The 45 Thoughts
So I’ve been thinking over the last 24 hours about what happened on Thursday and the subsequent results which came through in the wee small hours of Friday morning.
During this time I have gone through a range of emotions – Thursday was a really good day as confidence was high – I saw ‘Yes’ messages everywhere, all my friends and family that I spoke to were ‘Yes’ supporters (as were the vast majority of their social circles), and it really felt like Independence was in the bag. Then Thursday night saw a fair amount of nerves as we counted down the minutes to the first result being announced. Clackmannanshire really set the tone for the next few hours, and with each result that came through the feelings of regret, sadness and confusion started to build.
I went to bed at 5am and didn’t sleep at all until I got up at 7am. I was numb. I couldn’t comprehend what had happened. The visions I’d had in the days leading up to this of how we were going to celebrate the result seemed like a distant memory. I felt trapped, as if the door to my cell had just been locked and the key thrown in the bin. Was this is? Was this the will of the Scottish people? That we would refuse to grab something so precious that had been presented to us on a plate? Then I started to wonder if I even knew what being Scottish meant – all the stories and images I’d grown up with, all the political and economic turmoil our family and neighbours went through in the 70s and 80s, the apparent disdain with which we seem to be treated – did it count for nothing? I went to the local supermarket later on Friday morning, and I couldn’t look anyone in the eye – I wanted to ask everyone in which direction they had voted, and shake the ones who said ‘No’.
Between Friday morning and the time of writing this, the pulse on social media has progressively changed. It started on Friday with the same feelings of disbelief and shock. Then the conspiracy theories and allegations of vote rigging started, along with calls for a recount. People talked about emigrating as they had had enough. Then as the events of yesterday and last night unfolded, I started to notice a distinct change emerging in the tone – one of acceptance, one of ‘told you so’ (as WM started to renege on their promises of further devolution), and one of shock and outrage at the events that took place in Glasgow last night. Then this morning I started to see us looking forward to the future – people discussing how we can galvanise the energy and passion and channel it in a way which is constructive and supportive to others. I would point you in particular towards this :
I said in the days leading up to the vote that no-one had put forward any concrete arguments as to why we were ‘better together’ that didn’t involve either nostalgia or fear. The industrial revolution was cited at one point as a reason why we should remain together – an event which began over 200 years ago which is largely no longer relevant today! Indeed, the towns and cities that grew up around these new economic powerhouses in the 18th and 19th centuries are now largely destitute or reliant on service industries as the previous hallmarks of the industrial revolution are now largely dead and buried. To me, this was a nonsense-argument.
Project Fear was quite terrifying to watch. One instance in particular which will stick with me was when the Chief Exec of John Lewis/Waitrose was interviewed on BBC Breakfast – the correspondent asked him a question about whether the company would have raise prices in an independent Scotland. The Chief Exec gave what I felt was a very neutral answer (“we would take a view on it” / “prices would probably have to reflect costs”), but the BBC correspondent jumped on the back of his answer and turned to the camera and said “there you have it, the Chief Exec saying prices would indeed rise in an independent Scotland”. I almost spat my coffee out, as that’s not what was said at all!
So there was clearly a case for breaking away from the Union – it felt like we were the unwelcome visitors at the house party who were allowed to stay only because we brought a shed load of beer.
And there was clearly a case for being able to make it on our own – all the statistics about how rich we were in resources, people, and the political will to join these two things together to make us into an economic success. Above all, the ability to decide for ourselves what the priorities were in our society and the direction we moved forward in, were fundamental requirements that any nation should enjoy. Of course there would have been challenges along the way, but I was confident we would have prevailed and overcome.
Leaving Home and Striking Out
Now that I reflect, I liken us to the young adult who is thinking about leaving home for the first time. On the one hand, there is the status quo – paying your digs money, getting your laundry and cooking done for you, and not really having to worry about anything much beyond your plans for the weekend down the pub. On the other hand, there is the opportunity to strike out for yourself – rent that flat in a trendy part of town, be in control of everything you want to do and when you do it, be your own master – but if you run out of money halfway through the month you’re on your own!
