IT has been described as the biggest choice facing the people of Scotland in over 300 years.
But, while millions of people throughout the country may not get their chance to vote on our constitutional for another two and a half years, thousands of people in part of Glenrothes will have the opportunity to have their say on the issue next month.
Auchmuty and Dovecot Tenants and Residents Association have included a survey in the March issue of their newsletter asking people living in the areas to answer ‘yes’, or ‘no’ to the question: ‘Do you want Scotland to be independent?’
It is believed to be the first time that any organisation in the country has run such a ‘mini-referendum’ ahead of an official one - whether run by the British Government next year, or the Scottish one in autumn, 2014 (18 October was named as the date by a ‘source’ at the weekend).
Association chairman, David Nelson, said the survey was not a stunt, but a genuine attempt to find out what people in the area thought about the issue.
“It’s something that people are talking about in the pubs and the clubs,” explained Mr Nelson who is also secretary of the CISWO Club in North Street.
“It’s obviously a massive issue and we thought this was a way to get people thinking about the issue now, because the referendum date is a long way away.
“There are around 6,000 people in the area, so it’s a fairly big sample of people’s opinions.
“We will let the survey run for a month after the newsletter comes out and then will announce the result at the end of it.”
The Scottish National Party wanted to hold a referendum during their first four years in power after the 2007 election, but they were a minority government and couldn’t get enough support to get the bill through parliament.
That all changed last year when they became the first party to win a majority at Holyrood, and re-stated their intention to hold the vote.
A public consultation on the referendum was launched in January and although the party’s preferred question - ‘Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country’ - was outlined, nothing is yet set in stone and other aspects of what the vote will entail are yet to be agreed, including a proposal that the voting age should be lowered to 16 - the association’s survey will be open to all ages.
The area comes under the Glenrothes Central and Thornton Fife Council ward, which is represented by three councillors, Labour’s Ian Crichton and the SNP’s David Cunningham and Ross Vettraino.
Cllr Vettraino said: “I welcome the interest in the current debate and the initiative to conduct a poll.
“I hope that the residents of Auchmuty and Dovecot take part both at this stage and in 2014, as the people of Scotland move forward and decide their constitutional future.
“Scotland is a fortunate country, blessed with natural resources, a landscape of stunning diverse beauty, a unique cultural heritage, a rich and colourful history and, most importantly, great potential for the future
“With the limited home rule it already has, Scotland has already taken huge forward strides.
“For example, here in Fife in the last five years, we have seen £400 million of inward investment and 2,000 new jobs.
“We now have the best educational results ever and the best road traffic statistics for 30 years.
“In and around Glenrothes in addition to enormous investments by Samsung and others in the Energy Park at Methil and by Diageo in Leven and Cameron Bridge and the biomass investment at Tullis Russell, we have the rebuilding of Fife Institute and Auchmuty High School.
“These are just some examples of the ambition and potential and achievements that are characteristic of the efforts of the Scottish Government and Fife Council working together.”
Ian Sloan, who will contest the ward for Labour, was similarly enthusiastic about the survey.
He said: “I’m pleased that the association are engaging positively with the current discussion about Scotland’s constitutional future.
“I look forward to seeing the results of the survey.
“Also, if elected by the voters as a councillor in the ward, I will work closely with the association in addressing the real concerns that affect the people who live in our town as they try to cope with the SNP cutting our valued council services too deep and too fast.”
The survey has been welcomed by local Labour MP Lindsay Roy, who is a member of the Scottish Affairs Committee which is holding an enquiry into the proposed referendum.
He said, ‘’It’s good to see this grass roots initiative and it will be interesting to see the results.
‘’However, people need to be aware of what the possible implications of separation, or independence might be and I would encourage them to consider them before they respond.
‘’My constituency office in Glenrothes has been inundated by questions from constituents asking about such things as Scotland’s share of the national debt, defence, what currency would be used, pensions and benefits and nuclear power stations.
‘’Before we have the vote, people have to have enough information as possible to that they can make an informed choice and that’s why the committee is holding this enquiry.’’
Outwith the political parties, there was also support for the initiative.
Bob Taylor, a former Labour town councillor and political commentator, said: “I’m glad the association is taking the consultation exercise on the independence referendum seriously.
“Like most people I’m sure they want to know what the question will be, who will able to vote, when will it be held and how will independence affect their everyday lives?
Maureen Closs, a former manager of the town’s Citizens Advice Bureau and leader of the Campaign Against Charges and Cuts pressure groups was also supportive.
She said: “ I think it’s a great idea if people have all the information they need to make an informed decision.
“The more people talking about it the better.
“Personally I’m for an independent, socialist Scotland.
“I notice even David Cameron agrees that we have the wherewithal to go it alone!
“I hope that we can get a ‘yes’ vote campaign group started in Fife.”
The association is a particularly active one which has its own community flat where a range of services are offered to local people and which recently opened a multi-use games area it raised money for at Warout Playing Fields.
It runs a community bus, providing activities for young and old and has a free furniture project for people in need.
It will also be taking its approach to ‘direct democracy’ into the run-up to the Fife Council poll.
Mr Nelson explained: “We will be doing another one before the May elections and will be asking the councillors for their views on issues affecting people in the area.”
These will include questions about the £25 bulk uplift charge, whether private contractors doing work for the local authority are providing value for money, council house lettings policies and the future of care homes.
“The people are entitled to ask the questions and it’s not being done on a party political basis,” said Mr Nelson.
“They obviously have to follow their party line on issues, but all we are concerned about is what is good for people in the area.”
Next month, Auchmuty and Dovecot residents will decide whether Scotland becoming independent from the United Kingdom will be good for the area...