Leaders: No place for inflammatory talk in indy debate

A YEAR ago today we voted for the status quo, but it was an odd status quo, which paradoxically, would mean nothing would be the same again.
Yes campaigners protesting outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh following the Scottish independence referendum result. Picture: PAYes campaigners protesting outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh following the Scottish independence referendum result. Picture: PA
Yes campaigners protesting outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh following the Scottish independence referendum result. Picture: PA

Those who believed an independence referendum would mean the issue was all over bar the shouting were very wrong.

It may be the anniversary of the day that Scotland technically decided, but we do not need an anniversary to remind us that the debate is far from over and that the idea of another vote is still firmly on the agenda.

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Debate over Scottish independence has not gone away. It will not go away.

Polls today show a country split right down the middle. While that might suggest a slight increase in support for independence, in truth, it is much the same position as last year. Scotland is divided on this issue.

All over bar the shouting? Whichever side won last September’s poll, there was little argument there would continue to be plenty of shouting. Indeed, we’ve had plenty of shouting this week. More heat than light.

There has been little new of substance: it is the language that has upped the temperature this week.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says today that her opponents “fear the verdict of the Scottish people” while the Conservative Scottish Secretary David Mundell insists that Scotland is blighted by “zealotry”.

Prime Minister David Cameron, for all the good it will do, has conceded that the Scottish Parliament should be a permanent institution – an essentially symbolic gesture which has been long called for by the SNP. An attempt at an olive branch? Perhaps.

The question to which everyone wants to know the answer is if there will be a second referendum. However, this debate is a distraction. If a new referendum was held today – and the First Minister is well aware of this – the result would be the same.

Meanwhile opponents who say that last year’s vote was supposed to be once in a generation are entitled to do so, but may at some point have to acknowledge that Scotland could vote for a second referendum within a generation, rendering a campaign statement meaningless.

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But a second referendum is many years away, if it ever happens.

In the meantime, we have new powers coming and we have to see how they work out. We have to give them a chance.

However, if they are to make any difference at all, all sides have to help make them work. Inflammatory language such as “fear” and “zealotry” does not help.

One year on, it is natural that we today mark the anniversary of a defining moment in the country’s history.

But from tomorrow, we need to put the re-runs and reminiscing behind us and get on with making work the arrangement we voted for.

We owe it to Scotland.

Books are the key to education

Claims that youngsters face a “postcode lottery” in school library provision are worrying for Scotland’s educational future.

The school library – the heart of any educational establishment – should be protected at all costs, not cast aside as an opportunity for cost cutting.

Writers including Christopher Brookmyre and Alan Bissett have added their voices to a campaign to protect libraries in Scottish schools – and rightly so.

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Without libraries, schools are missing out on providing what should be a huge part of any education: a love of reading. In the digital age, it may seem that information is available at the touch of the button or a swipe of a screen.

But books offer a chance not only for research, for information sharing, but for creating the idea that reading – and books – can be a part of everyday life, for life.

Some children may not be given a chance at home to access public libraries, where they can discover new authors and enter new worlds.

And it is schools which have a duty to provide this service. Funding for libraries should be ring fenced, a non-negotiable part of every child’s educational life.

Proposals have included “sharing” libraries between schools in some areas. This is not the answer. Children should have access to libraries as and when they need them – not on a once-a-term organised trip to the nearest facility.

Dining halls, music rooms and computing facilities have all been among facilities facing cuts by local authorities. Let’s not let libraries face a similar fate.