During our annual stay in Scotland – Aberdeenshire, the Dee and the Cairngorms – we noticed a new feature of the landscape: posters and banners bearing the words Yes or No. Something dramatic was clearly taking place.
Not being Scottish (although my wife was born in Glasgow), we felt this had little to do with us. Even if Scotland votes for independence, it is hardly likely to affect our regular journeys north. The natives are more than friendly to us, and will doubtless remain so, even if they become another country and do things differently.
We have not been able to avoid catching the odd soundbite from Alex Salmond, who strikes me as the kind of populist politician who will not let his opponents complete the answer to a question if half an answer suits him better. In this he has much in common with certain broadcasters who I instinctively distrust, but as I am English I cannot possibly comment on his arguments.
I was once harangued (and not many people can say this) when I said I couldn’t understand why Berwick on Tweed would want to be independent. Conversely, I come from Norfolk, which claims to “du different” and therefore might want to go it alone, with or without the drawbridge advocated by some of its inhabitants. So I have given UDI (a unilateral declaration of independence) some thought.
Should Scotland go it alone? And if I think not, how does that square with my instinct to get out of what I see as an undemocratic European Union?
My misgivings are straightforward. If you want to win a referendum, what do you do? Well, you could start by giving the vote to people you think will vote in your favour and take it away from those who probably won’t. For instance you could give it to 16- and 17-year olds, who are more likely to be rebellious, and take it away from Scots who are not resident in Scotland.
Oddly, this seems to be what has happened. But as I say, I am not Scottish. Who am I to complain?
What does worry me is that if the vote goes against independence, Mr Salmond will have created a very large minority who are angry and frustrated, and who may well be unhappy with those who voted against them. Being Scots, they are unlikely to resort to arms, but we cannot rule out the odd angry glance.