And so it rumbles on and it gathers pace. We have the ‘No’ campaign being unveiled shortly – or whatever it decides to refer to itself as – and we hear today that the SNP are discussing the merits of the words “independenT” or “independenCE”. One of them is ok the other is apparently not. Despite this focus on words we have independence groups galore appearing on Facebook; we have Cybernats and Britnats; we have republicans and monarchists and into the melting pot we have had Leveson and First Minister’s questions.
In the meantime, I still have the bills to pay, the washing to dry in the incessant rain we seem to be having, the endless monotony of the “what’s for dinner” conversations. Today a friend’s daughter is having a baby, another lady I know has lost her best friend; Joy and tears, grief and laughter. The politicians would do well to stop and think about this; that ordinary people are living ordinary lives and when we lift our noses from the grindstone we might appreciate a little passion from our politicians, a little honesty, better research and an end to the sniping and spin that threatens to take over the independence debate just now.
Discussions over whether independence is a dirty word and should be substituted with “an independent Scotland”, “transformational” and other “upbeat” words just plays with the wrapping paper. This sort of marketing speak is ok to listen to in a seminar on a rainy afternoon and then, well, lets be honest – forget. It’s not going to capture the imagination of ordinary people. We need people on the streets, we need independence debates in all Scottish towns, and we need fetes, galas, stalls at county shows. We need real people! Not marketing gurus – whatever they might be. We need real passion not “brand advocates”; We need supporters of independence to hold barbecues and chat about it over a few pints, or a dinner party, coffee morning or a discussion with their mates down the pub; we need secondary schools to be encouraging activists to debate with their 5th and 6th year students – these young people will be voting in 2014 – they need to hear the arguments starting now. We need to stop being afraid we will lose and start being excited about winning. Faint heart never won fair maiden and if this beautiful country is to be independent then we need to woo the people with an honest, open and passionate campaign and not fancy words and frippery. This marketing speak is like the cheese soufflé my mum used to make for dinner whenever she thought we weren’t looking – initially tasty but when you shut your mouth there is nothing of any substance to satisfy you.
And this advice goes for the Unionists too. The Unionists need to step up to the mark. The paucity of their arguments, the comments that continue to suggest that Scotland is too wee, too poor and too stupid is getting a bit tiresome. They have an opportunity to reach people and offer hope for the future of Scotland within a United Kingdom. If they fail to do that, they will be failing thousands of ordinary people. People who truly believe in a United Kingdom and who desperately want to see a coherent, well researched opposition to the independence debate to sway the undecided. The Unionists haven’t offered that yet, although we may see it being shouted from the rooftops on Friday.
In Holyrood last week both the Scottish Conservative and Labour parties had their erses kicked at FMQs. This was actually a reflection on their own poor performance rather than on Alex Salmond’s magnificent oratory. There is absolutely no excuse for poor research – the modern apprenticeship and the FSA questions were easily dismissed due to the poor research and preparation of the questioner. The unionist parties must start to enter into a proper debate. They must challenge and be positive rather than indulge in the ill-tempered sniping we have seen of late. How much more credible would they have sounded if there been a statement from Johann Lamont or Ruth Davidson accepting the evidence the First Minister gave at Leveson and drawing a line under the Murdoch issue and then asking Alex Salmond if he could give us some indication of his defence, welfare or economic policy for an independent Scotland. Much more difficult for the First Minister to avoid those questions when he isn’t handed a get out of jail free card by way of shoddy research and an assumption that he doesn’t read the Daily Telegraph.
Ordinary people want to see the real issues of the day debated across the land. We want to be offered options – an insight into what might be on the table as far as key policies are concerned. We are well able to understand there are not any answers just yet. That we will have to vote for the government we want to take us forward to Independence after we have voted in the referendum. The political parties are not likely to finalise their policies for the first government of an Independent Scotland until campaigning begins, but there are ideas and options that can be discussed by all parties committed to the ‘Yes’ campaign. Discussing these options will help people to understand that things can be different and that we have a choice. That this is the time to make that choice and take our chance, the time to grasp the thistle and to make a real difference to Scotland.
So Politicians let us have less plotting and more passion; less Peter Mandelson and more Denis Canavan. Ditch the dictats on the “right” words and rely on the passion and honesty of real people to convince the rest of us of the benefits and opportunities for change that only independence can offer. The freedom to choose our own way will lay the foundations for a better Scotland.