The easy thing to do would be to give in and give up.
The full weight of the British establishment is being brought to bear on our conversation with ourselves. Having realised that we don’t speak in tongues, that our words might well be matched with deeds, that we might just be serious, our debate has been taken off us and given to others’ more worthy.
Having spent months refusing to engage, suddenly every meeting is a Yes-No with, more often than not, proper politicians being wheeled out to keep us in our place. I’ve been on three panels in the last two days stuffed with Labour folks. Fine people, often for whom I have lots of respect. The nonsense that is being spouted would be funny, if this wasn’t so serious.
Put the radio or TV on, open the pages of a newspaper, and everywhere there are portents of doom, warning of catastrophe if Scotland votes yes.
We have entered the Chicken Licken stage of the campaign.
For those of you who don’t know the story, Chicken Licken is sitting under a tree when an acorn falls on his head. He looks up through the branches and can see nothing but green. The sky has fallen in, he thinks, I must go tell the King. And on the way, Chicken Licken meets some of his friends, who are heading to the woods. He warns Henny Penny, who turns back. Henny Penny then meets Cocky Locky and Henny Penny tells him that the sky had fallen on Chicken Licken’s head, warning him off from going to the woods too. They meet lots of animals, the last being Turkey Lurkey. who is also off to the woods. “Oh, Turkey Lurky, don’t go. On my way there, I met Goosey-loosey, and Goosey-loosey met Draky-laky, and Draky-laky met Ducky-lucky, and Ducky-lucky met Cocky-locky, and Cocky-locky met Henny-penny, and Henny-penny met Chicken-licken, and Chicken-licken had been at the woods, and the sky had fallen on his head, and we are going to tell the king.”
So they all turn back together, only to bump into Fox-lox. They explain what has happened and Fox-lox offers to show them the way. But Fox-lox tricks them, takes them to his lair and eats them. So they never do get to see the King to tell him that the sky has fallen in.
And thus in trying to stave off events of catastrophic proportions by listening to well-intended but misguided and plainly wrong advice, the animals put themselves in much more bother. So panicked are they, that they do not stop to consider who is helping them and whether Fox Lox can be trusted.
Over the last few days, with warnings of what will happen if Scotland votes Yes emanating from all sources, I’m hearing this tale in my head. And wondering if everyone else in Scotland is too. I have sat in rooms and watched as people have visibly shrunk in stature, the more the hyperbole is cranked up. The confidence which brought them into that room to ask searching questions, who want to vote Yes but they have a few well, “buts”, evaporates. Their brows furrow, their arms fold. They leave without uttering a word. Job done, the other lot might conclude.
And then there’s Fox Lox. Aren’t we lucky to have more than one? Offering us a timetable for devo something or other if we just vote no. Our lair is a place of safety, trust us.
But I’m not sure it’s working. Why?
Well there’s another childhood story that’s come to mind regularly during this campaign (yes, I know, my mind can be a very scary place).
The Wind and the Sun could never agree who was more powerful, with the Wind boasting of his strength and the Sun advocating gentleness. So they set a competition to find out whose might was greatest. A young boy was walking up the road, wearing a heavy coat. Whoever could get the boy to remove his coat would be the winner. The Wind went first, and huffed and puffed with all his might: “the Wind blew so hard, the birds clung to the trees. The world was filled with dust and leaves. But the harder the wind blew down the road, the tighter the shivering man clung to his coat.” He could not be parted from it.
Then the Sun tried. He appeared from behind the clouds, warming the air. Soon the boy became hot and opened his coat. The Sun kept on shining until eventually the boy had to take his coat off.
Like all of Aesop’s fables, this one has a moral which amounts to positivity will win out against negativity, that persuasion is more powerful than force and that you win nothing with threats.
So, as I and all the other Yes supporters set out in this final week of the campaign, to persuade Scottish voters where their future lies, it’s worth us all recalling both these stories. And to keep on talking hope and opportunity. We’ll leave the cauld blasting to the other side, the doom-mongering to those with the most to lose if Scotland decides to take control and have power, rather than wait for a little more of it to be given.
Call me a hopeless idealist but I rather like it when the story ends where they all live happily ever after.