Monday, 9 June 2014

Independence - Are We There Yet?

Independence - Are We There Yet?

100. What a lovely, big round number. Today’s media is awash with coverage of the indyref as it’s 100 days till the polls open. Sadly that coverage is mostly generalities, with the usual figureheads at loggerheads. Luckily I found myself where the real action is - speaking to undecided voters, specifically undecided teenagers who are getting their first chance to vote.

In a debate hosted by Jedburgh Grammar and chaired by an old BBC colleague Ken Macdonald it was me, Colin Fox and Joan McAlpine for Yes, and Michael Moore, John Lamont and Claudia Beamish for No.

For those of us who’ve been on the campaign trail for the past couple of years it does feel like the vote can’t come soon enough. But for these students, as with many others, it’s only now that minds are starting to focus on what it’s all about.

I did my best at explaining why I’m voting Yes as a Green and as a Dad. I had a go at answering questions on the currency and the BBC. I did take a few notes, and if there had been time it might have been fun to unpick some of what the No gang said.

Michael - a thoroughly and literally upstanding chap who like me has a Bairn about to go to big school - talked about the UK having “real power”, whatever that is. And the collapse of the banks seemed to be a reason against independence, although I find it hard to imagine Westminster ever truly reforming the sector.

Claudia - a vision in green and the first speaker to mention climate change - spoke of wanting a “moral economy”, although how Labour would deliver that if the Tories win the 2015 election she didn’t say. She also said the UK is great at sharing resources. I’ll just pop down to the local food bank to spread the good news, shall I? We also heard that we couldn’t click our fingers to make Trident go away, and that there are complex global agreements being worked on we should put faith in instead. I prefer putting faith in CND who reckon we could switch Trident off within 8 days if we had the will to do so.

John - who only lives a few miles from the Border - fretted about cross-border health care post-Yes when of course neither health service or government has proposed changing the current arrangements.

Chatting to some of the young people afterwards they were asking for specific local visions - what would independence do for the Borders? I pointed out that if we’re moving powers from London to Edinburgh there will be pressure on Edinburgh to give power away to regions and local communities, giving them more control of finances and economic development.

But I closed the debate for Yes with a riff on a memorable movie quote. When I left school, twenty years ago, the big film that year was Forest Gump. His mama liked to say life was like a box of chocolates - you don’t know what you’re going to get.



At the moment the UK system feels like someone else is holding the box of chocolates and I have no choice and have to swallow flavours I don’t like. A Yes vote is the equivalent of taking hold of the box and getting to choose which chocolates I eat.

I am a bad man for talking about chocolate right before lunch but I just know a Yes vote will be sweet.

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