Hey everyone. It was around 8 30 last night when I got chatting to a woman I have got to know over the past few months and after exchanging pleasantries as you do, she asked me what I had been up to recently.
I replied that I had been busy with writing new poems and campaigning for a yes vote in the referendum. At first she seemed surprised I was a poet though I told her that I had been writing and performing my poems for more than 20 years. It has to said however she was slightly less surprised about the fact that I have been campaigning for a yes vote we’d had a civilised discussion on the subject when we first met.
At that time as now the woman concerned was undecided stating that she was unsure about why we should go for it but was willing to listen to both sides of the debate. She had obviously watched the BBC on Tuesday when it was screening the programme with the rather patronising title of What Women Want as she stated that most women were undecided about how they vote in September.
Ever willing to listen to and engage in reasoned debate the women asked me what I thought were the main advantages for yes and why she and others should take the chance and go for it. Totally prepared I outlined my case as follows.
The first selling point and in my opinion one of the strongest reasons for a yes vote is foreign affairs and in particular the golden chance to bin the killing machine that it is the Trident missile system. Defence was I said central to the argument for any nation to govern itself and this could not and should not be left in the control of Westminster as this could seriously jeopardise up to 3 million Scottish lives.
The woman seemed slightly taken aback by this claim. However I informed that as an independent nation we would be able to decide in the event of another World War what role if any Scotland would play in it and should we so desire we could remain a neutral country taking no side in the conflict. Should we decide to stay within the UK however this would not be the case, indeed we would have to be compliant to the wishes of a Westminster government which knows little of Scotland and cares even less. This I assured her leads me back to the claim about the number of potential lives lost as if a Westminster government decides to go war then it is quite possible and actually more than likely that the enemy will decide to target the area where the nuclear capability is stored. This is why trident which was deemed to dangerous to be stationed in Portsmouth is instead located in Faslane in Dumbartonshire.
Another issue which I said needed addressed was the idea that if we become independent our family and friends in the remaining UK would according to the fantasy world of better together become foreigners. I said that was not only stupid vacuous and downright racist it was also so ridiculous it would be laughable if it were not so insulting.
I validated my view by saying that we in the Yes campaign have never once talked of foreigners during this entire campaign but rather than being worried about my family and friends becoming foreign I would far more inclined to be raging beyond the fires of fury at the thought that they were given no choice but to re-locate in other parts of the United Kingdom or even go abroad because the British government
decided indulge in the politically motivated transfer of their existing jobs outside of Scotland in the hope of making gains of the midlands and south east of England which they needed to win or hold on to key marginal seats if they were to sit on the government benches at Westminster. The fact they destroyed communities and lives didn’t really matter to them. The woman seemed shocked that this could ever take place however there is no doubt it did happen and it will happen again as part of the payback Scotland will be given if we vote no.
I then brought up the idea of democratic accountability in other words we will finally always be able to say that we got the government that majority or at very least largest minority of those living in Scotland actually voted for. This as I pointed out is the normal state of affairs for almost every country in the world. On gaining this type of government Scotland will finally be not only able to look at ourselves in the mirror and see ourselves the way we should be seen but also have a government which focus on Scottish priorities rather than being far too concerned about Westminster thinks.
With regards to the women’s vote I said to the women that at the beginning of this campaign the women’s vote was seldom mentioned, nor was the older people’s vote. The reason the unionists are so fond of raising this issue now is very simple it’s because they know they are losing and losing heavily in every other demographic. With this very firmly in their minds they are trying to scare what they see as these sections of the population the unionists tend to see groups rather than individuals with minds of their own, as voting fodder rather than people, in to voting no for their own narrow self obsessed political ends.
The women then brought up the culture of expenses and how all politicians were at it with what was really the people’s money. This is I believe a really weak area for the unionists and it is my belief that we should exploiting it far more than we have been. Even allowing for the fact that the woman claimed all politicians were the same I believe that I made inroads to this argument by saying that this very fact was actually a strong reason for supporting independence as I believe that the closer politicians are to the people the less power will be misused. Indeed since the SNP first gained power in 2007 under Alex Salmond they have tightened the expenses system for MSP’s in ways Labour or their Conservative allies would never have dreamed of trying.
On the subject of Alex Salmond the woman said a lot of people don’t like him. I challenged this assumption by saying that in almost every opinion poll since becoming First Minister Alex Salmond has maintained the highest approval rating of any political leader or senior politician in Scotland or the UK with his main rival being his Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. I reinforced my point by stating that those people who expressed a strong dislike were hardly likely to be supporters of either the SNP or the broader independence movement.
I also let the woman know that I was not prepared to let this nonsense go unchallenged and any time I heard someone say it I would ask them why they disliked him and if they parroted answers like I just do, it would not be acceptable. I told her that this was a strategy designed to unnerve my opponents and put them on the back foot which I have to say I find very effective as it illustrates all too clearly they get their information from a press and media so demented it could be described as foaming at the mouth with hatred for Salmond.
