I’ve just found out that I’ll be saying this before most of you get to the top of the hill. Which is something of a relief, but also presents a logistical challenge.
Today, I and my parents, and both the chicklets will be marching for independence for Scotland. That’s a big thing, three generations of us all together, adding our voice or rather, our bodies to the cause. Just as we have done all our lives.
So, it matters to me – really matters – for us all to be together. I feel the tears welling up just thinking about it.
Us being part of the throng climbing Calton hill is a big deal. Personally and more generally, for numbers and solidarity count. This is about making a statement to the naysayers – we have grown since last year, there are more of us on this journey, showing that independence is not just a minority sport.
Ignore the polls and use your eyes. See how many we are, who believe, who are already voting yes. Join us.
I’ll just have to make it work.
I’ll be up the hill, down the hill and back up the hill. Which is a bit of a metaphor really for the journey our nation has been on.
At various points since 1967, we’ve thought we were close. 1999 was the high point for many – indeed, the reputation of the devolved Scottish Parliament suffered for the unrealistic expectations we bestowed on its limited powers and ambitions.
But it has, indeed, proven to be a stepping stone. We want more, we’re maybe not sure just how much more, but more it is. More powers, more control, more say. For those of us who believe in going all the way, we are now so near to the peak of our aspiration, we can taste, feel and see it. It’s not in the distance, it’s looming into view.
But what does it mean and what should it mean? And how do we make sure we get there?
It’s on the banned list these days but I want to talk about freedom. Seeing as I don’t have the erse for a Braveheart moment, it wont be about freedom in the obvious sense.
Imagine you could make one change in your life. It might be a big change, with considerable impact on your community or your country – getting rid of nuclear weapons comes into this category. Or it might be a small and personal one, something which would revolutionise your family’s or your life. A new job, getting rid of your debts, better and more affordable childcare, a new kitchen.
The reason you want this change – you might even have it as a goal – is because it would make life better. It will smooth out the edges, it would deliver a difference, small or huge.
And that is the point of independence. It’s about being free to make change happen.
Because even those small changes are things you cannot make on your own. Your freedom to change, to choose to make life better is constrained by laws and rules, some of which make sense, many of which we wonder what the point of them is. Particularly the ones that make life hard for the many and appear to favour the few.
Close your eyes and think about Scotland. What makes you proud. What makes our country great. Our people, our resources, our heritage, our landscape. Our humour, our culture, our creativity and our endeavour. Even on occasion our sporting prowess.
But also think about the problems. Poverty, inequality, waste, ill-health. What would you like Scotland not to be?
And consider how you might achieve that. By voting no and staying as we are? Constantly buttressed by frustrations, niggles and inertia? With decisions made far from us, often by a government whose values we do not share and whom we did not vote for?
When the current Conservative government chooses not to regulate the banks, chooses not to raise taxes for the richest, decides to commission more nuclear weapons, and decides to take us to war (or at least tries to) – just, incidentally as the Labour government did before it – whose interests are they pursuing? Ours or theirs?
There are no guarantees with voting yes. But voting yes to Scotland being an independent country is only the first step. A yes vote is also a vote to commit ourselves to working – all of us – as though we really are in the early days of a better nation. There are things that we might not wish to change in those early days, because it is better in the short term to stay as we are.
Currency and monarchy come into those. Do I wish for us always to have a monarch as our Head of State? No. Do I want it to be the first thing we expend our energy on trying to change? No to that as well. The time to have that debate and possibly make that change will come, once Scotland is an independent nation, taking and making decisions for ourselves.
It won’t ever happen without voting yes, though.
Is voting yes a risk? Yes and no. It’s not a panacea. The day after is when the hard work, the real work starts.
When Scotland is independent, we will all be – or at least, all could be – working for the common weal. For what matters to Scotland. For what would change our country. And will make us fairer, healthier, wealthier in every way.
And that’s why this debate – this last year of campaigning is about freedom.
Vote yes on 18 September 2014 and we choose to be free. And we get the freedom to choose.
For freedom, as Albert Camus suggested, is nothing but a chance to be better.