Brave new world
After what feels like a lifetime of bickering, argument, bad feeling, impassioned speeches and a surprising amount of sense being talked, the independence referendum is almost upon us. As those in the political bubble, the Holyrood team has lived and breathed the ups and downs of the campaign. We’ve been accused of favouring both sides; we’ve broken big stories which have found their way repeatedly into First Minister’s Questions and the televised debates; we have been there during the major announcements and listened to many, many speeches. We have analysed and we have reported the facts, and I am proud and honoured to have been party to this campaign. Regardless of what side of the debate you favour, and without fear of sounding melodramatic, this truly is history in the making.
Something Holyrood columnist Jim Sillars wrote struck a chord with me. He said: “On 18th September 2014, between the hours of 7am and 10pm, absolute sovereign power will lie in the hands of the Scottish people.”
This sums up what I think has been quite magnificent about this campaign: it has really touched the hearts of ordinary people. For me and my colleagues, politics is a way of life. We write about it almost constantly and we talk about it all day, five days a week (and often more) but for many people, what happens at the Scottish Parliament is completely detached from their everyday lives. Many people claim to have no interest in politics and don’t vote because they think ‘what’s the point?’ But this campaign has changed that. Again, putting aside which way you vote, this question has allowed us all to think about what kind of Scotland we want to live in, it has let us think outside the box and imagine that anything is possible. It has allowed aspiration back into a politics which often felt stale, negative and depressing.
Whichever result is announced on Friday morning, Scotland is a changed place. The people who have started to talk about politics in the pub or over their dinner tables are not suddenly going to shut up and go away. Electoral turnout has been depressingly low in recent times but handled the right way, this surge in interest could mark a lasting change to how people engage with their elected representatives. It’s been a rollercoaster of a ride and I’ve loved every minute of it.