IS there a good case for the voting in the independence referendum in September 2014 being compulsory?

This will be such an important decision - after all, it has huge implications for the rest of the UK, for all the British citizens who will not be able to vote - that the issue of the turnout is crucial.

If only 50% of the Scottish electorate take part, that would be disgraceful, tantamount to a national humiliation.

Indeed, anything less than 70%, on an issue of this magnitude, would be unacceptable.

The other day I was chatting with an old friend who for most of his life has served the British state abroad. He has now returned to Scotland and, among other things, is acting as an informal adviser to the No campaign.

We have our disagreements, not least on the coming referendum, but they are amicable. He surprised me when he said he was certain the turnout would be at least 70%. I wished I could be as confident.

Having thought more about it since, I now cannot see any reason why the vote should not be obligatory. People could indicate that they did not want to vote yes or no, but they would have to turn up at a polling station - or arrange for a postal vote.

This would concentrate minds more than they appear to be concentrating right now, though I accept there is a long time to go. It would also save Scotland from the demeaning embarrassment of a low turnout on an issue of such overwhelming import.

For, as I say, it is not just Scotland's future we shall decide next September. It is the future of the UK, and - to a lesser extent - the future of the EU.

After more than three centuries of (more or less) voluntary union, Scots will decide whether one of Europe's, and indeed the world's, more influential states should be broken up.

This would have major psychological implications for many people well beyond Scotland. Also, British institutions that have survived the loss of empire and two world wars could also be changed irrevocably. The international standing of the parts of what is currently the UK could be significantly altered.

These are huge stakes for all the people of the UK, not just Scots.

I want the change to happen, but I am well aware the vote in September 2014 is about more than the future of Scots; it is about the future of so many other people too. But the folk in these other countries can only stand by and watch; the decision is for Scots, alone. That makes it, in my view, all the more essential that we, the people of Scotland, show commitment and responsibility, and participate in this momentous opportunity that we have been given.

If a significant number of us don't, it would be fair enough for people in other countries - and not just England, Wales and Northern Ireland - to sneer at us. Indeed, we could end up as a laughing stock.

I have been told that in suggesting a compulsory vote, I am shooting myself in the foot, or words to that effect, because this would benefit the No side. Well, I am not so sure. Anyway, the crucial principle should be that the vote will represent, beyond doubt, the established will of the Scottish people.

Compulsory voting is tried, tested and accepted in many mature countries. Next month, for example, the people of Australia will take part in an election in which all electors will have to vote. The British state already practises compulsion: people have to pay tax, do jury service, attend school, and goodness knows what else. Compulsion walks side by side with our freedom.

So next year, when Scotland will decide not just its own future, but the future of Britain as a whole, people must realise the decision transcends short term politics,

It is vital there should be no apathy, no evasion of responsibility.

The vote should surely be made compulsory.