What Now Scotland?
What now Scotland?…..
Last Thursday evening I set my alarm for 2am and took to bed early, the fridge was stocked with snacks and beer and a bottle of wine sat in the kitchen, champagne seemed too much like tempting fate.
I checked my phone just before 2.00 to find a message from a friend, Clackmannanshire had declared for no and it was already not looking good. My heart sank. Nevertheless I got out of bed and tuned into the BBC coverage. It was relentless and despairing, as each declaration came in the inevitable result became clearer and clearer. For some reason my mind drifted back to the awful night my father passed away, the family were together through the night by his hospital bed and looked at each other as he slowly drifted away over the course of the night and into the next morning. We were helpless and powerless and as I watched him I thought about all those memories and experiences that were about to be extinguished forever. That same feeling washed over me as I watched the dreams of so many Scots being slowly strangled by fear.
Around 7am I crept into my sons bedroom and sat beside him on the bed, he woke and sat up, looking at me through sleepy eyes, ‘I’m sorry, it’s a no’ was all I could say. He lay back down and pulled the covers over his head, I heard him struggle to hold in his emotions. Back in the living room I returned to the TV coverage but I could now hear the sobs coming from his room.
I opened my laptop and began to remove myself from numerous pro independence Facebook groups, to ‘unlike’ all those many pages that had for months tried to spread a positive message of hope. Slowly my social media feed began to return to normal.
And that was it… The dream of a better Scotland was just that, a dream and I’d woken up on a grey September morning to contemplate a bleak future. However in all of this I’d forgotten one simple and unforgettable truth…
This is Scotland and we are the Scots.
As Friday wore on my mood began to lift. As my friends across our wide social networks began to react to the result I saw each find their own way of dealing with it. Some changed their Facebook profile pure black or white in mourning. Others returned their images to how they had been before. Collectively we were going through the stages of grief.
And then it stopped.
In the end Scotland had voted against independence by 55% to 45%. That 45% represented over 1.6 Million Scots, far more people than the entire turn out for most elections. 1.6 million people had said that they would not be frightened by the scare stories in the media, that they did not believe the establishment’s promises of extra powers. 1.6 million of us chose hope over fear. And that was quite an achievement.
Around lunchtime on Friday some inventive person started up a little Facebook community, they borrowed a slogan from the ‘occupy’ movement and called it ‘we are the 45%’. What happened over the next few hours was quite incredible; within minutes several hundred had joined the community, within hours it was in the thousands, by the early evening it was tens of thousands. As I write this over 175,000 people have joined this online gathering. A beacon had been lit and the shell-shocked troops of the yes campaign had seen it and they were regrouping. Suddenly it became clear that we were not dead, this was not over, and this fight was really just beginning.
But then the news started filtering in from George Square in Glasgow and reality bit hard again. For weeks the Yes movement had more or less occupied the square, a multi cultural festival of singing and dancing and speeches had shown the world what was great about Scotland. For the next few hours we were about to see the other side, the darker side, the Janus face of Scotland. Like a scene from some zombie horror movie the square began to fill with union flag wearing bully boys, throwing flares, making nazi salutes and attacking anyone wearing a Yes badge or holding a saltire flag. Within minutes the square, which had focus of peace and hope became an ugly scene of threat and intimidation. And these were the so-called ‘winners’?
The next morning I left a grey overcast Edinburgh behind and headed up into the highlands with some old friends to climb in Glencoe. It was as spectacular a day as you could imagine, a perfect day to clear the head, blow away the blackness of the last few days. We even managed to joke about the spectacular views of ‘North Britain’ from the top of Buchaille Etive Beag. That evening we settled down for a night of drinking and entertainment in the famous Clachaig Bar; A Saturday night at the Clachaig is always a bit special and fairly rowdy but in all my years I’ve never seen it like this. The bar was packed and people sang along to the band and danced on the tables even though the low ceiling forced them to be bent near double. A divided nation? Not here it wasn’t.
Online though the immediate aftermath of the result had some strange effects on people. In all of this it’s been very easy to ignore how those who actually voted no have reacted to the result; The vast majority have gone back to business as usual but for others the fact that the ‘45’ have refused to just go away has caused frustration and anger. I probably lost more friends in the days immediately after the vote than I lost in the weeks leading up to it. Strangely many who had been deafeningly silent for weeks found a voice and the internet was charged with negative particles mostly, unremarkably, finding Facebook and Twitter as an outlet.
