Opinion: the time for the independence referendum is now

Scotland from space <em>Picture: NASA</em>
Scotland from space Picture: NASA

The Caledonian Mercury is politically neutral. The Caledonian Mercury does not endorse any viewpoint over another. The Caledonian Mercury is a forum to celebrate all the voices of Scotland.

The Caledonian Mercury does not have a position Scottish independence.

But I do.

I support Scottish independence. And I want to write about it – as an individual journalist, not as Editor of The Caledonian Mercury – because there are so few pro-independence voices in the media. Those of us who believe the Scottish people are capable of governing themselves have a duty to speak up. Indeed, the anti-independence attacks have started already.

Alex Salmond has called for an end to “fearmongering, negativity and scaremongering” and insults to the intelligence of the people of Scotland.

Aye, guid luck wi’ that, Eck.

The SNP should force through the independence referendum right now. Momentum is a precious thing. When it’s with you, you can move mountains. When it’s gone, it’s gone for ever.

Right now, the Unionists are in complete disarray. They are down. Kick them. Kick them now, kick them hard. Do not give them time to regroup. There is a “perfect storm” for independence: an SNP overall majority, cut-mad Tories running wild down south, disgust with Westminster corruption, despair at the City-focused UK economy and a desire to try a different way.

But storms pass.

The more the SNP waits, the more time there is for the no doubt well-funded “No” campaign, the Unionist parties and the media to drip poison in the electorate’s ear: “We’ll be like Iceland”; “We’ll be kicked out of the EU”; and the current favourite: “People who voted SNP didn’t realise the SNP supports independence.”

The people of Scotland have spoken. And they have said they no longer want our country to be a dark, craven, backward appendix ruled by “business as usual” politics. To be sure, it is “business as usual” that will kill the SNP. Let the ghost of 1997 guide Alex Salmond’s footsteps. After you have won people’s hearts, you must not squander their affections.

It’s time to deliver independence: that’s what SNP government is for.

The secret to success for independence will lie not in an appeal to Nationalism. I speak here as one of Scotland’s army of ex-Labour voters.

Despite the impending “No” campaign propaganda about “divorce” and “separation”, the change to full nationhood is a comparatively modest affair. An administrative tweaking of the Scottish parliament’s powers so that we can bring local solutions to bear on local problems that are peculiar to our corner of the British Isles.

It is not a dramatic wrench but an evolution from devolution. It is only sensible that the solutions to our Scottish problems of poverty, health, crime and alcohol be determined here, on the ground, in Scotland.

There will be no Tartan Curtain at Berwick. There will be no passport required to go shopping at the Metrocentre. The United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland will remain Scotland’s biggest trading partner, our strongest ally and our closest friend.

I love England. I’m proud to share the British Isles with it. I love the music of Elgar, the writing of Orwell, the buzz of London – one of the great cities of the world. And I will still be able to access all that after independence.

The independent Scotland I want to see owes little to Braveheart, Bannockburn, Mary, Charlie and Bob. The Scotland of the future needs to follow in the footsteps of David Hume, James Watt, Thomas Carlyle, James Young Simpson and Keir Hardie. It must be a Scotland that builds on our intellectual heritage and our spirit of entrepreneurial invention. We must celebrate excellence in education, declare war on poor health and fight the evils of poverty with the renewed vigour of a self-confident, self-governing people. And we must welcome all those who seek to live here.

Scots built the British Empire, for good or ill. Scots built the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Scots invented much of the modern world. Scots are different from the rest of the United Kingdom as we have proved at election after election. And Scots can manage our own affairs, using the resources that God gave this wonderful, wild country.

But let us not tarry. The naysayers will gnaw at our doubt-ridden souls like a Lovecraftian horror. And every second we waste allows the old fears and doubts to be paraded in front of us.

We have a choice: we can be a lost, timorous enclave of wannabes, bleating about the 1978 World Cup and looking for handouts from an institution 400 miles away. Or we can roll up our sleeves and sort ourselves out.

Starting now.

Now that I have got that of my chest, let me reiterate that The Caledonian Mercury has no political stance and will celebrate all voices in the coming debate. The Caledonian Mercury might have had an easier ride had it been a cheerleader for the SNP. But it is neutral because the independent Scotland I want deserves independent journalism: fierce, critical, intelligent.

Want to discuss other issues? Join the debate on our new Scottish Voices forum