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Yes, it's a risk, but so is staying in the UK

At first sight the idea that to vote Yes in the referendum in September is to take a risk is stating the obvious.

The conclusion of the study led by Professor David Bell of Stirling University that risk-takers are more likely to vote Yes, and by extension that women, being more risk-averse, are more likely to vote No, may not seem earth-shaking. But the ramifications cast a fascinating psychological perspective on the decision that we shall take in September.

Many people I know who have a conservative or cautious disposition seem reluctant to vote Yes. The trouble with playing to this caution is that you can soon be pandering to fear. Of course it's valid to outline risks and uncertainties. But it is irresponsible to suggest that we should be "shivering with fear" at the prospect of independence, as Alistair Darling did earlier this year.

Uncertainty and risk are not necessarily bad in themselves. Confident people, and confident nations, can deal with them. Risk can in theory be calculated; uncertainty cannot. Capitalism is an economic system that should thrive on both. Being an entrepreneur is surely all about dealing with uncertainty.

Being a capitalist should be all about taking risks; indeed the classic theory is that the profit taken justifies the risk. A risk-averse entrepreneur is surely a contradiction in terms

For many people there should be no fear at all in ensuring that the most important decisions about our society and our economy are taken by the people who tend to care most about Scotland - that is, the people who live in Scotland.

This is the underpinning theme of the White Paper on Scotland's Future. But of course it isn't quite as simple as that. Seizing full responsibility for our own society includes, inevitably, at least some risk.

Take the vexed issue of immigration. For me the most impressive passage in the entire White Paper is the one that deals with this hyper-controversial topic. The tone is one of regret that immigration is not a devolved matter. As the White Paper states, Scotland has not been well served by Westminster's decisions on immigration.

Yet recent polling in England suggests that Ukip - a party without a single MP at Westminster - is trusted more on immigration than the Labour and Tory parties put together. This supposed trust is based, I suspect, on fear: nothing less, nothing more.

By contrast, the White Paper's approach is devoid of fear. It is that we should welcome people who want to live and work in Scotland.

Apart from anything else, Scotland has a clear economic need to grow its working population. Put simply, Westminster wants to reduce immigration to the UK, and is under constant pressure to do so more rigorously. An independent Scotland would, on the other hand, wish to increase immigration.

This policy is economically and socially sound but it is also a clear gamble. If anti- immigration views are so prevalent in England, it is ingenuous to believe that they all vanish at the Border.

To articulate constructively the case for increased immigration to Scotland, as the White Paper does, is to take an undoubted political and social risk. I'd argue that it's a risk very much worth taking, even if in the past Scotland has not been notably successful in dealing with immigrants. The way many Scots treated Irish immigrants, over several generations, was and is nothing to be proud of.

Immigration is one of a multiplicity of issues where an independent Scotland might well be different from the rest of the UK.

It is vital that over the next four months those contending for our independence do not try to play down the risks involved. Independence cannot - and should not - be devoid of risk.

But, and this is something for the risk-averse to consider, staying in the UK might involve a lot of risk too.

Indeed my ultimate argument would be that if we control our own affairs, we are less likely to be dragged into cataclysmic disputes far beyond our shores.

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Local government

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