Opinion: Scots independence – hope must overcome fear

I had a brief foray into the world of broadcasting and politics two weeks ago.

I was interviewed about Scottish independence by the BBC for the Today program prior to taking part in a debate in Castle Douglas market. The experience has confirmed what I’ve known all along: I’m just not cut out for either of those things.

The radio interview was five minutes of blind terror, to produce about 30 seconds that finally made it onto the air. Credit to the BBC – they did make me sound quite calm, but I think the editor had more to do with it than me.

Among other questions during the interview, I was asked whether independence would change my relationship with the friends I have in the rest of the UK.

It seemed like a harmless question and it was easy for me to answer. “Of course it won’t change anything,” I said. However, in that split second, I honestly never thought of how the situation would change from my friends’ point of view.

Would my friends in the UK react differently to me post-independence? I’m hoping that most of them would not have gone to the George Osborne school of charm, and life will go on as normal as far as personal relationships are concerned.

One of those friends lives in North Ireland and I rely heavily on him for pithy advice about life and such things. He’s a bit like Buddha, but with a passion for Scotch whisky. He told me in advance of the debate in the market to remember “ABC and XYZ”. Always Be Calm and eXamine Your Zip. Boy, am I good at examining my zip. Keeping calm, on the other hand, is not so easy when you are in an auction ring with 300 of your peers looking in.

“If I never hear another Scottish agri-politician say Scotland is too wee, too poor and falling off a cliff into an abyss, it will be 
too soon.”
Neale McQuistin

All my farming life I’ve spent my time trying to produce something from the soil that can eventually be put into your mouth and will be good for you. But politics seems to be largely about producing something out of your mouth that is designed to go into someone else’s ears – it may, or may not, be designed to do them any good.

If I never hear another Scottish agri-politician say Scotland is too wee, too poor and falling off a cliff into an abyss, then it will be too soon.

Finally, I’ve informed her outdoors that if she should fall pregnant during the next month and if she eventually produces a brother for our Gavin – twentieth birthday two weeks ago – the name of the new baby will be recorded as Jean-Claude Juncker McQuistin.

Mr Juncker has made it quite clear that Scotland’s position in Europe will be treated as a special case in the event of a yes vote. If getting your ducks in a row is important, then having the former president of tiny Luxembourg in place as president-elect of the European Commission is another step in a very positive direction.

This will probably be my last column before the referendum on 18 September. If you’re a reader who doesn’t live in Scotland, it would be difficult to find the words to express the atmosphere here right now.

On one side there is fear and uncertainty. On the other, there is optimism and hope. I personally think it would be better for everyone that lives on our British Isles if they didn’t live in, or next door to, a country where hope has been overcome by fear.

Neale McQuistin is an upland sheep and beef farmer in south-west Scotland. He farms 365ha, much of which is under stewardship for wildlife, in partnership with his wife.

Got a view on this? Email fwfarmlife@rbi.co.uk

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