Scotland’s Date with Destiny 18th September 2014

I was extremely honoured this week, along with my colleagues, to be in the Chamber of the Scottish Parliament when our First Minister made the announcement about the date of the referendum

 “…It is worth reflecting just for a moment on the privilege that this nation and this generation will have: nothing less than the privilege of choosing the future course of our country, in a democratic referendum that is made here in Scotland.

We have been on a journey since 1999 and the restoration of our Parliament, here in the heart of our ancient capital. We have witnessed a growing confidence and increase in democratic accountability.

I am honoured to announce that on Thursday 18 September 2014, we will hold Scotland’s referendum—an historic day, when the people will decide Scotland’s future…”

Our SNP group is an eclectic bunch with a range of ages and experience all with our own stories of our journey in the Party with our country’s Independence the finishing line.  Each and every one of us was excited and enthused on Thursday as we reflected on how far our Party, our country and our cause have come.  As a mother of a 15 year old who will be able to vote I was delighted to highlight my ambition for Scotland’s young people to be informed, confident and engaged in their Referendum.

I don’t often quote Labour politicians. However, I am reminded of Donald Dewar’s “I like that!”  There is no doubt that everyone in the SNP feels the same, although there was little to like from the opposition benches on this historic announcement. Vitriol and scorn poured from the Labour benches with the occasional comedic moment, such as Elaine Murray’s mishearing of the date leading her to complain “On 18.11.14, many Scots may have to go to vote in the dark.” No fear, the First Minister promised to “light a candle for Elaine Murray to shine upon her darkness.”   I wonder, on reflection and with hindsight how many opposition members will regret their stance on this historic day in our country’s history.  Even if you do not support Independence, to fail to rise to the occasion of this momentous event is surely to be regretted?  As Margo McDonald said

“… This is about our country ’s soul. It is about our children and our grandchildren’s standards and place in the world, and we are talking about candles in case someone cannot vote. Many friends of mine on the Labour side of the chamber have let me down and have let Scotland down this afternoon by the way in which they have approached the debate. This is a big question and it needs big people and big answers.”

So why did the opposition get this so wrong?  They hadn’t had an easy week! Tuesday saw a sombre and reflective day as the parliament debated the 10th Anniversary of the Iraq War, which is an uncomfortable subject for those who can neither bring themselves to regret their support for this illegal war or acknowledge the enormity of the failure to plan for peace following the demise of Sadam Hussain. The reflective and poignant contributions from both Alex Salmond and Annabel Ewing, both of whom were in the Commons when the vote to go to war was called, transported us back to that time where many members recalled the marches and public spirit generated when Scotland said “Not in my name”.  On Wednesday, Trident was the subject and it was no less uncomfortable a subject. I remember a Labour Party that stood for unilateral disarmament, in partnership with the trade union movement where warmongering was despised.  Jim Murphy described the legitimate policy position as Labour’s “Flirtation with surrealism”, while Michael McMahon derided those committed to an anti-nuclear Scotland as “CND—the organisation that is itself becoming more like the campaign for nuclear delusion.”  So, not a good week for Bettertogether partners.  But, even given this uncomfortable territory, history will judge them poorly for failing to rise to the occasion and acknowledge the magnitude of the opportunity for the people of Scotland to decide their Nation’s future on our day of destiny, 18 September 2014.