Scottish independence: the Evening News verdict

History in the making. Pic: comp
History in the making. Pic: comp
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The Edinburgh Evening News believes that whatever the result, we must stand together as as one city and one country.

Here is our leader comment piece from today:

I could tell the meaning of a word like serene

I got some ‘O’ Grades when I was sixteen

I can tell the difference between margarine and butter

I can say “Saskatchewan” without starting to stutter

But I can’t understand why we let someone else rule our land, cap in hand

The Proclaimers, Cap in Hand.

Friendships have been shaken. Voices raised. Individuals defamed. Property damaged. Scotland is a nation divided like never before.

It’s like a Hearts-Hibs cup final that has lasted almost 1000 days. And now we are in the final ten minutes.

Shout for your side as loudly as you can. Chide the opposition. Scream at them if you have to. And to hang with the 
consequences.

This is politics in Scotland 2014. Loud, proud, engaged, hopeful, worried and fearful all at the same time.

The question on the ballot paper on Thursday is: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

But the question many voters are really wrestling with, particularly the undecided, is: “Can Scotland, in the short term, be a successful independent country?”

For many Scots through this long and tortuous referendum process, the lyrics to The Proclaimers track sum up their feelings. The song simply says: I don’t know a lot, but it’s our country and we should make the decisions. For better or worse. If it’s a mess at least it’s OUR mess.

It’s hard to argue with that.

Scotland has a distinct set of cultural values. And the decisions which shape our nation should be made in Edinburgh. Or Aberdeen. Or Prestonpans. Or Auchenshuggle. But not in London. The choice we face on Thursday is how we get there.

Vote Yes, and we are independent with all the associated risks and opportunities that come with being a small island nation on the north west of Europe. And then we hand back some of those powers to the EU, the Bank of England, Nato, the Queen and others who we will work with to achieve a successful modern state.

Vote No, and we get more say on our own affairs through devo max. In other words, we add powers to Holyrood.

There are an estimated 500,000 Scots who are yet to make up their mind. It is this group who will move the decision toward a Yes or a No in these final days.

It is incredible that ten per cent of the electorate have yet to make up their mind, after a seemingly endless campaign. But that shows just how complex the decision is. The majority of us clearly WANT to be independent. But are we prepared to gamble? For it is a gamble.

Both sides agree that Scotland could be a successful independent nation. We are a peaceful and prosperous country. We have talented people, great businesses, a solid economy. And we have oil.

But going it alone also exposes us to the vicissitudes of the world markets, of seismic events that can throw us off course. And if you’re smaller, you are likely to be blown further from dry land.

For many of the undecided it’s about risk and reward. And the reality is that there are no guarantees.

Many are also undecided as a result of the nature of the debate which has largely been focused on macroeconomic issues: What currency are we going to use? Will we be in the EU from day one? How much oil do we have? Will an independent Scotland still have nuclear weapons? These are all incredibly important questions.

But not enough has been made of how an independent Scotland will affect life in your area. What does it mean for local jobs in the Lothians? Will house prices go up or down? Will I pay more for my 
weekly shop? How will higher education be funded for our student population? Will we get an extension to the tram line? And will large developments like the St James 
Quarter still go ahead? Outside the pages of the Evening News, little has been made of these issues. And yet they are massively important to our quality of life.

Neither side can emerge from this process with total credit.

Firstly, the Better Together campaign has been dismal and complacent. It’s clear it has failed to take the Yes campaign seriously, comforted by a healthy lead in the polls until the last few weeks.

Its narrative has been relentlessly negative. Supermarket prices will be higher, the oil will run out, our big companies will relocate. This wasn’t the Better Together 
campaign, this was the Go It Alone And You’ll Sink campaign.

Disappointingly, we heard very little of the numerous benefits of being part of the United Kingdom - of which there are many. And we heard very little detail about the new powers that could be granted to Scotland under devo max.

Is it any wonder that an increasing number of disillusioned voters have flocked to Yes, attracted by an ideal of doing things differently and creating a new Scotland?

This complacency was brought into sharp focus by the sudden increase in activity following a poll on September 6, which gave Yes a lead for the first time. David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg dashed to Scotland last week in the wake of those narrowing poll numbers. It was embarrassing and patronising. And Scots understood that.

And they rightly asked themselves: if you cared so much about the Union, why didn’t you do something before now? Whatever the result, Better Together has lost the campaign, even if it does win the vote.

As Prime Minister of the United Kingdom it was David Cameron’s duty to make the case for the continuation of the Union. Losing part of the UK after 300 years would be the defining moment of Mr Cameron’s premiership. And if that happens he should 
resign.

What has stained the Yes campaign is an intolerance of those who do not share their zeal for independence. Relentless hectoring of others on social media, chanting in the streets, demonstrations against perceived bias at the BBC. These ill-tempered exchanges only serve to confirm that many of those who appear so certain of Yes have probably not understood the question. It has left much of the electorate fearful about the character and politics of an independent Scotland.

Alex Salmond has also consistently refused to answer tough questions. When Deutsche Bank asserts that independence could result in negative consequences “far beyond what voters and politicians could have imagined” that needs an answer. It shouldn’t be slapped away as 
“scaremongering”.

We all want the same thing: a better Scotland. And much of what has pushed us into this position is agreed by most voters: a frustration with Westminster and how politics operates. A desire for change.

Newspaper leader columns in advance of elections and referendums are traditionally places where readers will be told the view of the paper. Several newspapers have pinned their colours firmly to one side or the other.

However, the Evening News believes that our readers are perfectly capable of making up their own mind. Our role, as it has been throughout, is to focus on what a Yes or No vote would mean for Edinburgh and the Lothians. And to present the views of as wide a range of people as possible without any bias.

We don’t always get it right. But you can be assured that we try to achieve balance in our coverage at all times.

So, you will not find an instruction on how to vote here. Instead, perhaps a reminder of the sentiments expressed by our late columnist Margo MacDonald. Whatever the result, let’s act with dignity and respect towards one another. We are on the cusp of a momentous vote and the eyes of the world are on Scotland.

Let’s remind them just how great we can be.