Excerpts of the following were published in the letters page in Scotland on Sunday on 20 April 2014
Your cover story on Sunday April 6 brought the welcome news that thought is being given to healing divisions caused by the “increasingly bitter” independence debate and to ensuring that “the split being played out in ugly political spats and on-line abuse does not result in a permanently fractured society”.
In the same edition, Andrew Wilson reflected on Margo MacDonald’s life and her ability to be both radical and unifying, teaching that progress only happens when you respect opponents and bring them with you.
Nelson Mandela spoke of the need, even if we remain wedded to our own point of view, to put ourselves in the shoes of those with whom we disagree. That takes an effort of will, empathy and imagination. But the reward, as we saw in Mandela’s life, can been described as wisdom.
In the past week, Pope Francis called on Italian mayors to act as mediators, whose role was to be “among the people, to create unity, to make peace, to resolve problems and resolve the needs of the people.” What a plea to any political or civic leader.
Four weeks ago this newspaper published a full page Commitment to Respectful Dialogue, signed by 100 Scots. That number, though small, increases every day on the website www.collaborativescotland.org. The response from ordinary folk is telling. They want a more mature, less antagonistic debate. They are weary of “ugly spats” and bitterness.
With five months to go, the time has surely come to make the full transition from a child-like approach to a more adult discussion. Personal attacks, inflammatory language and failure to deal substantively with key issues are characteristic of immature debate but are not befitting a proud people with a history of enlightened thought and constructive contributions to intellectual progress. This is the time to demonstrate to those watching from around the world – and to ourselves – that we can address our future with dignity. Not just after September 18 but from this moment on.