In two weeks’ time we will know the outcome of the referendum on the future governance of Scotland. Some will have already cast their vote under the postal vote option and because of that, the most recent televised debate between Better Together campaign leader Alistair Darling and Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond was the last.
It was an excellent opportunity for the two sides to correct impressions and to make their cases clearly and concisely. With some 20 per cent of the electorate apparently still undecided, recent polls tell us little about whether it will be a substantial majority or a single vote that carries the day for Yes or No.
Watching Darling and Salmond was not the most edifying spectacle as they battled like two kids in a playground, with the use of the pound touted as the Holy Grail by Salmond. The conduct of the two politicians was such that if the recent debates had taken place in a classroom, they would have no doubt ended up with both men in detention.
At the very time people are seeking facts about the pros and cons of independence, all they seemed to get from the debates was rhetoric and bluster. The No campaign has now enlisted former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown although he may just be the tipping point the Scottish nationalists need.
One inescapable fact is that the number of workers employed by the state in Scotland is more than half the working population, never mind the ones who are already taking their pensions. This defined benefit provision is not affordable in the long term and even those in receipt of pensions should not be exempt.
This problem is, of course, not just an issue north of the border. At some point it needs to be addressed, but as those who need to act are themselves directly affected, it is precisely this conflict of interest that prevents the issue being tackled. However, as those outside this benefit bubble increasingly resent the cost of supporting the defined benefit promise, action will be necessary if civil disobedience is to be avoided.
When the votes are cast on 18 September, the heart may well end up ruling the head but whatever the outcome, it is clear the referendum will trigger change in some form at least.
Even a No vote is expected to mean more powers and more money for Scotland. If it is a Yes vote, then we will have five to 10 years of transition as issues from taxation to passports are resolved.
It will be interesting to see if Scotland follows through with its promise to slash corporation tax as this will mean businesses are attracted, rather than deterred,
by an independent Scotland.
I cannot vote as I no longer live in Scotland, nor am I likely to return to live there in my later years. That said, I am proud to have been born in Scotland and it is true to say that, for me, home is where the heart is. Whether the hearts or the heads win out over independence remains to be seen. I look forward to the result with both interest and trepidation.
Robert Reid is managing director at Syndaxi Chartered Financial Planners