Recently I have spent time listening to the radio while unable to read or work as usual. The Scottish referendum has been a particular interest, and I have been fascinated by the voices. First, there has been the challenge of placing the different accents. It’s not difficult to spot a Highlander or a Glaswegian, even for an Englishwoman, but it becomes increasingly difficult as one moves over to the East side and up and down the country. Then there have been the tones of voice: happy, optimistic, angry, resentful, fearful. The politicians, by and large, have said predictable things in predictable ways, but the ‘ordinary’ people, the ones who will decide Scotland’s fate and the fate of the Union, have been more interesting. I have applauded some of the optimism expressed by the young, worried a little over the misunderstandings about economics expressed by others and quietly resented one or two ill-bred comments about the English (we are not your enemies, people of Scotland). It has been, above all, an exercise in listening and trying to suspend one’s own views in order to understand what another truly means.
There is a problem, however. The secession of Scotland from the Union, if voted for, isn’t something that affects Scotland only. The English, the Irish and the Welsh all have a legitimate right to be concerned and, by and large, it seems to me, the focus has been so much on Scotland (understandably enough: it is, after all, a referendum about Scottish independence) that those other voices have not yet been heard. Living close to the Welsh border as we do here, I wonder how our Welsh friends feel about the promise of increased devolution if Scotland votes ‘no’. I wonder how the English and the Irish feel about having Scottish MPs voting on matters that concern our two countries. I wonder, too, how an independent Scotland will affect daily life — border controls, for example, especially if Scotland is not made a member of the E.U. any time soon.
One thing is sure. The voices we have heard so far are not the only ones we shall be hearing after the referendum on Thursday. Whichever way it goes, the consequences will be considerable and affect everyone in these islands. To those who don’t believe, my urging prayer to the Holy Spirit for wisdom and generosity will strike a discordant note; but to those who do believe, seeing the religious dimension of the referendum and the duty of voting in accordance with what will promote the common good is something only the Holy Spirit can handle. I wish Scotland well — just as I wish England, Ireland and Wales well.