Leader: ‘The debate is being taken seriously’

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Just a few votes could decide it. That’s how close the polls suggest today’s European Referendum could be.

A few hundred voters could be the difference between a future in the European Union or out of it. Whichever side you support, that’s an exhilarating – and slightly frightening – idea. Whichever side has more supporters motivated enough to make it to the polling booth is likely to win the day.

That might sound alarming – and it does give rise to some genuine cause concern – but it is also empowering.

If the true test of a healthy democracy is whether or not we as individuals can influence the decisions that affect our lives, and how they are taken, then we have a lot to be grateful for today.

The political debate may not have been inspiring. In fact, it has often been downright depressing, as it descended into the kind of scare tactics – from both sides – that we hoped to have seen the last of after the independence referendum.

But there is no doubt that in homes, work places, cafes and pubs across the country the debate is being taken seriously. On social media, in newspaper letters pages and in bus stop conversations, it is the one subject that has completely dominated the last few days, with heartfelt pleas and cajoling on behalf of both camps. We don’t need Tony Blair’s hyperbole to know that this is a momentous decision.

There is every reason to expect a big turn out at the polls today. And after the high of the indyref, in terms of public engagement at least, that would be great to see once again.

Apart from the wish for as many people as possible to make their voice heard, we have one dear hope about tomorrow and its aftermath. We have seen in Scotland how divisive a close fought referendum can be. Whatever the result tomorrow, we must hope that there be no bitter recriminations. Mutual respect at all times is key.