‘Scotland, stay with us!’ David Bowie declared back in February. And what Bowie says (or doesn’t, quite – attentive readers will remember that he got Kate Moss to say it for him) others parrot. A few days ago, Sir Paul ‘Macca’ McCartney added his name to an open letter urging the people of Scotland to join the Bowie bandwagon. He was late to the party – the other signatories make up a bizarre (and almost entirely English) cross-section of the British entertainment establishment, from Simon Cowell to David Starkey to Cliff Richard.
An impressive love-in, then. But it begs the question: will it actually swing any votes?
As a young-ish Anglo-Scot living in London, I am completely unqualified to tell you. But if I’d stayed in Scotland and was just that little bit more stupid – enough, say, to care about what a bunch of ageing light entertainers think – the slebs and their open letters might be just the thing to make up my mind for me. I’d dither, and start retching every time I glimpsed Alex Salmond’s Furby-ish mug.
But I’d do it. Yup. I’d tick ‘Yes’. I’d regret it, probably. But forever more, even as the doomsday scenarios dragged my new country back to the Dark Age, I’d have the satisfaction of knowing that I’d snubbed the likes of Sting and Sarah Lucas. We half-Scots are a prood people.
On a marginally less facetious note, McCartney’s signature alone is obviously not why the gap in the polls has narrowed in the last few days. But as I see it, the open letter is part of a bigger problem, at least in terms of the youth vote. Ever since the Better Together campaign decided to cut the scare tactics and play cuddly, the whole thing has become the sort of don’t-know-where-to-look embarrassment normally reserved for Lib Dem sex scandals. Have you seen the ‘Let’s Stay Together’ video? Words can’t describe the shame. It’s like waking up to find your nose has grown a penis.
As the actor Bill Paterson wrote in the Guardian recently, there’s a good reason why so few Scottish entertainers have come out in favour of the Union. ‘Yes’, after all, is an attractive word. And even if Scotland doesn’t go all Mel Gibson on us, the high-profile independence supporters will be able to play the ‘freedom fighter’ card. ‘For the celebrity yes supporter,’ Paterson wrote, ‘it’s a win-win situation.’
A pro-Union voice, on the other hand, sounds as glum as John Knox at a Jesuit mass and risks the curse of Phil Collins. This is not lost on Scotland’s entertainers. This is why it falls to McCartney, Cowell, Jagger and co to take on team Braveheart. However good the intention, I can’t be alone in thinking that the letter reads less like a heartfelt plea than a patronising memo to a junior partner.