This is an edited version of my editorial in this month's Shetland Life magazine, which was published on Friday
I’m a doubting fundamentalist at heart, a binary kind of person. For me, and for preference, there’s right and wrong, black and white, no shades of grey and no compromise.
Except, of course, when you wonder if you might, just might, be mistaken.
It’s the way I was brought up and as they say, while you can take the boy out of the gospel hall, you can’t take the gospel hall out of the man. Even, or especially, when they’re members of the Humanist Society of Scotland. Commitment and doubt: the twin engines of progress.
You may have noticed. My editorials in Shetland Life and Spaekalation columns in The Shetland Times have not been noted for their calm objectivity and forgiving even-handedness. Enemies have been made. Former friends erect conversational shutters. Councillors ignore me in coffee queues. Minds, notably my own, have changed. But I should say that for someone who was handing out hellfire and damnation tracts aged seven, and canvassing for God on doorsteps at 11, disagreement, confrontation and even verbal abuse are not unfamiliar.
This is what I do. This is who I am.
When it comes to Scottish independence, I’ve made no secret of my allegiance to the ‘No’ cause. And I’ve never doubted that I was right. I believe in democracy, not in artificial borders. I believe that nationalism is, if not always a moral evil, only of any ethical value if a people are being repressed or exploited. The more extreme Yessists may argue exactly that about Scots, but they are, like all nationalists, simply fuelling what is the romantic, emotional, core of their faith. And it is a faith. A faith that Scotland and Scots are different and better. Than the evil English.
All kinds of pseudo-factual arguments have been hauled in to try and buttress what often seems like kneejerk nationalist bigotry. The soothing myth of ‘Civic Nationalism’. The daft notion that once you’re in Carlisle, people are suddenly nastier and more essentially Tory. There are the economic falsehoods about how Scotland would demand a currency union, that oil will last, cheaply, forever without causing any environmental damage, that you can attract multinationals to Scotland with a low-tax regime and not only will they play nice, but we won’t end up like terribly diminished Ireland. Believe in me, says the sneering, bullying Alex Salmond. Because I am right. Welcome to a micro-world run by that new fiscal and legal partnership, Salmond, Murdoch and Soutar.
Except Salmond isn’t right. Except a separate Scotland is not going to benefit the poor and the vulnerable, could destroy pensions and our health and social services, and all for the sake of that Braveheartian emotional tug. I don’t want that. I will vote ’No’. I have fought against separatism in every decent, legal, honest, verbal, musical and humorous way I can. I believe that 18 September will see a vote against cheap secessionist theology and for all that is good in the United Kingdom.
But, what if? What if by some mischance there is a tiny majority for ‘Yes’? Will I argue for a re-run ? Will I shout ‘foul’? Will I gather up my goods, chattels , dogs, bikes and guitars and move to, say, Keswick (officially, nicest place in Britain to live, and just over the barbed wire)? Well, no. I will, in effect, compromise.
This is my home. Shetland, especially Northmavine is my home. Scotland is my home. So I will stay and battle for the values that I hold dear within the communities that I hold dear. I won’t demand a reunion with Norway. I won’t campaign for ‘Forvikisation’ of Shetland. I will abide by the vote and get on with things, holding to the fundamentals of what I believe: social justice, removing the causes of poverty, standing up for the rights of the exploited. The glory of bicycles, motorbikes, renewable energy and loud guitars. Vinyl records and free digital downloads. Kayaks and clean seas. Tattie soup and reestit mutton. And a free, self-governing, people’s republic of Northmavine.
Well, maybe just the tattie soup, then. You can’t be a fundamentalist about everything. Except bannocks. There’s only one correct way to make a bannock.
Fortunately, the Yessists will not, I believe, win the day. But any ‘No’ victory will leave a large number of disappointed, perhaps infuriated ‘Yes’ voters. What will they do? Are they, those fundamentalist believers, prepared to compromise, accept the result, put their misguided vision of the future behind them, and move on within a democratic Britain?
I doubt it.