But the 45 were not going to be silenced. A grass roots movement this big was never going to disappear overnight. What none of us expected however was the overwhelming reaction in the week that followed; Within a few days the membership of the SNP (Scottish National Party) more than doubled making it the third largest political party in the UK ahead of the UK wide Liberal Democrats, other ‘pro’ parties such as the Scottish Greens also saw a growth spurt so great that over the week they were actually one of the fastest growing political parties in the whole of Europe. Even the fairly modest Scottish Socialist Party were overwhelmed by applications for membership. It was clear that this huge political movement were ready to send out a message to the rest of the UK establishment. “we are still here, and we are watching”.
And just as well too, for it took less that a few hours before the promises made to us to secure a no vote were beginning to unravel. Within a few days news reports of huge oil discoveries in the North Sea magically began to surface in the media and a little over a week since the referendum we are about to go to war in the Middle East again! The last week has been nothing short of Orwellian.
We are watching, and we are no going to be quiet.
So on Saturday, 10 days after the referendum day thousands gathered at the Holyrood parliament building in Edinburgh. The event was not organised by the SNP or Yes Scotland or any other political group, it was organised instead by a mum who wanted to show the rest of Scotland that the fight was not over. Under a tree in one corner at the far end of the parliament square hundreds of shopping bags were being deposited, all donations for food banks. As I stood in wonder I watched a severely crippled man struggle over the last few yards, a Sainsbury’s bag swinging from his crooked arm, he stopped and carefully added his contribution to the sea of goodwill. And that was when the wave hit me full in the face. I could not hold back the tears and had to find a quiet spot to let it out.
For the next few hours the crowds of saltires grew and people listened patiently as speakers got up to say how they felt. Some were professionals such as SNP MSP Marco Biaggi but others had just found their way to the microphone to vent their anger, their frustration, their defiance and their testimony. Somehow my son who a week ago had been devastated by the result managed with his friend to get himself behind the speakers and he stood holding his end of a saltire flag aloft to provide a backdrop. I don’t think I’ve ever been so proud in all my life. Every speaker had one common message – this is not over.
The fat lady is not for singing.
So what have we learned over this week? I think the overriding lesson has been that what lost the referendum was not the argument it was our lack of control of the message that was being fed to the public. The fact that many more older people voted no was almost certainly because they were the demographic that the online media was not reaching. Forced to rely on the press and TV they were never given a chance to make a balanced decision.
When the campaign begins again (and begin it will) we need to have better control of traditional media. The move to ensure that begins now; already plans are underway for the foundation of a new red top newspaper for Scotland. Plans to enter into the broadcast arena are being formed too, all coming together thanks to crowd funding. The grass roots basis of the yes campaign once again proving its resilience by ensuring that within days many of the initial crowd funding projects designed to work on simple feasibility studies had already met their targets.
And then there was Labour. Their red hand had been all over the No campaign, from its leader right down to its show of strength in the last days before the vote and Gordon Browns maniacal speeches. In less than a year we will have a general election and its already clear that this political monster that has been created will work as one unit to ensure the utter destruction of Labour in Scotland. It may be almost unrecoverable for them across the UK too, The Conservative led government have collectively taken one pace backwards and Labour in their utter idiocy have been set up.
And it’s exactly what they deserve.
Because here’s the thing. If next years general election result is a complete rout of Labour and we can assume by that same token the Conservative’s and Lib Dems will continue with their pathetic showing north of the border then the Scottish part of the UK will return a huge SNP representation, and if that is large enough it would constitutionally permit Scotland to declare UDI; a Unilateral Declaration of Independence, this was the route that led both the Republic of Ireland AND the USA to declare Independence and it might yet be our route too. No referendum, no conspiracies of recounts, no media interference. Job done.
The 2014 referendum was not the end of the fight. It was a bloody nose but that’s all and Scotland is not out. We are back off the ropes and now we know our opponents best moves we can counter the punches and fight back.
“Wha’s like us? 1.6 million and were nae deid”