JUST AN OBSERVATION
Just An Observation
So that was that then!
Last week at this time Scotland was alive with electricity and a sense of hope and expectation. This was a feeling- pretty unusual for the Scots who although always sturdy, reliable, gallous and generous are nevertheless predisposed to expecting the worst- which carried through until Friday morning at around 5am when it became clear that the once in three hundred years chance of independence from a union they had never been asked to join in the first place had been denied them. What made it seem even more incomprehensible was that it had been denied them by their very own selves; or at least 55% of the populace.
What had started as a ridiculous idea only three years ago when it became clear that the vote for independence was going ahead had somehow galvanised itself into an almost certainty with victory parties and a sense of jubilation on the horizon. However this was not to be and as I walked home on the pre-election night-Wednesday- and passed the Scottish Parliament where the party to end all parties was taking place and the world’s media was gathering to report on what was about to be a historic event it really felt that Scotland was about to achieve all I ever believed it is capable of.
I may have had a love/hate relationship with the place-the weather is very often not to my taste and sometimes the downbeat, cynical nature grates a little- but I always knew my heart belonged here and it still does. Somehow on this evening however my heart was swelling with pride and as I made my way up the Royal Mile I had the feeling I was part of history being made and all I had to do was put an X in a box the next day and my contribution would be beginning in the dawn of a whole new era.
Please don’t think however that I believed that change was immediately imminent and come the 19th of September a whole new world of possibilities would open up to me and life would be sunshine and lark song. I was well aware that a few difficult years lay ahead and that a rocky road was almost guaranteed, but I have never shied away from making life that little more difficult in order to possess that extra amount of happiness and satisfaction whilst maintaining some integrity and I genuinely believed it would be worth it and felt that so many others felt exactly the same. I mean who when stuck in an unsatisfactory relationship- which let’s face it Scotland has been with the rest of the UK for decades now- when offered the perfect get out does not take it?
Scotland, it seems is the answer to that particular question.
So what happened?
It would appear that two weeks ago when Westminster was rocked to its foundations when a poll revealed that the Yes campaign had taken the lead over the Better Together/ No Thanks agenda.
A mad dash north by the leaders of the three major parties followed as did lots of scaremongering, threats and, when this didn’t have the immediate desired effect, a whole set of promises of extra powers for Scotland after they voted to stay in the UK were suddenly laid out on the table. Although these powers were not made explicitly clear and the date of their implementation even vaguer this somehow seems to have done the trick. Never mind that the politicians offering these terms are amongst the most unscrupulous and underhand I have ever encountered in my adult life it still seemed to sway the undecided and swithering and eventually the No campaign edged their way into the lead again and managed to remain ahead until polling day.
The feeling of positivity still never left the hearts and minds of the Yes camp however and even up until the very last moments-or more correctly when the damning results from Fife came through- there was a sense that the Yes supporters would and could pull it off.
No such luck.
Friday morning was a dreich, miserable typically Scottish day and the weather matched the sombre mood of everyone I encountered that day.
Considering that a 10% majority had won the race I was surprised that I never met anyone who was remotely pleased by the result. Perhaps the fact they were maybe feeling guilt about the fact they may be perceived of selling the dreams of their fellow citizens in the interests of maintaining their own lifestyles or outdated beliefs.
It is now clear that their was very much a generational divide in the voting patterns with the youngest group having 73% in favour of independence whlst almost the same number of 65’s and over against it. This is not the full story however and the Yes campaign was always up against the establishment with its corporate industry, banks, big business and let’s not forgets the hugely biased media which, The Sunday Herald apart, came out on the side of the No campaign. It is significant that this constant media blitzing- social media and the internet are not the natural tools of the elderly generation- eventually had its desired effect.
The sombre mood of Edinburgh was completely counterbalanced by the violence that spilt into George Square and then the Glasgow streets on Friday as a group of unionists wanting to ‘celebrate’ their victory engaged in a stand off with the Yes supporters who had taken up residence there before the campaign and were licking their wounds and offering solace to each other. The footage I have seen of this encounter was simply disgusting and I do not blame or hold No supporters responsible for the carnage that followed as bigotry and sectarianism are omnipresent all the time and this was just an excuse to ‘have a go’ as the terminology goes.
What now for Scotland then?
It would seem Devo max is on offer but with bitter recriminations still ringing throughout the land no-one seems to be holding their breath for this to occur and already the inevitable stalling has begun.
What is clear is that- never the mind the UK being divided up-Scotland has to heal its wounds with itself. At the moment it is a divided nation but it is also a politically galvanised one. What has emerged is a more politically aware and savvy-yes that codeword bandies about by Yes campaigners on referendum eve- population who are watching closely what Westminster does or does not deliver.
At the moment the feeling of being convicted of a serious crime we hadn’t even committed is staring to dissipate and the 45% who took on the establishment and didn’t quite win are unwilling to back down and take defeat quite as easily as they might have been expected to.
On Friday as if to add to the already forlorn nature of the day the man who had made all this possible and been on an incredible journey from pariah, joke and hate figure to national hero, Alec Salmond stepped down and it really felt as if the dream was over. Who would have thought even a year ago that he would become as respected a figure as he became even if many still feel that his lack of natural charisma cost the campaign crucial votes. This lack of charisma is nothing though when placed alongside his integrity and solid beliefs which took Scotland on a journey it will never forget.The SNP membership increased by several thousand percent in three days and other
parties such as the Greens have also reported record numbers of people joining the ranks. Whilst Independence may not have turned out to be Salmond’s legacy the fact that he awoke a drowsing nation into some semblance of energetic drive is beyond admirable. Respect!
Maybe new beginnings are not such a lost dream after all!