I further advanced this line by stating that this perception of a lot of people disliking him not only doesn’t stack up when put under closer scrutiny it smacks of sheep being led to the unionist pen. I then informed her that this was a malicious hate campaign and it was happening for a reason namely that unionists fear him. Well as I said to her I believe my granny taught me well when she told me that when it comes to opponents or enemies if you don’t rate them you can’t hate them and the unionists hate Salmond because they are only too aware they don’t have anyone in his league. I also quoted the well known Scottish poet and author Des Dillon who said ‘voting no to independence because you don’t like Alex Salmond is like refusing to go on a bus because you don’t like the driver’. In other words it isn’t the brightest move you’ll ever make. I concluded my robust defence of the First Minister by saying that unlike the walking shambles that is Gordon Brown Salmond does have a grasp on economics. After all, before being elected to parliament he had a job as an economist for the Royal Bank Of Scotland in the days when it was both Scottish and successful before being bought over by the greedy loan sharks masquerading as those with international business interests.
I also made the point that though an independent Scotland may not be the land of milk and honey that some of our most optimistic supporters would like to claim, neither would it be the economic basketcase that of our more extremist opponents would like to claim. The truth I said lies somewhere in between and that is the same for most countries to say otherwise is a farcical lie used only to save their jobs and their place aboard the gravy train. I reinforced this point by telling her that yesterday a London based newspaper ran two different contradictory headlines in their Scottish and UK editions. The Scottish edition talked of a bleak future without hope whilst in contrast the UK edition said that Britain would have a great future. One of those headlines is not telling the truth I said and I think I know which one. The women seemed genuinely shocked that two different editions of the same paper could contradict themselves in such a way. I on the other hand most certainly was not.
As I said if we are gullible enough to vote no which is Westminster’s desired option all the powers that be will hear from Scotland will be you can do what you want to us we are too gutless to stop you and this includes Westminster Labour as well as the Conservatives. Voting no I said was an even bigger risk than voting yes.
I further enhanced this point by pointing out that the best comment I have heard on the referendum has come not from Alex Salmond, not from Nicola Sturgeon, not from our excellent finance minister John Swinney, but from the man who was my first political mentor Jim Sillars who said that ‘for 15 hours on the 18th September for the first time in our democratic history the people of Scotland will have sovereignty over what happens in our country. Only we and no one else will able to decide the outcome of this referendum’.
This is something we will never have at Westminster elections where the government is decided by what happens in Stoke, and Swindon, rather than events in Scotland. We are not even sovereign at Scottish elections as the Scottish government has a budget controlled by Westminster and is only able to deliver a fraction of what it could deliver in an independent Scotland.
The question she and every other voter I know needs to answer is having had a taste of full power will they willing to hand it back to Westminster? I know I wouldn’t. Well I don’t trust anyone who would sooner let others take decisions about their country than do it themselves. To me there can be only be three explanations as to why anyone would settle for this second hand decision making, they are either (A) Thick (B) Corrupt or (C) and by far the most likely answer Both. I then reinforced the point by saying that people should not be fooled in thinking that a no vote will mean no change I said this is the best case scenario after a no vote, however rather than our nation as the unionists say they would the reality is it would be far more likely that the Scottish Parliament would have
it’s wings clipped for even daring to hold a referendum and its powers would be substantially reduced. I asked her if she would like to see the NHS to go down the same road as it is going England and Wales where people in some areas are facing charges of £ 10 every time they go to visit their GP. Or if she would like her grand children to start life after university £ 9,000
in debt. I smiled, as knowing despite her reluctance to break with the familiar I was highlighting genuine fears which those undecided voters need to face. I think it is only fair to play project fear at their own game we are after all a damn sight smarter. As I said to her if the best the union can offer as what you have now it isn’t worth saving. Voting yes I said isn’t your best hope of change it’s the only hope you’ve got.
Getting back to the women’s vote I informed the women concerned that the yes campaign have an all party and all embracing group called Women for Independence which looks in great detail at the issues of importance to women and makes the case as to why women voters should support a yes vote. I also informed that in the course of the last month I have spoken to 20 women voters on this issue and have only found two definite no voters one of whom was a hard line Thatcherite of retirement age. The other who was considering this option is the least politically, socially, and culturally inept of any voter I’ve spoken to during the entire campaign. The 17 others were all definite yes supporters.
My next stop was culture and the arts and I informed her that as a yes supporter there was a multi party campaign for yes supporters called the National Collective in which our task is to imagine a better Scotland and present our individual and collective visions of what that Scotland through drama, poetry videos and all other forms of art. She smiled at that idea and said I’m not surprised you’d enjoy that. Not only did I tell her she was right but that it has to be said the referendum has been good for my creativity.
I think to be fair the woman was surprised at how in depth I could go on so many topics though I did say I had been campaigning for the SNP and the independence movement since the Govan by-election victory of Jim Sillars in 1988 to which she replied it showed in the way I always answered her questions as honestly as possible. I think she realises that no matter whether she agrees with my vision for our country or not I will always be fair and give people a fair hearing and listen to their concerns and fears as by listening to them I can help address them and by addressing them Scotland can win the victory our country so badly needs.
At the end of our very pleasant chat the woman said I had been a good ambassador for my party and my cause though she was still unconvinced and would take more time to make her mind up on what she thought was the right decision for our country. Personally I detected some change and the fact that she seemed more open to the possibility of what I see as a positive change. I don’t believe she is unconvinced of the merits of independence just undecided about whether go for it or not. I have no doubt I will have another conversation or two with this woman before polling day but as I went on my journey I couldn’t help but be optimistic and believe I might have empowered her to embark on a journey of her own.
I have to say however much as I enjoyed our chat it was not easy to get her to think about changing her route but something tells me that I may yet get through to the undecided voter.
Love And Best Wishes