Autumn 2014 starts on the 23rd of September, so the earliest date for the referendum is 23rd September 2014, and the latest date before the winter solstice is 20th December 2014. Seasons calculator (Don’t ask me about the shortfall of two days 2012-2014 – ask an astronomer.) So we have between 32 months and 35 months to go until the most important decision facing Scots since 1707 arrives.
It will also be the most important event facing the United Kingdom, a highly significant event for the Republic of Ireland, an event of vital interest for the European Union, and an event major interest for the rest of the world. It may spell the end of Britain as a nuclear power, and therefore the end of the US/Britain links on the so-called ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent, it will have a fundamental and incalculable effect on NATO, and on the perception of the rest of the world of ‘Britain’, in the sense that it still exists, as a world power.
Is this responsibility one that is too great to bear for a little nation at the north end of Europe with a population of just over 5 million?
Chaos theory often uses the metaphor of the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, Lorenz having postulated that this tiny event could lead to a hurricane.
Already there are those in the UK - and on the right-wing of American politics - who are asking if this emergent butterfly should even be allowed out of the chrysalis, much less flap its wings.
A coalition of the British right-wing - that is the Labour Party allied to the Tory/LibDem Government - has formed to frustrate the efforts of Scotland to achieve self-determination as a nation.
But because of a highly inconvenient commitment to at least the semblance of democratic politics, in nations that have long since neutered the voice of the people in a conspiracy of wealth, privilege and power, this is proving hard to do.
And the global financial crisis, allied to the manifest failure and incompetence of the UK government, and the increasing tendency of the US government to retreat from international entanglements and put its own shaky house in order, not to mention the great upheaval of the Arab Spring haven’t helped. Confusion reigns in the corridors of power.
And so there is to be a great public debate. But behind the scenes, the profoundly undemocratic forces of patronage, threat and bribe, the military industrial complex and structurally undemocratic organisations and ad hoc groupings formed for this purpose alone, will exert an insidious influence on that debate.
What will counterbalance this? The crisis of capitalism has now arrived with a vengeance, and the brutal impact of the attempts of the rich to solve it by attacking the poor and vulnerable are just beginning to be felt, with the full horror yet to unfold. The UK Party that should have been poised to be the defenders of the ordinary people, the Labour Party, has for half a century or more instead been a fundamental part of the power structure, and is impotent because it has fundamentally and fatally compromised its core values.
England is left bereft of a political voice, and has only the trades unions, themselves compromised by their links to Labour, as their last best hope. There are some welcome signs that the trades unions recognise this, and are beginning the painful process of extricating themselves from the Labour Party’s dead grasp.
Scotland, in contrast, has a political voice, has a political party, and a vibrant new spirit is emerging, a new awareness, and a new resolve to embrace the spirit of the age - the zeitgeist -and make a new nation.
This butterfly will flap its wings, will fly freely, and its flight will not trigger a destructive hurricane, but a great, cleansing wind of positive change.