We might not be voting as a nation today but, all over Scotland, the media and groups are discussing the issue, simply because it is one year to the final decision. This morning, I participated in a debate with the hospitality industry at the national museum of Scotland, which was attended by more than 200 people, including employers, educationists, students and hospitality industry employees. The yes Scotland campaign’s presentation was led by Jim Mather, Jean Urquhart and Andrew Fairlie.
Before the debate took place, we took a vote on people’s intentions. Five people voted yes, 43 were undecided and 77 voted no. After the debate, 10 people voted yes, 17 were undecided and 102 voted no. As George Adam might put it—well, I will come to him in a moment. As one wag said, despite being beaten 10 to one, the yes Scotland campaign will no doubt argue that, because it doubled its vote, it won the argument.
In Aberdeenshire, the result of a mock referendum of schools—the First Minister’s heart territory—was announced this afternoon. Of those pupils, who will be able to vote, 2,847 voted yes and 8,718 voted no. As George Adam might say, in the north-east, the no campaign had the yes campaign on toast.
There is an argument for independence, which I thought that we would hear from the yes Scotland campaign and the SNP. That argument is that there are no certainties, that independence is a risk and a gamble and that we do not know for sure what Scotland would be like in a range of areas but we believe in the people of Scotland and that, when faced with the opportunities of independence, we can rise to meet them and be a successful country. However, that argument has not been made.
Earlier in the summer, I was happy to dismiss and condemn some of the silly stories that have been put about. There have been many silly arguments against an independent Scotland; I was happy to say at the time that the story about mobile phone charges was one.
However, the yes Scotland campaign has on significant issues been certain when there is no certainty—on the big issues, not the trivial ones. On our currency, the issue is not whether we can have the pound but on what terms. On Europe, the issue is not that we cannot be in it—I agree that, ultimately, we would be a valued member of the European Union—but when and on what terms. The issue of whether we can be a successor state to NATO—