Some people have likened the break-up of the Union to a divorce (and a messy one at that). Having gone through a divorce myself (yes it was messy), I really didn’t feel comfortable with this analogy. It suggested the two of you will never speak again, never co-operate on anything, nor have any mutual considerations that would bring you together. That is completely contrary to the vision of how we would continue to co-operate and work together on common issues and interests, which is why I much prefer the analogy I’ve presented above. Independence may well have benefitted both Scotland and the rest of the UK. I’m sure we all know someone whose relationship with their parents has improved dramatically once they move out of the parental home? Dad would come round and replace a light fitting for you, you would go round and cut his grass in return. But neither would dip into the other’s wallet.
Taking the above analogy a step further, relations with your parents are becoming increasing fractious. But when you threaten to move out, they promise they will change and let you decide your own bed-time. However, the very next night after you agreeing to stay, they tell you to go to bed at 9pm…
The only thing that prevents the young adult from striking out on their own (assuming they have the economic capability to do so) is faith in themselves and their own abilities, coupled with the confidence that comes from knowing they will be able to deal with whatever challenges life throws at them.
When Alex Samond gave his closing speech after the second televised debate, he said one thing in particular which stuck in my head – “it’s not about rising and being a nation again, it’s about voting to believe in ourselves”. This whole thing was never about Braveheart, William Wallace or any kind of anti-English sentiment. It was only ever about having the self-belief and confidence to stand on our own two feet.
At the moment, it feels as if a large portion of the country has neither.
How Did We Vote?
Looking at the breakdown of how the different age groups voted, one is naturally drawn towards the 54+ section :
I have pondered this clear difference over the last 24 hours. Is it because these people generally have less access to social media, and therefore haven’t seen the way the media has been manipulated? Is it because they were brought up to believe the BBC and what newspapers reported? Is it because they are at retirement age and just want an easy life as they drift into their latter years? Is this a demographic the ‘Yes’ campaign just didn’t reach? Did we adequately counter the claims of pension provision?
I am unsure. (And quite clearly generalising in asking these questions – let’s not forget 43% and 27% of these age groups respectively voted in favour of Independence according to the Ashcroft breakdown). These people would have been in the prime of their working lives during the Thatcher era, so I am really struggling to square the circle here.
It is also worth pulling out the 16-17 group. Our young people clearly want a bright future, one that can play a key part in and drive forward the success of their country. However, the 18-24 group suggests we haven’t convinced them – I’m really surprised about this one as the two things on my mind at that age were “how much is it going to cost me to go through University?” and “am I going to get a job at the end of it?”. Two things which I think the Independence debate answered extremely well, with free tuition fees and confidence in our future economic prosperity.
How we move forward from here is a critical point. As a people, we seem to have a tendency sometimes to be inherently down on ourselves – as if our WM parents have told us for long enough that we’re not good enough and we have started to believe it. However, we cannot let that feeling take hold. The last few weeks and months have unleashed a massive interest and passion within us, almost like the two opposing voices in the head of the young adult above, one saying “you can do this, think how good it will feel”, the other “just stay at home, it’s too risky out there in the big bad world”.
Unfortunately the latter message seems to have won this time, mostly due to the inherently negative manner in which the BBC and mainstream media have conducted themselves. (I for one have no idea who I am going to get my daily news update from now!). But we also need to reflect on how effective our campaign was – did we do enough convincing in the fine detail?
For me, the battle is over but the war goes on. I am concerned about the future for our country over the next 5 years, with the general election next year (Boris/Nigel coalition is my prediction) and the imminent repercussions that are likely to befall us here in Scotland. The block grant will be reduced, no new powers will be agreed and the privitisation of the NHS will continue. In a perverse way, we should thank WM for this as it will stoke the fire for the next referendum. The austerity measures across the UK have not even properly begun yet, we are all in for a shock from 2015 onwards.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that there is a significant number of people out there at the moment who voted ‘No’ and who are now kicking themselves. This number will only get bigger as the next few days, weeks and months unfold, and we will welcome these people into our camp with open arms, people who seek a more just and equitable society.
Scottish government elections are due in 2016 and we need to ensure there is a mandate for another referendum in either that one or in 2020. It is clear that the Labour party is now largely finished in Scotland – the SNP, Greens and SSP now need to work to win over these disillusioned voters (but I suspect they won’t have to try very hard), and then collaborate to advance the cause of Independence.
Until our next opportunity, we need to continue the mission with passion, determination and pride. We must not let ourselves be drawn into riots or running battles in the streets – as a nation, we are worth so much more than this. We must move forward in a manner which reflects the society we want to be.
We will achieve the dream of independence. But we will do it with our heads held high and our chests filled with pride.