DEAR “Undecided Voter”,

I am writing this from the viewpoint of someone who, as a retired employment psychologist, has made a detailed study of human personality and how it affects the way people think and behave. Consequently, I am not going to try and influence your opinion on independence by quoting economic theory about why Scotland can well afford to be independent in financial terms. It certainly can, and other financial and commercial experts have demonstrated this much more successfully than I could.

To be honest, I have never really grasped what capitalist economics is all about, and from my discussions with many of them, I am not convinced that most economists really understand it either! So instead, in this essay I am going to focus on what in personality terms makes people see the world and their place in it as they do, and why you, as someone not yet convinced of the need for independence, might be persuaded, not to change your whole way of looking at the world, but to see how that your worldview has much more in common with the concept of independence than you possibly realise.

The National: Campaigners wave Scottish Saltires at a 'Yes' campaign rally in Glasgow, Scotland September 17, 2014. The referendum on Scottish independence will take place on September 18, when Scotland will vote whether or not to end the 307-year-old union with the re

I won’t give you an exhaustive lesson in how personality works, as there are several different schools of thought and most have something valid to say. Suffice it to say that studies into personality in the Western world seem to suggest that the majority personality type here – which involves the largest number of people to fit the following description – is what the psychologist David Keirsey called the “Guardian” type – people who are conscientious, dutiful, devoted to tradition and family oriented. They are the people who are the backbone of society and it is people like them who have had a major impact on the development of Scottish society to be what it is in the main today: responsible, law-abiding, aware of the importance of maintaining tradition and family ties, and concerned for fairness and justice.

People like this are also, in the main, not overly keen on change, unless that change is proved to be necessary. They tend to prefer facts and figures to ideas and concepts as they think the latter can be a bit “fuzzy”. They often take the view that those who are enthusiastic to change things may not always have pure motives and just want to overturn traditional values on a whim, or for some sort of dubious personal crusade (undoubtedly some do, although others generally have more wholesome motivations).

I guess if this sounds like you, you will probably have some, or all, of the following views about independence:

  • Britain is a small island so we are better together.
  • I have friends and family in England – won’t independence have a negative effect on our relationship?
  • The lairds who run Scotland have owned the land for centuries so they know best how Scotland should be run.
  • Independence will mean I have to pay more tax to support people who don’t want to work.
  • We are quite happy as we are, so why change?

The first four are easily challenged. Yes, we are a small island, but as separate nations we can still act together, as happens in the Scandi/Nordic countries. And in countries like Finland (below) and Estonia people regularly hop on the ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn to go to work, shop or visit. Some lairds do take a paternal interest in their ancestral possessions, but others don’t, and indeed, many are absentee landlords who are maybe resident once a year and have no love for the land or its people.

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It’s the last one of these factors that is often most difficult to answer for those with a personality type with a tendency to be change averse, especially if you are reasonably well off, have always worked hard for your advantages and are lucky enough to have always had a job. Your view will possibly be that of a woman I spoke to recently who is a convinced No voter: “The SNP should not be offering baby boxes or free school meals, as parents should make provision for their children, and if you can’t afford it you shouldn’t have any!” (People with this personality type often use lots of “woulds” and “shoulds" in their language, because they take responsibility seriously and think others sometimes don’t). Interestingly, I later discovered that this individual had in the past had quite a bit of help from an SNP councillor, which she had conveniently forgotten, perhaps because it didn’t fit with her view of herself as resilient and not reliant on state assistance.

Now, I would never suggest that in independent Scotland anyone needs, or wants, to be idle – there is a lot of work that needs doing, after all: for example, care of vulnerable older people and young families that may have met with difficulties, maintenance and improvement of the environment, working with children and young people in organisations like Scouts and Guides. All these things are vital work that is currently unpaid, and it would be quite reasonable to expect that everyone, in paid employment or not, contributes in ways like this to the development of a fair, equitable, happy and healthy society – it’s what most Scots, “native” or new, have always done. But what about the view that if we are doing these things now, why do we need scary change to keep doing them?

The point I would want to emphasise above all to cautious people like you, is that a vote for independence is NOT a vote for radical change, despite what you have been told by those with a vested interest in maintaining the structure of Britain as it is. On the contrary, it is a vote for continuity, building on what we do well, to do it even better in future. It is a vote for traditional Scottish values of hard work, respect for others, entrepreneurism, fairness and justice for all. It recognises the traditional Scottish concern for neighbours, whether they be folk who have been fortunate enough to be born Scottish or those who have made their home here because they love Scotland. Independence won’t be literal overnight, radical change; it will be incremental and for many people life will be exactly the same.

