17 September 2014

Last Call...

Who now has anything new or useful left to say? Not me, I'm afraid. I envy those of you who have retained any kind of eloquence for a great last word before polling day. 

As the rejected aftermath of failed first drafts on my floor attests, it is a terrible temptation, making your last call on a campaign as long, complex, and multi-coloured as this, to write insufferably. Too pompous, too breathless, too conscious of the significance of your subject to really do it any kind of justice.

You sit there, and you think "And now, for the inspirational bit." And then you wait, you twiddle thumbs and slurp coffee, and consider an overwrought passage or a blank page. It isn't that there aren't rousing things to be said, both for Yes and No, but they've all been said. Today, I won't try to inspire or persuade you. Whatever you do on Thursday, do what you think best. 

After a week of frayed nerves and gathering hypertension, a calm, mulish resignation has set in. I'm reconciled to the result, come what may. For me, Thursday's vote comes down to this: responsibility, self-government, democracy. A sense that folk in Scotland can and should see themselves as active citizens, with a stake in politics, recognising the many deep-seated challenges which face us, but doing our best to try to change them, while preserving what is worthwhile. Other folk see things differently, and have faith about what we can still be achieved within the Union. I've always tried to respect that, while making the case for self-determination and self-government.

I am conscious that we will have experienced different campaigns. There's no straightforward story to tell about this collective experience. For some it has a good-natured pleasure and a welcome challenge, for others something harder, less instructive and less fulfilling.

Speaking only for my part, it has been a unremitting privilege. I've had great craic, have met splendid folk, thought a lot and learned a lot. I've made what I hope will prove lasting friendships on both sides of the question, been given surreal opportunities, and above all, a splendid subject to write about. What aspiring scribbler could hope for more? Yesterday, I turned 28 years of age. Tomorrow, I'll cast a vote for independence in a referendum which four generations of my family have been agitating for, and which I never thought, in my lifetime, I'd see. These have been interesting times, in the best of senses.

I wasn't happy with Monday's piece when I published it, but reading it back with a little distance, I came close to capturing my somewhat complex feelings in this final, fretful furlong. It is important to bear in mind common ground, empathy, and compassion in the coming hours and days. It remains important to keep the heid, to keep perspective, and not to let any stray, hard words touch you, wherever they emanate from. 

I've always been keen on Machiavelli's view that our liberties are best preserved by a noisy and self-assertive people, rather than a cowed and complaisant one. Ordered conflict isn't the death of politics, but its essence. Disagreement may superficially seem an unharmonic thing, but in order to have any kind of meaningful conversation, you must share an accepted, underlying code. It seems to me that for the great part, this country, which has long been a stranger to this kind of process, has done its best.

W H Auden's Musée des Beaux Arts is explicitly about suffering, tragedy, and its commonplaceness. It has kept popping into my head this week. In the Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, the golden boy falls from the sky - plop - and the world trudges on, tilling fields, unpicking nets, in a half dwam. "The expensive delicate ship that must have seen something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky, had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on." 

Tomorrow is not a day of suffering or of tragedy, but for most, a day full of ordinary business and concerns. Off to work, dawdling in supermarket aisles, refilling the car, preparing dinner for the kids, nipping into the pub for a swift half on the way home. Some of us will stand outside polling stations, knocking up doors, making our cases in the campaign's final hours. And for a few minutes, in the nooks and corners of that ordinary day, using the simple technology of paper and pen, four million people will take a long-anticipated decision on Scotland's future.

It is the ordinariness and the extraordinariness of that, its "human position", which most strikes me today.


  1. Oh dear, I think that us on the No side are now banking on a last ditch military coup... I'm off to the Pentlands to watch Redford barracks through my binoculars.

    1. From your post this afternoon, I see we've reached precisely the opposite conclusions, tychy. The quotidian juxtaposed with the fundamental appeals to me, and horrifies you. :)

    2. Indeed, it's strange how we've picked similar but contrary poems, both about death and the quotidian.

  2. Well said peat worrier, off to post this on facebook........ AYE

  3. You are absolutely correct in your comments, and I have every admiration for your posts, and thank you for them.
    Tomorrow is not a day of suffering and tragedy; it is a day of hope and belief. It is the day we say yes, Scotland is now an independent country again.


  4. I am thinking of Vespers myself -

    'I hope our senators will behave like saints, provided they don't reform me: He hopes they will behave like baritone cattivi, and, when lights bum late in the Citadel, I (who have never seen the inside of a police station) am shocked and think: 'Were the city as free as they say, after sundown all her bureaus would be huge black stones':
    He (who has been beaten up several times) is not shocked at all but thinks: 'One fine night our boys will be working up there.'
    You can see, then, why, between my Eden and his New Jerusalem, no treaty is negotiable.'

    Thank you again for your lucidity and wit LPW. Here's to negotiable treaties, be we Edenite or Utopian!

  5. I really like your posts, much props to you.
    I will say this though. While I have great empathy for the average No voter, I have no respect for people - Darling, Cameron, Brown, Sarwar, the two Alexanders, etc etc - who have *lied* and scaremongered, repeatedly, about Scotland and its prospects under indy.
    In that sense, for me, it's not a question of saying, Oh well, it's a No vote, fair enough, you win some you lose some.
    Because I'm convinced, and I think with good evidence, that a No vote if it happens will be down - largely, not exclusively - to fear and propaganda. It will be down to No voters who say, aye, I like the idea of independence but I'm worried about x, y and z....such as Brown's despicable lies about Scots being refused specialist treatment in English hospitals if there's a Yes vote, to take just one of countless examples.
    For me, a No vote will be possible only because some people have allowed fear to overwhelm self-confidence, while a Yes vote will be a victory for the latter.
    A few years back Al Franken wrote a book called Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell them, a Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Replace "the Right" with "most of the No Campaign" and you have, I would suggest, a pretty fair description.

  6. YES Alice and I are going to vote now,no need to update now.

  7. "Put all talk of future referendums from your mind. Give it a rest."

    I only half agree with that. The chances of a second referendum within the next decade or so are slim (unless the UK leaves the EU), but if the SNP are asked the question "do you completely rule it out?", it would be foolish in the extreme to answer "yes", this side of any negotiations. They need every bit of leverage they can get.

    Once we actually get to the run-up to the 2016 election, there will have to be absolute clarity, and that clarity will probably involve saying something like "we will not legislate for a second referendum over the coming five-year term unless Britain leaves the EU". But to do that sooner than necessary would be counter-productive if we're serious about pushing for something as close to Devo Max as humanly possible.