Earlier this week the Moderator Designate of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland announced that there would be a reconciliation service held in St Giles Cathedral three days after the referendum vote takes place. The purpose, he said, would be to heal any rifts, but added “I hope that … expressing our commitment to working together for the future of Scotland will be the biggest part of it”. He went on to express a desire for politicians to keep the debate civil, even-tempered and free of emotive language now to help prevent unnecessary rifts being formed in the first place. However, while we may all be aware of real and often heated debates taking place even within our own families and friendships, it seems certain that much of the recent talk about reconciliation is being pushed to deliberately stir up trouble and anxiety.
To my mind, it’s pretty simple. If people, over the course of the final four months leading up to the vote, act in a way that they can reconcile with their own moral code, there will be no need for further ‘reconciliation’. For me, and I hope the majority, this means treating other people with respect, and walking away if they are unable or unwilling to reciprocate. It means being honest, being open to believing other people may genuinely think there is a different path to a better Scotland, and continuing to read, think and learn. It’s worth remembering that in the not-very-distant future we will be looking back on the decision we collectively take, and reflecting on whether we personally did the right thing. On September 19th, and in the days, weeks and years afterwards, I know that I will feel at peace with what will frankly be the huge step of voting Yes. I know this because I have taken the time to examine and weigh up the likely outcomes of both options.
There is no doubt that the rUK has a rocky road ahead – with continued bottom-up austerity promised from both the major parties, and worse from their likely bedfellows. A No vote would not change this, but it would signal to Westminster that they can get away with pretty much whatever they want, it would effectively end any prospect of genuine democracy for Scotland and it could dishearten new rUK groups and their supporters fighting against Westminster’s constant shift towards the far right. A Yes vote will have a completely different, far-reaching and positive effect. Quite apart from the opportunities laid open to Scotland by assuming fiscal responsibility over our own affairs, it will demonstrate to the electorate in the rUK that change is possible and that it is worth the struggle.
At a meeting in Kilmarnock this week Jim Sillars put forward the persuasive argument that we need to start thinking about politics without pre-conceptions; to approach problems like Health Boards crippled by PFI debt with fresh eyes. While I won’t comment on particular policies here, I am very attracted to the idea of building policy without being constrained by habit, tradition and deference to the uber-rich. Hopefully voters will apply the same philosophy to making their decision, thinking about both options and their likely consequences with eyes wide open to the real situation facing the UK, and the possibilities of a Yes vote. If voters currently intend to vote No because they genuinely want a better rUK for everyone (and especially the vulnerable), which I believe many of them do, they have to ask themselves how is that best achievable? If there are to be significant changes through Westminster they firstly need to actually be on offer, and then they must be sold to the rUK electorate with the kind of energy and passion evident in the grassroots Yes campaign. Crushing the Yes vote with constant scaremongering, intangible promises and threats of a society torn apart may well also crush any future progressive movement in the rUK for a long time.
What about those who are simply not interested in a better Scotland and have only their own interests at heart, or who are just completely indifferent? It will be for them to make peace with their decision after the vote, or perhaps never give it a second thought…
But the final group – the spinners and stirrers, the snipers from the side-lines, the name-callers and the hate-spreaders; some of these people are acting with full knowledge of the harm they are doing – and they are beyond needing to make peace with what they have done. Others, including many in the media, should stop and consider their actions, and ask themselves how they will feel looking back at having been caught up in anger and deception, or complicit in misleading the electorate.
They must ask themselves if they will be able to look back and reconcile themselves with what they have done.