In 12 hours time, election officials will be preparing for the opening of the polls in the Scottish referendum. For the independent retailers I’ve spoken to so far in Scotland, the end of the campaigning cannot come soon enough.
Scotland’s elegant capital is currently it the midst of an undoubtedly joyous, inspiring and energising political moment. Doorways, diggers, stairways and badge-covered scarfs are all being recruited to argue the case for a vision of a better tomorrow.
That is, if you support, the Yes Scotland campaign.
Many small business have concerns about issues with the idea of a post-Independence Scotland; including the impact on the regulation of food, alcohol and cigarettes, stability of the job market and doubt about currency. Linda Williams, of Premier Broadway in Edinburgh and planning to vote “no”, is deeply concerned that the health lobby may gain total control of health and taxation policy post-referendum.
She has, however, halted conversation about the vote in her store because of the ferocity of the “yes” voters (a majority in her locality). “We decided not to talk about it – there’s something unpleasant about the way that the debate has turned,” she said. This is a retailer whose relationship with her customers is otherwise extremely close — her store has won awards for its work with the local community. Events of this magnitude are not usually off-limits within her shop.
Over on the famous Royal Mile, the historic road leading to Edinburgh Castle, the thoroughfare’s main “international” newsagent immediately clams up when I ask about the referendum. “My vote is private,” he says, palpably uncomfortable at the idea of publicising his thoughts.
It’s only an early impression, but it’s a disturbing sign if, in this moment of high politics, a divisive mood has left retailers out of the national conversation. With small businesses so vital to Scotland’s economy, their views must be heard, whichever side of the debate they side on.
What are you thoughts about tomorrow’s vote?