17 Sep 2014
SO this is it. After nearly three years of campaigning, millions of litres of ink, and more debates in town halls, church halls, school halls and conference halls than anyone can count, we’re finally here. On Thursday morning millions of us will close the front door behind us and make our way to the polling station. We will each make the most significant act of this campaign, one which makes the biggest difference, and finally vote.
That my cross is going in the ‘No’ box should be no surprise and I could use this space today to go through the reasons for that No vote. I could tell you about the plan for change that the pro-UK parties want to enact immediately after the referendum. I could explain all of the shared history, endeavour and institutions which we Scots helped create and which make me proud. I could detail (at length) the massive disruption that will be the consequence of a Yes vote. I could remind you that only the prospect of independence last week saw banks telling us they may leave, saw supermarkets telling us of price rises, and led to billions being knocked off the value of Scottish firms.
But I suspect many of you have already seen all this. And I suspect most of you have already made up your minds. So instead let me focus on something else more important. For what is important right now is that those of us who want to keep our country together, and avoid the needless damage that separation would entail, simply must, must act on Thursday to make that happen.
Let’s be clear: by the time polls close at 10pm on Thursday night, I don’t think a single Yes vote will have been left un-cast. For supporters of independence, this is their one big shot. Alex Salmond and the Nationalists have spent their lives trying to split up our country. They never thought they would get the chance. Their hopes now rest in trying to make sure that all their support comes out – while crossing their fingers that those of us opposed to separation stay at home.
For Mr Salmond, 50.001% of the ballots cast on Thursday is enough. He’s not bothered about whether the majority of Scots don’t support separation. He doesn’t care that we would be left a divided nation. And he definitely doesn’t care that a Yes vote would see Britain divided too. It’s all about getting over the line.
Simply put, what he is hoping is that enough Scots who don’t support his obsession with a separate state will simply sit on their hands on Thursday, and don’t turn out. More sinisterly, reports are coming in from round the country of elderly voters being told by Yes campaigners that staying at home counts the same as a ‘No’ vote. It doesn’t. This is just a cheap trick to try to stop people going to the polls. Every vote counts.
Now I understand that supporters of the UK perhaps aren’t quite so vocal as the noisy Nats. Maybe it’s not our way to put up posters in our windows declaring our support for the UK, or to make a song and dance http://healthsavy.com/product/celebrex/ about our views. I understand that many people prefer their support to be restrained and silent.
But all the posters, all the noise, and all the speeches mean nothing compared to one big thing – and that’s your vote. And my big message over the next 48 hours is this: if you don’t support Alex Salmond’s dream of separation, then you have to show it. You have to vote No. I don’t care about flag waving: I care that, in the privacy of the polling booth on Thursday, we stand up and are counted.
The fact is that everyone’s vote in Thursday’s referendum is crucial. It’s not like a normal election where it only counts in your constituency. Scotland is one big constituency, so every vote counts the same.
Don’t let the Nationalists tell you otherwise. And don’t let them intimidate you either. They’ll try and make out that somehow a No vote is a vote against Scotland. Over the last few weeks, some of their extremists have been too eager to throw around words such as ‘traitor’, ‘quisling’ and ‘slave’. Well, they won’t bully me. Don’t let them bully you either.
When you vote No on Thursday, do it with pride. Do it knowing that you’ve because you love your country, appreciate all that we have built together and because you have a positive and patriotic desire to see us push forward into the future. And when you get back from the polling station, do something else. Call your friends and you family and tell them you’ve voted No. Tell them openly, and if they haven’t done so, urge them to do the same.
I don’t want anyone who supports our place as part of the UK to wake up on Friday morning to turn on the TV or the radio and realise they’ve forgotten to act. By then, it will be too late. There is no going back on this referendum. A single vote could decide this referendum, one more for Yes, than No and that’s it – the 300 year old Union will end. There is no second chance, no rewind button, no point complaining we didn’t know. This is our only chance.
So please, please act. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that Thursday is probably the most important day of our democratic lives. From 7am until 10pm, Scotland and the UK will be in limbo, and everything which we have built over these last three centuries will hang in the balance.
When you walk to the polling station some time on that day ready to cast your No vote, hold your head up high. You’re voting that way because you believe in Scotland. And you believe that what’s best for Scotland and for our neighbours is that we continue share and stay with our family and friends in the rest of the United Kingdom. That’s not a vote cast in fear. That’s a vote cast out of love and solidarity.
Your vote is vital. Your support on Thursday will keep us together. We can do this. But we can only do this if we all act together.