IF you are presently reading The National, the likelihood is you are like me, a “YES” supporter. To keep the paper afloat I gladly funded four others to sign up for digital copies. I also offered my own thumbnail description of its many talented journalists. My summary to these new digital subscribers was, as it is to myself: excellent as the journalists are, it is in the readers' letters, both simple and erudite, where I can gauge how other readers are responding.

I am not personally connected to anyone on The National staff or to anybody in the inner circle of the SNP or the many other organisations, political and non-political, who claim Scottish independence as their priority – I’m simply an ordinary Scot who votes Yes, has gone on the AUOB walks, and presently finds herself  both saddened and confused.

Among the many questions vexing me:

  • Are these hints of serious division on the route to independence accurate? 
  • Is the blame for lack of progress due to non-devolved legislation justified?
  • Are Westminster’s claims of entitlement to final power over decisions affecting Scotland being sufficiently challenged?        
  • When, as often happens, the BBC cuts off in the middle of an item favourable to Scotland, or does not report it at all, do we have a remedy?

Then, last Sunday (May 3), a letter in the Seven Days section of the Sunday National offered me the start of some answers. The letter, by Anne Thomson of Falkirk, correctly identifies Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond as the two most able and influential Scottish independence-seeking politicians ever. May I quote this small excerpt from Anne’s letter – with my capital letters, not hers: “FOR THE LOVE OF OUR COUNTRY AND THE CAUSE WE ESPOUSE WILL THE PAIR OF YOU MEET TO SORT OUT ANY DIFFERENCES YOU HAVE.”

READ MORE: Letters, May 3

My first instinct was to draft out a letter asking if they were open to such a suggestion – but sensed perhaps neither would be that enthusiastic, and the germ of a good idea would be killed off at too early a stage. So I later decided to shift the onus on to all of us.

If a big majority of Scotland’s independence-supporting punters put aside their own differences, and showed our faith in them in a totally UNITED way, both Nicola and Alex might become more ready to consider the idea. I envisage all Yes (and maybe some maybe) voters signing a huge petition promising to put off the agenda for now our accumulated resentments, personal doubts, ingrained convictions, or simple preferences, to stand united and co-operating to get done the vast amount of preparation that’s going to be needed to deliver a successful outcome to indyref2.

Thus far and no mention of Covid-19. You must be thinking, “Doesn’t this writer know we are facing a pandemic that is taking human life on an unprecedented scale?” There can be few who do not rightly admire our First Minister's competence in guiding us to overcome this ruthless, often fatal, invisible illness. Almost without exception we are proud to compare her grasp of the liabilities and risks en route to a cure with outcomes elsewhere. At the present time, we must agree when she asks us not to divert her from the near insurmountable task she faces. 

Forgive me then if the bulk of this letter seems to be promoting a happier time in a   pandemic-free future. Until such a time arrives, we must recognise NOW how much effort will be required to organise the multiple efficient and effective administrative infrastructure which a newly independent country will want. That is where I believe Alex Salmond’s experience could prove invaluable – not least for avoiding a repeat of 2014.

Alex is a shrewd operator, well able to recall Better Together’s shady lies and the many broken promises made last time. The Tories know these tactics succeeded before – they won by the fear created – gaining victory at the last gasp when most of us were optimistic Scottish independence had won. They won’t hesitate to again use their mix of charm, stealth and financial bribes to steal another win, if we are gullible enough to let them.

While Nicola is displaying her enormous talent in the pandemic arena, the world is looking on, and many furth of Scotland are seeking benefit from her wisdom.  Meanwhile, as stated, we lost indyref1 through lack of convincing thorough preparation. We must not let that happen again. No harm in letting the Conservatives know we are ready – without of course revealing what we don’t want them to know.

Let me just list some of the departments we, an independent country, would need to have up and running on day one of an indyref2 win. On my list are already devolved functions, working well and probably requiring little further intervention. I include them on my list simply to highlight the extent of the responsibility independent Scotland would be taking on.

Control over an independent broadcasting unit, as well as a highly efficient up-to-the-minute level of information technology, would be a first priority. There would need to follow welfare and housing, all public utilities, health, education, business, transport, defence, agriculture, forestry, fishing, sport and the arts, whisky distilling and other related alcohol issues – and no doubt several others – all overseen by an extended and able civil service.

As well as our sizeable parliamentary representation at Westminster, which we’d want to be shot of as soon as possible, we right now need our own unit investigating why Nato has a very sizeable part of its assets based in Argyll and Bute, but the Tories deems it acceptable to exclude Scotland when deployment is being discussed. I’m simply giving another list of significant single words – readers can supply their own background:  Gareloch, nuclear waste, Trident submarines, Faslane, Polaris.

Our country lacks the financial clout of offshort tax havens sheltering inherited and even less legally legitimate wealth. Our success will rely on the quiet, accomplished, capable, brainy guys and girls of all ages who are  Scotland’s real wealth – prepared, without the oxygen of publicity, to align their intelligence to the independence cause.

The task ahead is huge. I see Alex as able, powerful, experienced and informed enough to know where the right talent lies. I would expect a lot of what needs doing is already under way. So, Alex, if you are willing to put your “volcanic” memoirs aside for now to concentrate on finding the  gifted management – policy-makers – and workforce that we’ll need (and then leave them to get on with it) then Scotland will be even further indebted to you.

At this particular point in history I am not without entitlement to explain why Anne Thomson’s letter resonates with me. My early childhood upbringing in the thirties depression by a widowed mother of four – where the pre-welfare state decreed 26 shillings (130 pence) – was enough to sustain a family of five for a week, I can equate those times to the  suffering which years of austerity  has brought to present-day families. Due to World War Two, I was also subjected, like today’s youngsters, to school closures and worries about the examination consequences (a few may remember that a pass was required in those days in all subjects at Higher level or one was deemed to have failed them all!).

After three years at teacher training college (bursary-funded) and the statutory post-qualification two years work in Glasgow, I responded to an advertised job to work as a civilian teacher with the armed forces. I was then proud to identify the small pink dot on the map that was Malta as part of the British empire. Malta was home to the Mediterranean Fleet and considered a safe, family-friendly overseas posting. My work was mainly with English-born pupils following their own education curriculum. I adapted to teaching their “eleven plus” as opposed to our “quali”.  A distinct memory is recalling even back then the English pupils’ self-belief and assured verbal competence, which far exceeded the more academically able children I had been teaching in Glasgow. I shamed now to recall my native Maltese “maid” had far superior linguistic and practical skills than me. Seeing the lifestyle changes there since Maltese independence, I mourn even more for Scotland’s missed opportunity in 2014.

No use looking to for Westminster encouragement – or citing the blame game claiming we don’t have the right devolved powers. Our own sizeable parliamentary representation must – under Ian Blackford’s impressive leadership – be stating consistently and compellingly what are the POWERS we need, and what RIGHT has Westminster to refuse them. 

I know I’m on sensitive ground, but let me hark back briefly to my Maltese experience. I saw the value then of assured, competent, attention-holding delivery of the spoken word. Alas, too many of our representatives lack this. There are many in the theatrical world who could teach the necessity of “capturing” your audience even during a short speech by including the right pace, volume, emphasis, humour and comprendible and widely understood clarity of diction – all delivered, head erect, to the whole assembly. While the heckling goes on, the honourable members need to be given no excuse for not listening to what we want to say.

As said, if you agree with at least some of what I’ve said, make your feelings known and let those at the top hear what we’re saying. To whoever is up for organising an online petition (I don’t have the skills), please include me as an early signatory.

Margaret Little
Rhu, by Helensburgh