There are those who argue that in the referendum debate we should not be majoring on the economics, but should rather be talking about cultural identity: to be able to give full expression to that separate identity and to nurture it properly, we need to have political independence, goes the line.
That worries me. Whilst I value – indeed proclaim – that identity and its separateness, I simply don’t buy the idea that we need independence to maintain it. The acid test is this: does that mean that if the vote is lost then inevitably we will see our identity eroded? My concern is that this has the potential to become a self-fulfilling prophecy if the argument is pursued.
There’s so much else that represents a much bigger and more immediate threat, not least the relentless march of a globalised version of a’ bheurla Shasunnach for social media chatter and other internet interaction, which will have a homogenising effect not limited to language alone. Of course, that’s unstoppable, independence or not. Rather than fight it as such, we need to focus our efforts on areas where we can actually achieve something. A different topic, for another day perhaps.
The debate so far has been marked by a pronounced lack of optimism. Everything seems dull and pessimistic. BT spreads doom and gloom about the struggle an independent Scotland would face. The Yes side may have some up-beat messages, but over recent weeks they’ve become outweighed by their own warnings of what will befall us if left to the mercy of Westminster. The future looks murky, no matter the outcome next month. If you believed it all then you’d have to consider emigrating if you could.
Yet, much of what we’re told we would be able to achieve following a Yes vote has to be something we should being doing anyway, no matter the result. The danger is that if we’re disappointed we descend into defeatism and settling for second best.
Tonight’s not a good one for us Celtic fans. After The Bhoys lost the 2003 UEFA Cup Final in Seville, the great Henrik Larsson declined to go along with the charade of appearing to take seriously the TV’s interviewer desperate, stock enquiry of “what positives do you manage to take from that performance?”. Henrik was having none of it: “we’ve lost the biggest match of our careers – there’s nothing positive in that”.
Henrik had a winner’s mentality. He was never going to be content with patting himself on the back (which many think he would have been entitled to do – his own performance was outstanding that night). No kidology for him. Instead, he put it behind him and sought out the next opportunity for victory.
If the referendum result is No, let’s not be content with telling ourselves that we wuz robbed, that the referee was a XXXX (insert your epithet of choice), that we did surprisingly well given the overwhelming obstacles in our way and so on. As far as the future politics are concerned, we should move on instead to planning for the next season. We’ve come too far to stop now. (We’re being told that this vote cannot be repeated for a generation, if at all. Refuse to accept that.)
As regards the cultural sphere, let’s seek out the opportunities for victory anyway. The oft-quoted Alasdair Gray line (which he has attributed to a Canadian) is “Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation”. We can – and should – do exactly that, regardless.