Let’s keep the independence debate civil

Let’s keep the independence debate civil
The Scotsman, By John Sturrock

Your editorial (Comment, 29 December) makes the vital point that we each need to think about how we will act if our preferred option is defeated in September’s referendum. Whatever the outcome, as you say, we will all need to work hard in common cause to help our nation to thrive. However, you absolve the “big campaigns” from that responsibility.

What happens after the referendum will be conditioned, of course, by what happens before it. How we all behave now, the tone we set, the 
language we use, the respect we pay to other points of view, the extent to which we really listen to the arguments, the attitude we display towards those who apparently disagree with us, and our willingness to engage in civilised dialogue will not only impact on the outcome itself but determine how we move forward afterwards.

If we behave with civility now, and look constructively at the ways in which we handle differences of view and difficult questions, we will prepare ourselves for the aftermath.

If we display less tolerance and more adversarialism now, we set the scene for a polarised post-referendum hangover, with scores to be settled, hurts to be nursed and reputations to protect or renew. If we push each other antagonistically now, it will be much harder then to engage those who feel disillusioned or disappointed and much less likely that we will achieve a truly common purpose.

That this is so within Scotland seems fairly obvious but, of course, the same could also be said about the reaction of the English, Welsh and Northern Irish. We will all still have to live together in the same geographic space as before.

I wonder if this exhortation to show civility should also be directed to the “big campaigns”? Their behaviour 
and tone is hugely influential. Is it unreasonable to expect them to bear these factors in mind?

To show the world that Scotland can conduct a civil, civilised and thorough examination of the issues that leaves a legacy for building a constructive future, whatever the outcome, would surely be a worthy ambition for us all.