herald

Wednesday 22 August 2018

'No' now a dirty little secret as Scots face historic decision

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As Scotland gears up to vote on its independence in less than 24 hours time, the subject has now grown so heated that people will no longer talk about it in public except for the Irish who are voting 'Yes.'

"I'm leaning 99.9pc towards 'Yes' but I'm looking at as much 'No' material as I can to have a balanced opinion," says Dubliner Maria Johnstone (29), who has lived in Edinburgh for the last five years.

The Stillorgan woman earned a PhD in physics here and says all her friends are voting 'Yes' too.

"My Facebook feed is filled with nothing but 'Yes' posts and the area that I'm living in is full of 'Yes' people," explains the Dubliner.

However, she's afraid to bring up the referendum over the water-cooler.

"I haven't actually discussed it in work in case it's awkward. Nobody brings it up. People aren't bringing it up at dinner conversations at the moment either," she says.

opinions

Her observations aren't unique. Shopkeepers, taxi-drivers and waiters all are reluctant to give their opinion when asked.

How you're voting tomorrow is definitely not small-talk conversation material. Even the canvassers and campaigners are afraid to put up posters outside their homes.

Mike Gibson (69) is out canvassing for a 'No' vote in Edinburgh but while he feels he's safe in numbers on the streets he won't declare his opinion at home.

"I had a sign in my window but I took it down in case it caused trouble," explains the pensioner.

As we stand in the middle-class and student-populated area of Fountainbridge, he points to the windows of all the houses that are broken up into flats. "See," he says, "only the people on the third and fourth floors have stickers in their windows, maybe that's just a coincidence, but I don't think so."

Voting 'Yes' is a declarable stance as seen by the overwhelming amount of 'Yes' literature erected in every city in Scotland, but voting 'No' appears to be a dirty little secret.

Another Dubliner entrenched in Scottish life is Feargal Dalton. He's voting 'Yes.'

Mr Dalton, from Portmarnock, has spent the last 17 years of his life living in Scotland and is a councillor in Glasgow with the Scottish Nationalist Party. When he finishes up teaching physics in the afternoon he goes out to canvas. Will his side win?

"It's neck and neck. There are too many unknowns to call it," said the councillor. "I'm confident, but as people in Ireland know, referenda can be hard to call.

"Right now I'm out getting every last vote and talking to any undecided or 'No' voters. We'll know our future in a couple of days," said Mr Dalton last night.

But while Maria has no involvement in politics she thinks Scotland should win its independence.

"I think Scotland will be completely fine by itself. They'll be able to vote for a government they want as opposed to an English-voted government. And they've got a great history of innovation and technology and their education system is amazing. They've got huge exports and that's not even before you get into the oil industry," said the physicist.

While Edinburgh was quiet last night Glasgow was alive with the sound of 'Yes'. Irish people added their voice to the campaign for a 'Yes' vote at a large gathering in George's Square. Tricolours were flown and GAA jerseys were worn. Some people you talk to, who work out the Irish accent, take comfort in the history of the Republic of Ireland.

"It worked out fine for you and we're taking independence in peace-time and we've lots of resources," says Claire Lawlor (32) from Glasgow.

Other Scots aren't too inspired though when they hear the Irish accent.

An elderly man in Edinburgh, Dan Richardson, is not buoyed by Ireland's "stab" at independence because he looks to the recession and how "Germany owns the Irish government now".

Come tomorrow, 4.29m Scots who are registered to vote will start filing into polling stations nationwide. While the 'Yes' campaign is a lot more visible it doesn't necessarily means it's stronger. Nevertheless, Friday's result has all on tenderhooks.

jfegan@herald.ie

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