I don’t know how I will vote on 18 September, 2014. OK, I do have a pretty strong idea which box I will cross, but I know myself too well to be 100% certain. After all, back in 2011, the choice for my second vote in the Scottish Parliamentary election faltered within the sanctuary of the voting booth. Nothing to do with their policies; it was simply that one of their over-zealous representatives had almost blocked my way inside the building while attempting to hand me a flyer.
However, the fact that I’m not sure about how I will vote is significant, if only because you might expect me to be—and, in the past, a few folk on this very site have clearly assumed I was—a confirmed and assured “No” voter. I was raised near Corstorphine, Edinburgh by parents who had both grown up during the Second World War and were definitely “British” by inclination, with their television and radio tuned loyally to the BBC—I’m not saying that W12 8QT was the first postcode I ever learned, but it was the second. Most of my schooling in the capital was in the private sector. Nowadays, I make a living (of sorts) as a freelance magazine journalist, with most of my clients based elsewhere in the UK. Given that Scotland simply doesn’t have a media big enough to support the number of journalists living here, you might well expect me to be against anything that could potentially upset my own prospects.
And yet, I almost certainly will vote Yes come 2014. Because, ultimately, whatever the difficulties I might face living in a fully self-governing Scotland (especially if I still end up writing for non-Scottish publications), I know that they’ll be chiefly “administrative”. And thus not, in themselves, reasons to continue opting for a political status quo that’s increasingly unattractive.
That said, I think it’s only honest to admit that—in the privacy of the voting booth—I could still change my mind when the time comes. That, so far, I’ve felt no innate sympathy for the Better Together campaign (and its media allies)—thanks to their repeated negativity and scaremongering, their lack of any radical new ideas—is no guarantee that I’ll forever embrace the Yes camp, especially given how the Scottish government’s pronouncements on the subject have so far veered between naive optimism and what appears to be the old “have your cake and eat it” school of economics.
For the biggest risk, the biggest cause of doubt in my mind, is the recurring strain of Scottish nationalism that—fairly or not—I most associate with thrawn, wee Hugh MacDiarmid. (I’m more a Trocchi man myself, not least because he was far sexier.). I do feel that I’m Scottish, but I’m also British; there’s no conflict between the two because they’re just two of numerous adjectives that can be used to describe me. Simply put, when anyone—let alone Alasdair Gray—starts talking about nationality in terms of nouns—of there being colonists or settlers, for example—the kind of Scotland suggested is definitely not one I want to live in, or help bring into being.