So here we are again, having another referendum. To those of you who are referendum virgins, we in Scotland have had a good bit of practice. And in a way the questions of identity, of finance, of independence, are all similar.
Interestingly for me, though, the supporters are almost diametrically opposite, apart from me. Some of the leaders of the “better together” campaign last time were tories, and the Yes leaders were SNP. This time it’s the other way round.
So what to expect? Expect fear-mongering about what an exit might mean. Expect ridiculously optimistic calculations about how much better off we will be without the EU. Expect really, really poor campaigns from both sides, one bombastic, the other feeble and confused. Expect more heat than light, expect very few deep and interesting debates about our identity, our future, about what we are as a Kingdom and what we want to be. Sorry to say it, but from now on it will be personalities, podia, and posturing, with tabloid headlines getting ever bigger and simpler.
The point of the knife for the Stay campaign will be the same as it was for Better Together. The question which killed Alasdair Darling was “if we are better together, why is it not better now?”
The hard answer to that question – an answer that most of us worked out by ourselves, because Better Together never answered it – is that it IS better now. No-one likes how things are. People are generally dissatisfied with politics, with institutions, and it need hardly be said, with their lives. And actually, that’s not primarily a financial comfort issue (although it is for many) but a cultural identity one. People aren’t all that worried about benefits, but they are worried about migrants, because they have a feeling that it further erodes their identity. I think that’s an unconscious reaction, and I would love it if there was enough proper debate to wonder what sort of identity we want to have.
I get my identity from God, from being a fellow member of the human race, and from being part of a country which has, when it is at its best, been compassionate and rejoiced in, cultural diversity, openness to other cultures and hospitality. It has often had its darker side, but generally Britain has been on the side of welcoming strangers and integrating them.
My prediction is that we will stay in, probably by a similar margin to the Scottish referendum (55/45) mainly on the grounds of defence and economy, but not before the leave vote garners enough support that it really makes people wonder what they really want.
Personally I think that the more often we tweet and publicise this video, the more likely we are to stay in: