Helen Martin: Tight outcome is worst result

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband. Pic: REUTERS/Russell Cheyne
Labour Party leader Ed Miliband. Pic: REUTERS/Russell Cheyne
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WITH just a few days to go, the one outcome we can almost guarantee about the referendum is that approximately half the country – give or take a per cent or two – is going to be bitterly disappointed.

We knew it would be close but only recently has it dawned how devastating a narrow victory for either side would be. Without a conclusive win, the whole subject of independence is left up in the air. Neither clearly won nor lost, it will remain a tantalising possibility or an ever-present threat.

The late, great Margo MacDonald left a message for the country with her husband, Jim Sillars, to be read at her memorial service. She pleaded that whatever the result, peace should prevail, with both sides working together because opposing political views shouldn’t lead to personal animosity or aggression, and certainly our country shouldn’t be left mired in division and acrimony.

Being beaten fair and square, and by a reasonable margin, is one thing. But a close call leaves room for doubt, what ifs, calls for a recount, and that miserable feeling of having almost made it. Neither side can be truly satisfied.

This time, it comes down to a straight majority, which is fine in theory. In practice, how can Yes Scotland really forget its dreams of self-determination or Better Together totally accept separation on the basis of a 49/51 percentage split?

And how will a tight result affect the following negotiations whether for real independence or enhanced powers? With only a couple of points in it, there’s not much leverage in having won and no great humility in having lost.

No-one wants to talk about this yet. All the effort is focused on campaigning up to the last minute precisely because every single vote counts. In any case, Westminster has consistently refused to discuss anything post referendum, largely because until a couple of weekends ago the UK Government firmly believed it was just going through the motions and there was no real chance of a Yes vote.

If, as we are constantly told, the financial and oil markets hate instability more than anything else, the UK could be in for five or ten years of it if Better Together wins by a squeak and Yes simply takes a breather for a few years before working up to the rematch.

And if Yes comes in just ahead, can we really count on rUK to enter negotiations with the aim of concluding them in reasonable time?

It’s not too late, of course. We can still hope for a clear result, especially if everyone gets out to the polling stations and makes their mark rather than staying home, frozen by indecision, or content to passively go with the flow. Personally, I’ll be voting Yes so my preferred option is a landslide for independence. I don’t expect that to influence anyone else, of course.

But as we learned from devolution, being paid off with enhanced powers won’t bring independence aspirations to an end and sooner or later there will be another bid, so it may be the only result to save us all having to go through this divisive, expensive and jittery process all over again.

I think I’d rather remove my own spleen with a butter knife.

Miliband seems forever Mr Bean

It’s a sad reflection of modern life that political figures, male as well as female, are now judged as much on how they look as their policies, particularly in Westminster. Leaving politics aside then, Cameron and Clegg at least look the part. Boris has moved beyond embarrassment, especially after being stuck dangling on a zip wire suspended by a pelvic harness.

But every so often, along comes a politician for whom you cannot help but sympathise. Such a man is Ed Miliband, always caught in a pose reminiscent of Mr Bean in a fairground hall of mirrors and tragically – with a voice to match.

Unwitting Eva helps expose slavery scandal

Interior designer Eva Sorrano faces flak for trying to “hire” six alleged interns to work 35-hour weeks for six months in her Causewayside studio, for nothing. After being slated and reported to the taxman, she says she never wants to hear the word “intern” again.

Legally, such full-time commitment involves at least the minimum wage. And even if it didn’t, the point is surely to gain experience by working with professionals, not five other rookies.

If this is, as she says, “common practice within the creative sector”, perhaps we should all thank her for unwittingly publicising the scandal and helping prevent any other naïve youngster signing up to slavery.

Schmuck of the Irish

Even the referendum has its funny moments, such as the interview between a US broadcaster and David Cameron in which the Prime Minister was asked: “Are you concerned that if Scotland wins independence the Republic of Ireland might also want to leave the UK?”

There’s maniacs . . and pyromaniacs

You’re either for or against fireworks. I loathe and detest them with special hatred reserved for random, unofficial, antisocial pyromaniacs who let the damn things off in inappropriate circumstances.

Yes, whoever decided 4am on Wednesday was a fine time to play with explosives in the Grange-Marchmont area, panicking the locals into thinking a gunman was there, I’m talking about you and your ilk taking breach of peace to a new level.