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I am definitely in the ranks of the party of switherers

Which way will I vote?

At each gathering I attended over Christmas and New Year, the independence referendum was being discussed. That question is still the one I am asked most often now that 2014 is a week old.

Have I learned much? Only that the debate is wreathed in indecision. I speak as a switherer. I didn't know I had so much company.

One or two people told me they would drag their houses across the border if Scotland voted Yes. An equally small number declared they were committed to independence.

One "don't know" thought he would vote Yes once he was in a polling booth. Why? Because he might not be able to live with himself if he turned down a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for change.

But by far the majority of those I met are like me. They are weighing, measuring and sucking their gums. They wonder what independence might bring. They also ask what the Union will offer if we stay.

What does a No vote mean? More devolution or a chance for Westminster to let Scotland slip from its concerns? I still find myself wondering whether I should vote at all. I'm from Northern Ireland, though I have lived in Scotland for three decades. I think it's strange that I have a say in this country's future when my avowedly Scottish children do not.

Like many of their generation, work has taken them south, to London and Brussels respectively. Would an independent Scotland be more or less likely to offer them an opportunity to return?

Rumble-rumble. Round the thoughts go.

Mostly, I am in awe at the civilized nature of the debate. Ireland ripped itself apart over this issue. Brothers and cousins went to war with each other following the Free State settlement. I know Scotland was not conquered; that the Union was negotiated. But I wonder if something else is also at play.

I have a theory that the desire for self-determination is deep within the DNA of the Irish and of the English (you don't find many English people content to cede any sovereignty to Europe).

Is it as fundamental to a majority of Scots? It's a controversial question (I know) but what else can explain the lack of groundswell of support for independence? The debate feels passionless to me.

I hear little rhetoric about freedom and destiny but lots of argument about whether we will be better or worse off. Alex Salmond is offering free child care and low company taxes; what's Westminster's bid?

Still, I'd rather that than a more heated debate in which antipathy to England played a part. For myself, I like the English. In so far as I believe in national characteristics, I find them to be loyal friends. I admire the openness and acceptance with which they traditionally welcomed all comers to London. I thrived there after leaving Ireland, as have so many generations of Scots.

But that generosity of spirit seems under threat. There is a new tone in English politics. It is alien and unpleasant and, yes, it's making me question my previous support for the Union.

The Westminster Government's response to the debt crisis has shifted from a rhetoric of being "all in this together" to a divisive us and them. "Us"are "hard-working families who play by the rules". "Them" are everyone else.

It is implied that they are feckless, lazy, undeserving scroungers who need to shape up. But "them" incorporate the unemployed, the poor, those not fit for the rat race and, of course, immigrants.

It's a nasty way of looking at the world and an uncompassionate way to run a country. This sort of political-speak makes it feel less that Scotland is diverging from the UK than that England is. Do I, do you, want to be part of that?

The Britain I like is a place of tolerance and compassion. If England's policies are tilted to appease Ukip, how long will that continue to be the case? What if England leaves Europe? Would we still want to be conjoined? I wouldn't. Not a chance.

So rumble-rumble. Round the thoughts go.

The best argument I have seen for independence came from a documentary called Our Friends in the North. The BBC journalist Allan Little took us on a tour of Scandinavian countries of similar scale to Scotland. Each had an individual story. Each differed from us and from its neighbour culturally and economically.

But there was something hugely attractive about these people being masters of their own destinies. Seeing them and hearing them discuss their difficulties and challenges somehow made the prospect of an independent Scotland seem more credible and more attractive.

It brought home to me that, once independence was achieved, our government needn't be an SNP one. New parties would form; new policies would come into play.

Our most talented might be more likely to stay at home; our children too. We might be poorer for a time but it would be up to us to create prosperity. Would such a challenge be worth the risk? It's tempting. It might be.

On the other hand, we've had an unpleasant taste of austerity. Most of us don't like it. We look to the safety net the UK gives us. We wonder what would happen to pensions and to benefits after independence.

The SNP is awash with promises but are they laced with optimism? What happens if the oil price falls? Without the tax we collect from it, how would we fare? These questions have worn thin without definitive answers. Would our destiny be more austerity and not the sunny uplands that the SNP appear to promise?

And what switherers like me wonder is how family connections across the UK would be affected? Must they be riven by nationalistic boundaries? Does this shrinking and troubled world need another border? If we vote Yes, will we arrive at a small-minded country where it matters who you are, were you came from and which foot you kick with?

Would we be better to turn our backs on independence but fight for devo-max? After all, the UK Parliament will also change. The next one may wear a kinder face. And so round and round go undecideds like me, tilting first this way and then that.

Would a debate between Mr Salmond and David Cameron confirm my view one way or the other? No. The question being placed in our hands is much greater than these two men and their parties. It should not be decided on whom is judged to have won or lost the argument on television. For that reason, I would prefer no TV debate takes place.

Independence is once and for all. There's no turning back if we vote Yes. I find that prospect both exciting and concerning. Maybe I should consult my disenfranchised Scottish children and (if they concur) place my vote for them.

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