Friday, 12 September 2014


We’ve just spent a fortnight in Venice - again. That city’s life started with people fleeing attacks from Germanic and Hun hordes. These refugees from places like Treviso and Padua scrambled to relative safety (but with very wet feet) into the marshes in the Venetian lagoons.  No horses would come there to pursue them. They were wet but protected by swamps. Wet, on their own  and with only the future to think about.

They built upwards by learning to drive piles of wood down and creating platforms on top of them. A city grew from trial, error and persistence. Any management consultant would have told them they were completely crazy. “It won’t work, there’ll be floods, disasters, go to dry land”…and back to the Huns?
In 570 AD Venice didn’t exist yet just 600 years later it was the biggest and most powerful city in the world. Necessity drove imagination, energy and success.

Management consultants (them again) have propounded the effectiveness of creating crises to enliven and motivate management teams - a kind of “jump-start” theory.

Well, coming back from the balmy calm of the one-time Venetian master state I encountered the current Scottish referendum ‘crisis’ with a degree of amazement.
“I go away for a week or three and you wasted, simply wasted 20% lead points. You all need a damn good shaking.”

The realities, as most of us, the experts and most businesses know them, is that independence is not a good idea judged from an economic perspective. The head is shaking (‘No. It’s a very bad idea’) … but the heart is thumping away (‘Yes. Yes…. just imagine how wonderful freedom could be.’) It’s extraordinarily naïve of us to discover this late in the game that ‘YES’ is a more powerful, motivating and exciting word than ‘NO’.

So what’s happened in this fortnight of apparent madness? Quite simply rather than ravening hordes of spear-wielding barbarians it’s been the grey suited, male Westminster crowd of dull, old fashioned and self-interested, elite politicians who’ve driven away the more adventurously, positive yes-minded and discontented Scots rather like those Venetians years ago.

Maybe it’s too much Prosecco, maybe it’s too much holiday , maybe it’s the rebel inside me that’s got provoked but I’m beginning to see the “yes” votes point of view quite vividly. If you have to choose between Ed, Nick and Dave or mad Alex and if you’re into a bit of excitement, well, you know where to go.

Scotland, if you do take this brave (reckless even) step to be alone, you can survive, indeed you will thrive if you take the Venetian route of building new foundations and pretty well starting from scratch.  My guess is the chill of the ballot booth will calm the urge for risk and there’ll be a “no” vote but we shall see.
But I think Roy Jenkins got it right years ago in 1959. Try this:

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