Yes, no, definitely maybe

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Street art echoing this author’s sentiment on the matter.

The battle for and against Scottish independence is inspiring some fine writing. You would have to go a long way to find a more thoughtful, subtly reasoned essay than Kenan Malik’s Scottish Independence – from what, for what?. He leads us with great care to a powerful conclusion:

The challenge we face is to build new social mechanisms that can overcome the fragmentary character of contemporary politics, reverse the replacement of broader political and cultural identities with more narrow, parochial ones, confront the shift from the politics of ideology to the politics of identity. Scottish independence will not help achieve any of this. In fact, it will only exacerbate those very problems.

On the other hand, writer Jamie Jauncey has produced a remarkable piece of warm, rhetorical writing that gently guides the reader towards voting Yes. A letter to the undecided is beautifully crafted, its evocative and touching language powered by smart persuasive techniques. It begins:

Dear Friend

I’m writing this on a spellbinding early Indian summer’s morning in Perthshire. The mist has burnt off and the sky is cloudless. The trees and bracken are just starting to turn. The hills are within touching distance. All is still and clear. Or is it … ?

Only the most hard-hearted of Unionists would fail to read on.

Writing in The Telegraph, Rory Bremner does a good impression of someone who feels unable to leave the middle ground, although in his piece he tells us that he has finally decided to vote No. The article has neither the depth of consideration of Kenan’s essay nor the emotional power of Jamie’s letter, but there are some good gags along the way:

“I see and feel the appeal of independence to the heart, and have entertained the vision of a Nordic social democracy, with progressive politics, Scandinavian lifestyle and exciting crime dramas (“Herr Taggart, there’s been a mørder ”).”

Better still is this anecdote, used to illustrate that what many people in Scotland really want is to be able to choose their country’s status for themselves:

Some years ago, British Rail removed kippers from the menu on the London-Brighton line. A campaign sprang up to bring them back, and Laurence Olivier was its patron. BR relented, and the following week, Lord Olivier was greeted on the train by the steward. “Ah! Lord Olivier! I expect you’ll be having the kippers?” “No, dear boy,” he replied, “I’ll have bacon and eggs.” “But… I thought you wanted kippers?” said the steward. “No, no, dear boy,” replied Lord Olivier. “What I wanted was the choice.”

A lovely story, cleverly deployed. No doubt there will be plenty more narrative expertise applied to the issues before the people of Scotland get to exercise their right to choose.

Tim

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