Today I’m going to tell you a couple of stories.
Three short years ago, a colleague from Yorkshire patented a farming product that he believed, rightly, would be of benefit to farmers and growers in Scotland.
He asked if there would be any chance at all if we could speak to someone in the Holyrood Parliament.
He was honestly astonished when I called him back an hour later to say that I’d made a call to my local MSP, Emma Harper (who sat on the rural affairs group) and could he make it next Thursday?
So he booked his train ticket and he and his wife came to Edinburgh.
We went to Parliament, met Emma, and at some point in the meeting Emma suggested that some colleagues should join the discussion. So a couple of ‘phone calls to upstairs later and they joined us.
Business concluded, Emma sorted us out with some tickets for a robust but mostly civilised First Minister’s Questions. And then we had lunch.
It all sounds very mundane. But that’s maybe the point.
I was able, very easily, and on behalf of people who didn’t even live here, get an audience with someone who has a hinterland that I recognise and who represents me and who has my back.
My Yorkshire friends didn’t say it because it didn’t need said. But they’d mentioned before that getting an audience with DEFRA was a nightmare and the inference was that today’s mutually beneficial gathering would never have happened in London. It was a glimpse of what a modern, self-determining Parliament should look like and it felt like we truly were in the early days of a better nation.
I can honestly say that at that moment I have never been so proud of my Parliament, and I think of that day in Edinburgh every time I read about a power grab or an internal market bill or a shared prosperity fund or indeed anything that would roll back the devolved powers of an essential and universally popular institution that truly represents folk like me.
And my second story is this.
People are flawed. The world isn’t perfect. Politicians come and go. Ideas are transient. It was ever thus.
But last week the voting cards arrived. Including one for my sixteen year old son.
And, being the guy I am, I felt emotional. And a deep sense of responsibility.
I’d love to have voted when I was sixteen. I remember holding up a red card at the 1988 Scottish Cup Final to the Prime Minister, who was guest of honour. Because then as now I was politically aware and we had Thatcher and the poll tax but there was nothing we could do about it. Because I was too young and there wasn’t even a Parliament in my own country that I could vote for to at least mitigate the worst of the carnage that she inevitably wreaked without our consent.
But now I’m not and now there is.
And nobody under the age of thirty remembers a time when there wasn’t one. So I’ll be damned sure to use my vote to allow Magnus, and those who come after him, the chance to fulfil their dreams in a normal independent Scotland.
And I’ll be damned if a party from another country that Scotland hasn’t voted for since 1955 tells him that he cannae.
Six weeks from now, Scotland has the choice of two diametrically opposing futures.
Like the vote in 2014, anything less than a resounding win in May will be seen as acquiescence. Because Westminster will see anything less than a conclusive victory as total vindication and will continue to roll back devolution safe in the knowledge that they will be highly unlikely to be held to account or to be asked to make a case of Scotland staying within the union during a referendum. And there won’t be a damn thing we can do about it.
May the 6th sees the most important election of our times. In a sense, it isn’t really about politics, but about whether we want a parliament in Scotland at all. We have to put, for once, all of our tribal instincts to one side and ask: who speaks for Scotland?
Lincoln once talked of government of the people, for the people, by the people. But what rings in my head to day is the following, final line in the Gettysburg address – his fervent wish that such a democracy should not perish from the Earth. That should be our wish, too.
First principles, folks. The only way to ensure a thriving Scottish democracy is to deliver a sizeable majority in May and then vote for a self-determining future. And the sooner the better, because the quicker Scotland regains its rightful powers the quicker we recover from these darkest of days.
Do the right thing people. Tak tent o’ sma’ things. And tak tent o ‘ither. Because it’s later than you think.
Take care good people. Let’s get this done.
And I’ll meet you further on up the road.