Helen Martin: Big non-debate starts to grate

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I AM neither a politician, nor a paid-up Nationalist. However, as an ordinary voter who has yet to be swayed one way or the other, it seems perfectly obvious to me why support for independence is now lower than it was when devolution began.

By this stage in the run-up to the referendum in 2014, I had expected to be more informed about the biggest political decision any of us would ever make, bombarded with all the intelligent reasons why I should vote for an independent Scotland.

Saltire painted faces, Auld Lang Syne, haggis and shortbread and brave hearts are all very well, but where are the facts? And if it’s too early to produce hard facts, where are the theories, the analysis, the game plans, the ambitions, the wish lists, the options and at least reasonable and solid arguments?

With the exception of a few argy-bargies about staying with the pound or remaining in the EU (neither of which we decide anyway), the SNP leadership seems to be relying on Wallace rhetoric and “cry freedom” rather than making any attempt to seriously educate or persuade the electorate that we could and should go it alone. We want numbers, sums, projections and comparisons in black-and-white documents rather than soundbites. So far, (and there’s not THAT long to go) voters are being left to walk into the polling booths blindfold.

The Unionists are just as bad. I expected more from them than “Just say no”, especially bearing in mind that the last SNP landslide victory wasn’t expected or predicted by surveys and polls. There is, therefore, at least the possibility that despite the latest Scottish Social Attitudes survey, it could happen again and Scotland could return a resounding “yes”.

And if that were the case, the only party that would be properly prepared to govern would be the SNP. We haven’t heard a peep out of the Scottish Tories, Labour or Lib Dems about their plans, should the vote go against them and they have to ply their trade and operate in an independent country.

Can it be that they haven’t thought about it? That they are either so confident – and given the Tories’ abysmal record here, that would indeed be foolish – or so scared to even consider the prospect that their heads are embedded in sand? Are all their eggs in the UK basket with no contingency plan for losing?

It could be they feel that by refusing to even acknowledge the possibility, they will help secure a “no” vote. That’s “gambling the farm” because having spent a couple of years grumbling vaguely about the insurmountable perils and certain doom of leaving the UK, they may find it hard to suddenly come up with a credible vote-winning manifesto in a new Scotland.

Perhaps it shows that most of our politicians, regardless of party, are simply not fit for the purpose of representing the public rather than pursuing their own goals. For today’s career politicians, the party is “the company”. Like office politics, infighting with the competition is what gives the “buzz”, votes are like sales figures and winning is the “game”. But we don’t pay them for smartypants one-liners, putdowns and playing to the gallery.

Our politicians’ standard of debate and effort to engage the public in this entire exercise have been truly appalling. We know no more now than we did at then last election. For or against, if they can’t be bothered taking the issues, the electorate and the chance of independence seriously enough to give us in-depth answers and be at least modestly prepared for the eventuality, it’s hardly surprising we can’t be bothered either.

For some politicians that might appear to be a winning strategy. But for any who really want an informed electorate, the right decision and the best for their country at this crucial crossroads, it’s reprehensible.

Don’t bank on me

THEY are closing my local bank branch, the one I use most. I know they are trying to drive everyone online (where I refuse to go) because they’d rather save money than serve clients, but what really annoyed me was the lying letter insisting the closure was because “customers were choosing alternative methods of banking”.

Oh, how they laughed when I read that out in the branch. It must be the busiest in the city, with regular half-hour queues snaking out the door.

On this occasion, even the professional teller made a mistake with one of my complicated transfers and had to correct it . . . I would have been hung out to dry if I’d made the error myself online with no recourse.

The bank’s letter informed me of other branches “close by” in areas I never go to, with nowhere to park. It was the last straw, coming on top of another massive sponsorship deal it has undertaken, presumably with customers’ money.

No more, dear bank. After almost 25 years, I’m preparing for the off and I suspect many at my doomed branch will be doing the same. It may be a small and insignificant protest but it’s giving me immense satisfaction.