This time, politics is too important to ignore

Flying the flag
Flying the flag

By Maggie Millar

Sitting having dinner in London last week with a writer from the Evening Standard when talk turned to the upcoming Scottish referendum.

“It really annoys me when people say politicians don’t have any impact on their lives” he said in general terms while explaining how little a ripple the Scottish debate is causing down south.

And, like the historian Tom Devine who remarked on the subject during a stage chat with Gordon Brown in Kirkcaldy recently, Westminster’s apathy in putting up a fight to save the union is puzzling to say the least.

The perception of people down south, from what I’ve managed to gather, is that the SNP consists of two people, Salmond and Sturgeon...and no-one else.

Who else is there, they ask, and what do they do?

Get them on the subject of UK politics though and they’re able to reel off the names of all the Scots who held cabinet posts in recent Labour governments - not least because they seemed to take up 50 percent of seats at the top table .

I can’t decide whether the referendum has become a white elephant in the room for a UK government so scared of losing Scotland it fears speaking up could antagonise the natives and help the Yes campaign or it’s not important.

But the simple fact is the United Kingdom can’t afford to ignore an event which could, theoretically, obliterate 300 years of history in a single day.

And that made the decision all the more bizarre to broadcast the Salmond v Darling debate on STV rather than the BBC.

Pray tell me, which moron dreamed this grand plan up?

Here we have the final run-up, potentially, to the most significant game changer in modern Scottish and UK history and it gets less TV coverage than a World Cup football game between say, Greece and South Korea, or Andy Murray at Wimbledon.

Tried to watch it online but STV’s website crashed due to demand, fuelled by folk from the borders who couldn’t see it on their telly either.

How ironic that bona fide Scots couldn’t watch the debate in a United Kingdom which, last time I looked, still included Scotland.

And that observation brings me nicely on to the vote itself .

Surely, if the future of our country is to be decided democratically by its people, why exclude Scots who live elsewhere in the United Kingdom?

On my travels in England I happened to bump into a man in his sixties from New Zealand who emigrated from Edinburgh 25 years ago.

As a naturalized citizen of his adopted country he felt he had no claim to the right to vote for Scotland.

“But if I had a British passport, I would!” he protested, while taking the opportunity to stick the knife into the Edinburgh tram system.

I’m sure Gordon Strachan feels aggrieved to be denied a vote - he’s good enough to lead out our national team but not to be trusted to vote on our future, obviously - but why then does the SNP roll out high profile supporters like Sean Connery who last lived in Scotland in ...Hmm... was it 1852?

In this, and the decision to lower the voting age, I detect a strong whiff of political gerrymandering, the unmistakeable reek of eau-de-colon.

Whether voters decide yes or no, our country’s future deserves to be founded on due democratic process.

The people, who are more intelligent than politicians often seem to give them credit for, deserve to be informed of all the consequences Scottish independence could bring, good or ill.

It seems incredible that Alex Salmond addressed a gathering of “international press” (can you imagine Cameron calling them that?) to announce the date of the referendum but his televised debate with Darling had difficulty making it past the central belt. Not good enough.

Politics does have an impact on all our lives, and here never more so than on September 18.