on our terms and in our way with a government we elect every time, focused on the Scottish interest, every day.
That is the core democratic point that is at stake. Do we trust ourselves to choose leaders that will be better at governing us than the ones we have from Whitehall and Westminster now?
The British model of government has run its course. That is not to say the ties that have been built up over 300 years and more shouldn’t be celebrated and nurtured. Of course they should. We should have the closest relationship of any countries anywhere. We have been through too much together for too long for it to be any other way.
This is not about Britishness or Scottishness, it is about how we choose to govern ourselves. You can be a proud Scot and vote No and be passionately British and vote Yes.
The derisory and risible campaign for No asks us to believe that a wall will be erected around Scotland and pestilence and famine will stalk the land if we make the same choice as two countries have, on average, each year since the war. They peddle fear when all the people want and need is hope.
In truth, we want no borders and to maintain a free and open market not just with the rest of the UK but with the rest of Europe. Our intelligence is insulted at the suggestion it would be different but that didn’t stop Ed Miliband saying he would put soldiers at the border before backtracking embarrassed at the reaction.
Crucially we want to maintain and grow the ties of family, history and culture under a shared Queen and with an enduring shared currency and hopefully many other shared institutions as well.
“That’s not independence” scoffs the No campaign. Well France and Finland seem to regard themselves as independent. Of course all countries must pull together to address shared goals.
It’s the new terms on which we share with the rest of the world and most closely with England Wales and Ireland that we vote on tomorrow.
This city historically embraced the idea of Britain, indeed it went a long way to inventing it. It is now time for it to open a new chapter – part of a family of nations but fully empowered like the near 200 other capitals across the globe.
This is no free lunch, no easy street, nothing will be for nothing. All countries face tough times in a turbulent world at present. Do we trust ourselves to lead ourselves through it or will we hand that opportunity back to David Cameron and whoever comes next?
Edinburgh has what it takes to lift its chin a little higher as a city at the heart of a new country. The possibilities are endless. Let’s do this friends.