The polls in the referendum on Scottish independence open in twelve and a half hours, and I will be at my polling station to vote No.
It has not been a simple decision, and over the last few weeks I have swithered from Definitely No to Undecided to Very Nearly Yes and back to No. I probably owe flowers to the poor pollster from Ipsos-Mori who got paragraph long answers to tick-box questions as I tried to work through my own confusion at her. As a concept, independence is not without its charms. To live in a socialist utopia like the one that I believe an independent Scotland could become? I want that. But what I want more is to be a part of building that utopia for everyone.
I love Scotland. I love her people and her mountains and her towns and her culture. I’ve walked the cobbled streets of Edinburgh and run through the green spaces in Dundee and driven the banks of the Clyde estuary. I’ve stood at the very edge of the Western Isles with nothing between me and North America. I have now worked in every hospital in Scotland west of Stirling, except Oban. And I love Glasgow, too, this beautiful broken city, this dear green place that welcomed me with open arms and that I am now privileged to call home.
“Where are you from?” I am asked.
“Glasgow,” I say promptly. And then there’s a confused silence and then I catch up: “Oh, you mean where did I grow up.”
I dare anyone to tell me that my No vote means that I love this country less than someone who is voting Yes.
I want the utopia. But do I want to abandon Wales and Northern Ireland and the North of England to the right-wing rule of the South East? I don’t want that. Or to share a border with the country that England without the moderating influence of Scotland would almost doubtless become? I don’t want that either. And on a globe that is not shrinking but growing, why in any case would I want to erect any new borders? We vote in this referendum at the end of a summer during which the world has seemed more fragile and yet more bound together than it ever has been. It’s a time to start breaking down barriers, and I’m more interested in world-building than nation-building.
Perhaps we could do wonderful things in an independent Scotland. But perhaps we can also do wonderful things in the United Kingdom as a Scottish nation in which the landscape of political engagement will never again be the same.