I woke up from a dream last night, a nightmare which scared me in my sleep and left me shaking in the middle of the night in the dark.
I dreamt that Scotland was a newly independent nation. I was standing in a hall, an auditorium, in a large and nameless grand house. Outside it was dark and inside hundreds of people from all across the nation were arguing about how to organise the new country with which we had been left.
Papers were waved in the air, the noise of raised voices drowned out all else as they shouted at each other and at the chairman sitting powerless below them. I was an aide, someone junior in so much as my job seemed to involve running between rooms carrying messages, never sitting and forever wrong.
As the dream progressed I became more and more stressed, worried that I had missed something, worried that there was no progress being made, worried that the decisions being taken were becoming more and more short-termist, more and more in the interests of the factions fighting their battles in the giant room in which I was stuck. In the dream I began to run away, hiding in corners of the room, in the bathroom and in back row of the auditorium.
Then I woke up… and realised that my panic was nothing more than the fact that I had gone to sleep without first going to pee and my body was telling me to do something about it. This is a true story.
You see we have been conditioned to believe that this is how it will work if we choose to go our own way. We see politicians at Westminster ya-ing and boo-ing every Wednesday on PMQs, arguing between their factions and acting in short term interests. We are scared into believing that we will run out of money, that our lavish services will mean that the resources we quite clearly possess will disappear into an ever decreasing pot of pennies doled out to rich public servants and the undeserving poor. We remember scenes from Braveheart where the Scottish nobles bicker amongst themselves, discord sown by the nasty Robert Bruce before they take the English king’s shilling and abandon each other on the battlefield.
The thing is it doesn’t, and most likely won’t, be like that. Since the start of devolution the Scottish Parliament has been a relatively balanced place. Sure there are spats and disagreements but the nature of a proportional system with the tendency for coalitions means that all voices need to be given their time and space to put their point.
Most, if not all, of my dealings with the Scottish Government (as an institution, not a party) have shown it to be a fair, balanced, evidence based (if somewhat bureaucratic at times) decision making body and by and large politically neutral civil servants.
We may never find this out, whether Scotland can have a rational, engaged, intelligent national debate on the sort of country it wants to be. I hope that we will have it over the next year or so, and in the event of a Yes vote I hope that we will continue to have it long into the future. But what I sincerely hope does not happen in that we avoid having it based on the fear of it turning into what we are used to in today’s politics, petty, vindictive, short term and narrow minded. That would be sad, if we were to base a vision of our future on the addled dreaming of someone who drank a little too much water before going to bed on a Sunday evening.