At the time of the last referendum, my Scottish sister-in-law (at that time resident in south-east England) phoned me in a panic because she believed independence would mean the loss of her pension. It wouldn’t and it won’t! In fact, the SNP have pledged to increase the state pension in an independent Scotland to normal European levels as the British state pension is one of the lowest on the continent. And surely the Unionist argument that Scotland is too poor to be independent has been kicked into touch so often that surely most know it is just not true – we have masses of natural and commercial resources that other countries envy. My daughter-in-law’s native land, Estonia (below), had few such advantages after it gained independence after the break-up of the USSR – its economy was broke, yet now it is one of the most successful small independent European nations. With our resources to build on, we could do even better than Estonia has done.

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Rather than independence being about radical change, radical change is what the Unionists want, to create an isolated Britain which thinks it’s still a world power when it hasn’t been since 1939. They are keen to create a society where a few people can become obscenely rich by going to the “right” schools, and getting into politics to gain power to give lucrative contracts to their Old Etonian chums. They want to blame people for not having jobs when they have ruined the economy by “hard Brexit” so there are few decent jobs to be had. They want to dismantle the NHS so that good health is only achievable through private health care. They want good education only to be available to those who can afford it. As a working-class kid in the early 1970s I was able to study at Oxford because funding was available for students like me. At the time such initiatives went some way to creating a fairer society – now we have gone backwards.

The Unionists have already shown their hand with Brexit, forcing Scotland to leave the EU when there was a significant Scottish majority to remain. They have begun interfering in Scotland’s current devolved powers, and they are hoping that Scotland will be like the bullied partner in an abusive relationship, terrified by the more powerful partner to the extent that they are afraid to escape “in case of finding something worse”.

One of my heroes is, surprisingly for a passionate independence supporter, the writer and politician John Buchan. My SNP colleagues are amazed that I should admire someone who was a dyed-in-the-wool Unionist – except that I don’t think he was. One of the admirable traits about him was his ability to see both sides of a picture, and there is evidence that towards the end of his life, as Governor General of Canada, he realised that he had spent much of his life in some awe of a group of old Etonian snobs, when the people he really valued were the farming folk and civic-minded small business owners in towns like Peebles, where his family originated. In fact, he actually once said in a speech to parliament: “I believe that every [Scot] should be a Scottish Nationalist. If it could be proved that a Scottish Parliament were desirable…[Scots] should support it…if it could be proved to be desired by any substantial majority of the Scottish people.”

Much of Buchan’s work remains unread these days – most have only heard of the Thirty-Nine Steps – but in books like Huntingtower, he takes ordinary, conventional, conscientious folk, who might well start out as No voters today, and shows how, to be true to the traditional Scottish values of justice, fairness and concern for the underdog, they are prepared to fight for these values even if it means doing things they had never thought possible.

The real heroes of the book are not the cynical poet and First World War veteran, Heritage, but a retired grocer, Dickson McCunn, and a wee old lady, Phemie Moran, both of whom are supremely middle class and usually unadventurous, and who are aided by a gang of small boys, the Gorbals Die-hards, who are well on the way to a young offenders’ institution. Together they manage to defeat a criminal mob of rather unpleasant Russian revolutionaries who are trying to pinch some valuable jewels.

Typically of an individual with a “Guardian” type of personality, Dickson realises that the best way to keep the jewels from the evil Bolsheviks is to do what an action hero would never think of – he just takes them to the local bank for safekeeping! As a reward for their assistance, at the end of the story the childless Dickson adopts the whole troop of die-hards (in subsequent books we see how they develop). The book is very funny as well as exciting, but its main message is that “ordinary” people are capable of far more than they realise, and that it is possible to build on traditional values to create an even better life – at the end Dickson has come through a series of scary adventures to be back on his own turf, but with the knowledge that he has not only moved forward in his own life but helped to create a happy future for the next generation.

If Dickson were a real person instead of a literary character, I could see him starting off as a No voter. Probably like you, he is the type who doesn’t see the need for change unless it is obviously fixing what’s broken. But to defend his traditional values he is prepared to think and do things that in the past he would never have imagined.

If you think that the independence supporters are like the Russian revolutionaries in the Huntingtower story, all keen to overthrow the established order and create anarchy, you could not be more wrong. Sure, there may be the odd anarchist in the ranks of Yes voters, for many young people like to go through a bit of an anarchist and rebellious phase. But I would be willing to guess that the majority are more like Dickson McCunn, ordinary Scots who love their country, want to live by its traditional values and to preserve these for future generations. By voting Yes to independence, you can play your part in building on sure foundations to create a better future.

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