I have always thought that independence was an honourable aspiration and something to celebrate when it was achieved. I remember, as a boy, sensing the excitement and interest when Ghana achieved independence from colonial rule in 1957, the first sub Saharan country to do so. Others followed. Zambia became independent in 1964 and while I remember little of that event, was able to visit that amazing country in 1985 and later in 2010. Despite many intractable problems there was still a real sense of celebration and pride that they had finally broken the chains of their colonial masters. Last year I visited friends in Slovakia and when language allowed, asked how they felt about their break up with the Czech Republic. The overwhelming view was that, while the economic difficulties were grave, still it was a good thing. “We are able to be friends again” said one.
So when it came to considering independence, I warmed to the idea. I wanted to believe in it and I still do. There seems something good about being grown up, being able to stand on our own feet and more importantly take responsibility for our own decisions and actions and stop whinging and blaming someone else for our ills. But Scotland is not Ghana nor Zambia nor Slovakia. It isn’t Norway nor is it East Timor. England has not colonised Scotland, we speak the same language, our families, friends, business, professions, scientists, academics, musicians and poets crisscross the border. Our histories are intertwined. Scotland’s golden period followed the union of the crowns and only in the past century have we begun to feel the poorer partner. The union seems to have been good for us. And when it comes to emotion and passion, the things that seem to matter most are football, “bank” holidays, “For sale” signs which turns homes into commodities, using “shall” instead of “will” and the south easterly bias of the weather reports.
What has finally disillusioned me and cooled my enthusiasm is the way the debate has been conducted over the past year. I have become less and less convinced that the leadership of the “Yes” campaign actually believe in it themselves. There has been an astonishing loss of nerve. Real conviction seems in short supply. There has been so much back tracking so many questions fluffed and unanswered. I am almost coming to believe in the perverse notion that the aim of the campaign is to be deliberately muddled and confused so that people vote against it and some semblance of pride can be retained. They will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. “At least we tried” they will say. Like David Cameron’s very palpable sigh of relief when the commons voted against intervention in Syria
The most confusion, however, surrounds the word itself. Politicians and pressure groups know how to reinterpret words to their own advantage so that it can mean something different from what you thought it did. I thought I knew what marriage meant. Now I don’t. I thought being independent meant being in total charge of your own affairs. Now it seems to mean being dependant on another country, sharing a currency and a bank of last resort, being subject to a monarch of another country, submitting to a military authority based on the use of nuclear weapons and being subservient to the multinational giants who will always dictate the terms. It doesn’t look like independence. It looks like being fully dependant in all but name. It is like being an adult but still living at home with your parents on call, ready to lift and drop you, pick you up, dust you down and bail you out when you are in trouble. That is not independence so I think I will vote “No”