Letter From Canada

At the weekend I got an email from an old friend in Toronto asking about the referendum in Scotland. This is what he said:

“To use an Americanism . . . what’s it going to be, boy? Yes or No? Time to sleep on it is running out.

We are veterans of the referendum wars over here. Being a French-Canadian, born and raised in English-Canada, I have a unique perspective. I could never understand why Quebec would want to give up its advantages for a nominal change in their international status. I also feel they shouldn’t give an inch of what they were bequeathed in the Treaty of Paris. Of course that lovely piece of paper also set the spark to the American Revolution and we’re all still trying to survive that cataclysm.

Hope your results don’t have that big a downside. Over here the “stay” side usually wins by a percentage point or two. I’m guessing that’s where this vote ends up as well.”

My reply was this:

“Well, that’s an interesting question. It would take a long time to explain my stance properly. As a member of the British Labour Party for over 30 years, it’s hard for me to align myself with the Scottish National Party. But when I vote Yes, that’s not what I’ll be doing. Instead, I’ll be voting for a break with Westminster.

In truth, there’s a lot of naïve nonsense being promoted by the Yes campaign, but what’s equally true is that it’s as nothing compared with the negativity of the No campaign. Rather than promote the benefits of the Union, they’ve tried to tell us that we’re too useless to go it alone and that the whole of the world would have it in for us.

Complacency and arrogance has reigned up till very recently. This campaign is two years old, but only in the last fortnight have they woken up & realised that there’s a real danger that they might lose.

I don’t know how it’s being reported over there, but this really is an astonishing time for us. Voter registration is the highest ever at 97%. The predicted turnout is 80%+ – for comparison, it was 64% at the last UK General Election and below 40% at the last European election. Our streets are full of people & everyone’s discussing this.

We’ve gone from being largely uninterested in politics (or despondent – Thatcher ground us down) to being actively engaged. Genuinely, I’ve never experienced anything like this.

And that’s without violence. An egg or two has been harmed, but that’s really all.

All that said, I’m fearful that there will be a bottle factor (i.e. a chickening out) at the very last minute, which will be sufficient to make the vote lost this time. The issue isn’t going to go away easily, though.”

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