Scotland has decided to stay part of the UK. Sadly, it looks like only 45% of registered Scots have voted Yes, less than the 47% figure I had long said would be the result. I haven’t said it apart from to my family and close friends. Why would I? If you support a campaign you don’t go into the final stretch saying you’re going to lose. Sure, as a Brentford fan I go into every match with positive thoughts and not talking about defeat. If I can do that for football then I can definitely do it for such a hugely important event.
I’m downcast and there’s no denying it. Turnout is very high, with a high of 90.9% in East Dunbartonshire and a low of 78.8% in Dundee. The national average looks like finishing at 86%, which is a great result. That is wonderful to see and I really hope that level of engagement continues. We have seen a hugh political re-engagement with the population as a whole; a massive swing from the post-Blair/1997 turn away from the ballot box. I am genuinely scared of what the future holds though, with a UK General Election due next year. The results from Scotland don’t concern me but the ones from England do. The rise of the far-right seen in UKIP’s results and support for the likes of BNP. I can honestly imagine a Conservative-UKIP coalition, with Boris Johnson as PM and Nigel Farage as his Deputy. I don’t think the 1922 Committee and the Tory grandees will view this result as a success for David Cameron. Somewhere in Westminster, somebody is loading the pearl-handled revolver.
I really thought there was a chance of the Yes campaign winning and hoped my instincts were wrong. I don’t think either campaign have done a good job and the standards of reporting and mainstream coverage was poor. I’m not just meaning the general bias towards maintaining the status quo but the quality of journalism itself. I didn’t expect balance of coverage but I did expect a fair shake of the stick. To read most articles you would think Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon were the only politicians campaigning, with little if any mention of the Greens or other groups involved in the Yes campaign. Then again, I’m a simple-minded fool, just like Harry Perkins.
This feels like the early hours of 10th April, when we were slowly realising that we were facing another term of Conservative government. In Stirling we still had Michael Forsyth as our MP, much to the horror of everybody I talked to. I can remember walking through the town centre, the day dreicht and dark with nary a smile on view. No doubt that won’t happen today, the No supporters deserve their day in the sun. The Yes campaign have done very well and made a hugh jump in support from the traditional 33%, based on figures for the last thirty-plus years. Sadly though, it wasn’t enough.
Now we have to move forwards and have all parties come together and seek to improve the democratic deficit in Scotland and throughout the UK. We’ve had four years of cuts and hardship, or at least we have at this end of the ladder. A friend and single parent was recently told ther’s a 90% chance of having his benefits stopped, including housing benefit. His son, who has additional needs, comes home early from school once a week on average. He can’t expect to keep a job based on that; no employer would take on somebody who’ll have to leave with no notice at any point during the working week. He’s understandably terrified how they’re going to cope. I don’t see the UK parties’ current policy as helping him or others like him. I’m not saying that an independent Scotland would have definitely improved his life but at least there was a chance.
There is nothing I’ve seen from Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories in terms of improving the current devolution deal that gives me hope. They’ve said nothing that’s concrete, let alone a promise that they will make Holyrood permanent. As things stand, they can abolish it tomorrow, regardless of how Scotland thinks or votes. Aye, that’s the worst possible outcome but the fact that it could happen. We want significant change from the parties who refused to have devo-max on the ballot paper since it would just confuse us poor, daft voters. Even my old MP and Tory grandee Michael Forsyth says the Unionist parties are not offering Scotland enough in terms of devolution. When a Thatcherite poster boy publically says that, you know what’s on offer lacks substance. To make matters worse, the parties are already back-pedalling on what’s on offer and the legendary Brown timetable. Prof. Charlie Jeffrey has said he’s not convinced that the rapid delivery of new powers promised is possible. He says the referendum campaign has stirred up the call for devolution throughout England. For a start, there is an immense amount of preparatory work needed if Whitehall is to devolve even part of the welfare portfolio. This will lead to Scotland’s needs getting tied up with a much-needed review of the UK’s structure. A written constitution would make a good start but realistically we could face five years of debate, discussion, dithering and review. The First Minister, Alex Salmond, has just said in his acceptance speech, that he will hold the Unionist parties to their promise of having the second Commons reading of a new Scotland Bill by Friday 27th March 2015. That’s an even more ambitious deadline than the Yes campaign’s target of March 2016. You know the one, the UK parties said it was undeliverable. Judging from the BBC’s reporting, Downing Street doesn’t even have a blueprint ready. Understandably, I’m not hopeful.
I am so pleased that sixteen and seventeen-year olds were given the right to vote. I said in 2011 they deserve the right on a permanent basis and I stand by it. A colleague said this week that they wasn’t sure if they should have the opportunity. I said then what I’ve always said; if they’re old enough to pay taxes, get married and die for their country then they should have the right to decide it’s future. Fifty years ago, Screaming Lord Sutch (who I really must write about some day) first raised dropping the age you could vote from twenty-one to eighteen. That only came into force in 1970, the year I was born. Is it not time we moved forward and gave them the franchise? I think it is long overdue and hope it happens before my son, who enters secondary school next August, turns sixteen as I want him to have a say in his future. We all deserve that right.