Independence – Ach, what the hell!



Freedom’s just another word for “nothing left to lose”.

The word Freedom is bandied around a lot these days, and not just by Mel Gibson in historically inaccurate movies, or politicians invoking it ironically, whilst invading other countries. Consider the song title though. We are indeed most free to take any course of action, when we are not restrained by the need to retain what we already believe to be ours. Just as a shopper with too many bags is scared of dropping one, by reaching for another, so are ordinary people, when faced with changes they might otherwise take a principled stand on, were it not for the threat to their own status quo. OK, I’m going to lay off the metaphors for a bit now.

In Scotland faced with the prospect (and choice) of independence from the rest of the UK, most people are trying to weigh up the risks versus the opportunities. Without any kind of business training, Scots are performing a mental SWOT analysis of the situation. Riven through that process of assessing the relative Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats of independence are two many questions; What’s in it for me? And What do I stand to lose?

The first of these questions is the one most catered to by the speeches of the SNP over the past 10 years at least. I shan’t repeat them here, but essentially the promise is that we’ll all be better off, and be able to live in a more equitable, society, in which most Scots would aspire to.

Perhaps in line with the typical Scots psyche, whereby “Ah’m no bad” is a cartwheeling, hand clapping and gleeful response to the question “How are you?”, the latter question carries considerable more weight amongst ordinary voters. We are not a reckless and carefree people, it has to be said, and it still holds true that it is not difficult to distinguish between a ray of sunshine and a Scotsman with a grievance. However, to hark back to my poor metaphor, the average Scot is not so overloaded with groceries, that they risk dropping any when stooping for another bag. In short, when we consider it for more than five minutes, we don’t feel we have that much to lose. Accordingly, we then feels much more free to indulge in that common Scottish pastime of “Ach, what the hell!”

Whilst we still have over 6 months to go until Independence Day (as surely the tabloids will christen it), the direction of travel for those polled is to switch from No to Yes voters. It is unheard of (as yet) for opinion to go the other way. So on that day in September 2014, when asked if they want to vote for independence, there’s a very good chance that in voting booths across Scotland there will be a loud echo of “Ach, what the hell!”

And I just might be one of them.

Stephen O'Donnell is a lifelong recruiter, internet enthusiast, fadgadget and peripatetic writer.

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