Hey everyone It has come to my attention that a recent opinion poll on voting intentions for our independence referendum shows that the biggest battle may not be that between the two rival campaigns or even the respective leader of our devolved parliament and First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron. It may not even come down to the quality of the debate or who is winning the argument. It may be won or lost by not arguments between rivals or political opponents instead the decision on the future of our nation could be won or lost by a debate thousands if not hundreds of thousands of voters will be having with themselves. The title of these of internal debates can be summed up by that well known Clash classic Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
I make this point as the poll concerned states that between a fifth and a quarter of those questioned said whilst their hearts said yes their heads remained doubtful and they would likely to vote no in September. Needless to say this was seized upon by better together spokesman Jim Murphy. The East Renfrewshire MP said this demonstrated the fact that many Scots believed themselves to have the best of both worlds with a strong Scottish voice within a strong United Kingdom.
Though he never said it in so many words Mr Murphy implied with his carefully selected choice of words that a vote for Independence would be an emotional vote made from the heart. In contrast a vote to remain in the UK would he implied be the hard headed but ultimately better and safer choice.
Mr Murphy is and I will be honest about this a cleverer more astute politician than many of his unionist colleagues particularly it has to be said some in his own party who if truth be told should be thankful that intelligence is not measured in light as if it was they would have enough to light a candle in a power cut. I can certainly think of some of his Westminster colleagues whom I would place in that category and they are not all in the house of commons. In fact some of the worst offenders are so-called nobility though god knows there is nothing noble about them or their intentions. Mr Murphy is of a more personable disposition than those I’m thinking of and knowing the Scottish personality as he does he knows we are a cautious lot who are maybe a wee bit risk averse and if we can find a way of not doing something till later on then we tend to believe it is our duty to do it. After all decisions can be messy sometimes and on the odd occasion we may even get things wrong. God forbid we should ever be put in that position by getting ideas above our station.
Thus is the crux of the better together argument. Their logic is the United Kingdom is bigger than Scotland therefore it must also be better than Scotland. Now I’m sorry to disappoint Jim Murphy and many other unionists whom I do actually respect but I not only do I refuse to buy in to this negative narrative I am actually going to turn it completely on its head and I say that it is the unionist argument which appeals more to the heart whilst those supporting independence are the ones who are presenting the more principled, pragmatic, positive vision of the future.
I make this case because growing up in a family which on my mother’s side was predominately but not totally unionist, and mostly of a liberal or socialist tradition though there were a few orange Tory voters amongst some of less educated members, I was brought up to believe that Britain was a land of freedom and fairness as this was the dominant view in my family. It was however by means exclusive as my gran, my uncle Tam and my dad were slightly less convinced of this mythical picture of a green and pleasant fantasy land.
It was my uncle Tam a Labour voter till Thatcher converted him to the SNP who made the most compelling case for Independence but I’m sorry to tell Jim Murphy it wasn’t made by an from an emotional call to the heart, it was made very much from the head.
You see Tam Russell was a leftie a socialist who preferred a wee dram to a glass of champagne. He was a man with whom I’m sure Jim Murphy would have got on well. After all they shared many of the same beliefs for example that Britain should be a land of opportunity where talent can truly flourish. Another common interest would be that both would support a strong trade union movement to protect the rights of workers all over these islands and both would oppose the cold and uncaring conservatism of the Thatcher years. Where they would differ however would be on the democratic deficit which Scotland would now face because of it. You see it was my uncle Tam’s belief that conservative rule of Scotland was never acceptable under any circumstances and that is where he and Jim Murphy would have had to agree to differ. Not for him the idea of voting for a party who continue to lose Westminster elections and tell us to wait till later. This to my uncle made no sense. It was no longer just a case of romantic idealism to support independence it was now he told me a necessary evil.
Remember this comes from a man who wanted to be a unionist and for most of his life was a unionist. He talked warmly of Labour figures such as Clement Atlee who led Labour to its post war landslide victory in 1945, He told me as that as a child who was supposed to die at 7 months it was the British NHS which had saved my life. His political heroes were people like Labour’s Scottish Secretary Tom Johnston and the architect of the NHS Nye Bevan and unusually for a Rangers fan the Irish Republican martyr James Connolly. Indeed it was he who taught me the words to a great crowd were gathered.
Other political figures he admired included Clydeside Red John McLean, Jimmy Reid, Michael Foot, Barbara Castle, the man who is now Yes Scotland’s very own Dennis Canavan, and Tony Benn, So as list shows this was not unlike my dad a man given to nationalism but rather a man who was wedded to the fundamental socialist principal of self determination. This was a man who came slowly and maybe even reluctantly to the cause of independence. This was a man whose blood was the deepest red of anyone I’ve ever known. Apart perhaps from his mum my wee rebel granny but unlike her eldest son she had always hated both the Labour Party and the unionist cause. However, I think having an auld orange witch of a stepmother who would make Cruella De Vile look like Cinderella and was a proud supporter of both may not have helped either cause gain my gran’s trust.
My uncle Tam however was a slow burner before eventually converting to independence. It was the events of 1984 which finally pushed him over the line. You see that was the year Thatcher decimated the coal industry in the name of union bashing but still found the time to rush through a British passport to South African born athlete Zola Budd in the name of Olympic glory. That’s it he said being British means nothing anymore, not when honest workers are denied a living wage and any wee South African can get a passport because she can run a bit. It stuck in his craw that the country he loved had been devalued in this way and that was indeed the final straw.
In many ways, his conversion was a bitter pill for him to swallow. He admitted as much to my Tory voting uncle Charlie a few weeks later in one of those debates that often happened during family gatherings when he said he would be voting SNP in all future elections and believed that independence was the only way forward for Scotland. My uncle Charlie was I have to say more than slightly shocked at this news and jokingly asked if he had been got at by either me or my dad to which my uncle Tam replied much as it pained a red like him to say it independence was now the only way to stop the Tories wrecking Scotland. Labour he said would need to come its senses and realise that this was the right way to go as by doing so Scotland could set examples for England and Wales to follow on protecting workers rights and banning nuclear weapons.
So you see Mr Murphy my Uncle Tam was the reluctant convert who became a supporter of independence not because he listened to his heart which would actually have told him to vote no, but because he used his head to put equality before emotions and rights before rhetoric and though he is no longer with us, the story of his change of heart seems to hit the mark when I share it with traditional Labour voters as it always brings another few to the cause of independence and you know I swear I can see him smiling as he stands on the shoulders of giants with a blood red banner he was so proud to carry in the name of the principles he taught me.
Love And Best Wishes