On the rocky referendum road

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One of my dog-walking daydreams of last week has rather got me thinking.

I remember it well as it happened on the day when the question of the 2014 independence referendum was settled.

Am I alone in thinking the crafty people have got their own way again? Do you think their big dodge was to suggest a rather whimsical version of the big referendum question in the sure knowledge every man and his dog would immediately holler about it, no matter which way it was worded because that is the way the Scots deal with important matters?

The next move is to produce some form of carefully-structured judgement, perchance one sympathetic to their aims, creating an amended version of the question in the form originally devised. Even allowing for my passion for conspiracy theories, who could honestly say that was not the case?

Anyway, my pondering continued throughout the walk, maybe a contributory factor to me falling over on the clatch not once but twice.

A simple mistake does not make a man foolish, doing it twice in five minutes is a different matter.

The grey hooligan observed my cowping act with his head cocked on one side – he obviously thought my performance was very amusing. I did not, but sitting on one’s butt in the mud can effectively concentrate the mind.

If the 2014 referendum goes in favour of McPuddock and his dubious crew, surely there is a better-than-average chance the Borders will revert to being something of a frontier zone? Being steeped in Borders lore about the bad old days – as told by Fraser, Moffat, Elliot and Co. – I am uncertain what this could produce in the way of social change.

It is all too glib to say we would never return to the violence and prejudice of those long-ago times, but if you take into account that whichever way it goes, there will be people on both sides who will not be too happy with the outcome of the referendum. How long before we witness them nursing a accumulating resentment which could eventually break out into some really nasty violence.

One thing is for sure – creating an interface between two socially-different societies is a pretty reliable recipe for friction.

I’m not predicting that at some stage the Otterburn folk will rock up and burn Jedburgh as in the Reivers days, more likely some extremely petty squabbling, maybe about the location of the burger van in the Carter Bar car park. It could, however, signal the start of a new golden age for the Borders if only we can find local leaders who have the bottle to push for change instead of whining for handouts.

OK then, scoff if you will, but even our fearless leader’s glib assurances cannot completely rule out the emergence of factions untroubled by the potential consequences of creating another “us and them” situation.

So far I have seen no mention of the possibilities of civil unrest during the post-referendum period, but not a lot of people want to know about that sort of thing. Or should I amend that last statement to read that a small number of people prefer us not to even think about it.

But that is really only one scenario – there could be a lot of other matters to deal with.

The first snag might well concern money – a disparity between Scottish and English prices or the value of money could so easily lead to wholesale smuggling as is currently the case over the water.

If I was running a business in the south of Scotland these days I think I would soon make the necessary arrangements to base half of it in Coldstream, and the other half in Cornhill, with a view to operating the money side wherever the advantage was mine. On a slightly lesser scale some clever rascals might find a house that straddles the new border in order to simultaneously claim the dole in two countries. Stranger things have happened.

It is inevitable some form of border control will be essential, if only for visitors to Scotland to change their pounds and pennies into beads and shells. Whichever currency is used, there is going to be a comparative difference between money in Scotland and England.

It’s no use loftily claiming we would keep the pound – but would the pound keep us? The thought of being at the mercy of the Bank of England is quite simply chilling.

It goes without saying that if Scotland adopts the euro for any reason, the European money manglers will immediately use it to undermine the pound. In any case, with the awful prospect of having to adopt the euro to satisfy a certain person’s ambitions, some of us old geezers will still have painful memories of the way we all got severely ripped off when our money was decimalised all those years ago.

History does in fact often repeat itself, but never to the advantage of the common man.

So what can we do? For a start everyone, for or agin the idea of an independent Scotland, must make his or her own preparations. Emigration will be the first thought of many, whether it is to the Antipodes or Longtown.

This has less to do with patriotism than maintaining a quality of life along the lines we now have. An independent Scotland would not be a particularly happy place for quite a long time given the wrangling that must certainly follow such a massive change in status. Goodness knows, there’s enough of that already and the big vote is still over a year away.

There is little chance that the current administration would survive more than a few years given the electorate are a fickle lot and will soon tire of any form of austerity, leading to other political parties taking over the reins of power.

Try to imagine a Holyrood parliament dominated by the same political party as in the Westminster equivalent. I’m not too sure what exactly a vassal state might be, but such a situation might explain the drawbacks to me.

Over the next three or four years, much will be asked from the Scottish people. They will be subjected to a constant bombardment of information ranging from simple commonsense to the bogus patriotism of mob oratory.

We must regard all of it with great suspicion – after all, anyone interested enough to peddle that stuff will be on the make, and at our expense.

But don’t be afraid, they will be interesting times, and I make only one plea – when the referendum arrives, nothing short of an 80 per cent-plus voter turnout will produce anything like a decision made by the Scottish people as a nation.

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