In recent weeks, both the Society and the Scottish Young Lawyers' Association, like many other organisations, have held events to debate the independence referendum from their members' perspective, as the May issue demonstrates.
One point that has struck me has been how some Yes supporters have a specific agenda that they believe an independent Scotland would be better placed to deliver than the Union. For Carol Fox at the Society's event, it was the prospect of actually delivering the equal pay which the legislation passed in 1970 is still a long way from achieving (political will is what she thinks is lacking at present). For Aamer Anwar at SYLA, it was reversing the bankers' bonus culture, along with the recent cuts to the welfare state.
Both argued their cases with passion and conviction – yet, as was pointed out in response at the former event, it is a fallacy to assume that, following independence, we would live in “a progressive nirvana where everything will be wonderful”. Other arguments have focused on whether the SNP's desired currency union would permit a radically different social programme than the present; and whether, if that is your goal, it should be pursued at UK rather than a purely Scottish level.
There is also the question of the complexion, and priorities, of any future Scottish Government, and of attitudes within Scottish society which may hinder progress on, say equal pay, as much as they do elsewhere. Resistance to change and/or defending entrenched interests can be as potent here as anywhere.
It was Ian Smart at the Society's event who suggested that for committed supporters of one side or the other, it often comes down to a “philosophical difference” – if you believe strongly that Scotland should/should not be independent, considerations such as the precise economic arithmetic will be secondary.
That however leaves the crucial section of voters who are either undecided or less strongly convinced, but who are likely to settle the outcome on the day. Professor Curtice (at the Society's event) put it to us that economics – as affecting them personally – may have an important influence here. But any number of conflicting figures are being bandied around, so what to believe? The future status of the country is too important to be determined by a few hundred pounds in the pocket either way.
Not everyone can see their visions realised, but the debate needs vision – and more people with vision – if it is to avoid the negative knocking that everyone at the conference promised to eschew. The trick is to persuade others as to how those visions can become reality. Let the debate continue, and keep asking the tough questions.