Why I’m looking for the facts

Why I’m looking for the facts

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When the referendum was announced I was excited and a little daunted. How was I going to work out the pros and cons of this monumental decision?

I felt this was far too important a decision to leave to the politicians alone to inform me. Boy was I right.

When one side says ‘black’ at 9am, the other says ‘white’ at 9.02 am – who do we believe?

I was left confused and annoyed. The biggest decision for our country in 300 years had been reduced to a shouting match. But what could I do about it?

My team in the Hunter Foundation decided that what we, and thousands of other Scottish voters needed, were facts and impartial analysis of the important issues. We set out to find the best people round the world, who took no side in this debate, and to put the big questions to them and ask for their unbiased opinion.

What currency an independent Scotland would use affects every one of us. Yet we were being told by the Yes side that we would use the Pound, and by the No side that we wouldn’t. We asked Professor Leslie Young one of the top experts in the world on currencies for his view. From his post in Beijing he clearly has no allegiance in the referendum and could give us a sensible answer.

For the economic prospects of Scotland we turned to Professor David Bell of Stirling University, one of our most respected academics.

Professor Patrick Dunleavy of the London School Economics guided us through the shouting match over how much it would cost to set up a new independent government.

Edinburgh University’s Professor Charlie Jeffery told us what is likely to happen if we vote No – what new powers can we expect for the Scottish Parliament.

And we made all this information available on our website (Scotlandseptmber18.com) or in our e-book Scotland’s Decision: 16 Questions to think about for the referendum on September 18, which can be downloaded free of charge from the same site.

We are not trying to convince you of our point of view and not trying to get you to vote the way we vote. Our aim is simply to give you some facts, some thoughts with no political spin to help you make an informed decision.

This is not like an election, where if we make the wrong choice of government we have a chance to change it five years later. We are being asked if we want to over-turn three centuries of history and if we call it wrongly it will be hard, if not impossible, to go back.

We are voting not just for ourselves and our children, but for our grandchildren and their children too. What we decide will have a big effect on the way they lead their lives and on their standard of living. The weight of that responsibility should sit heavily on every voter in Scotland.

It does on me – and I don’t think I’m unusual. Although the gap between No and Yes is narrowing in the opinion polls, and many people have made up their minds, there are still hundreds of thousands of people who have not – enough of us “undecided” to determine the outcome.

The power is in our hands – but we have to use it wisely.

We hoped the book might help voters understand more about the issues at stake and we thought a few thousand people might find it useful.

That was a massive under-estimate. So far 60,000 people have downloaded the book – beyond our wildest expectations and proof positive that there is a genuine hunger for fact and impartial analysis of the complicated issues on which we have to cast our votes.

The referendum has galvanised Scotland in a way that I have never seen before. People, like me, who have not shown much interest in politics, are discussing the issues in pubs, clubs and over the dinner table. That is very healthy for our democracy.

This is not a decision we can duck. If we don’t vote and the referendum goes the opposite way to the one we believe to be right we will have no opportunity to put it right next time. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to make a clear choice – and once we have made it to unite behind the decision we have made. Scotland deserves no less. Good luck.

Sir Tom Hunter is an entrepreneur and philanthropist. He established scotlandseptember18.com to provide facts and objective analysis on the referendum.

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