A month has passed. I’ve mourned at the lost opportunity, taken the time to reflect and recover from the excitement, the highs and the eventual, sadly predicted, defeat. Don’t get me wrong, I was prepared for the independence referendum to go the way of the status quo but I had led part of me to hope, even believe at times. As the main character in the film Clockwise warns us, it is the hope that gets you everytime. So it goes.
I held my head up high and was proud to have voted Yes, to have chosen opportunity and the possibility of a new, self-determined future. I added the 45 Twibbon to my profile pic, kept the posters up in my windows and the badges on my coat. However, as with all things, I knew I had to move on. The posters came down at the end of September and I’ve just removed the Twibbon. I’ve kept the badges on though, as I think their positive message is still valid and there’s nowt wrong with having “Yes Scotland, or “Aye,” on my coat. However, it is time to move forward and I want to play my part.
Since the referendum I have despised and despaired at some of the things I’ve seen on social media and the letters pages of newspapers. Both the Yes and the No side have an element that are nasty, vindictive and bitter side. What’s made the attacks worse is seeing friends spew forth vitriol at their neighbours, friends and family. While I may disagree with people who voted No, I follow Lemmy’s advice: I may dislike your music but I’ll defend it to the death.
I don’t care why anybody voted to remain in the UK, just as I don’t care why they voted Yes. They did so for a reason and they believed in their choice. Certain things may have convinced them to do so, such as the now world-famous Vow. Maybe they believed that the politicians were sincere and would deliver more powers. While I may think that naive, I would never haraunge somebody for that. I whole-heartedly wish that people would stop saying that any dubious or poor decision, announcement or utterance (yes Freud, I’m looking sternly at you) is the fault of those who voted for the status quo. Of course it isn’t, it’s the fault of the idiots, bigots and other shades of politicians who do these things. They are the problem, not our fellow Scots.
We have to move on and learn from the experience of the referendum, no matter how hard and painful that is. Aye, the campaign did produce high points, such as the largest ever turnout at a Scottish vote or the biggest ever support for independence. These are great things and we should all be proud of them, no matter how you voted. Our nation engaged in a political debate unlike any other time in Scotland or the UK’s history. Is that not a wonderful achievement? We can only hope that this level of political engagement and voter registration will continue, although it does face some challenges.
However, as a supporter of a Scottish republic, I think we now have to focus on the job at hand. We can clap ourselves on the back for the high voter registration, 4,283,392 folk. Likewise, we can hold up the number of votes cast (3,623,344 in total, including spoiled or blank ballots). Both of these things are highly laudable. These figures ignore the key problem though with the referendum campaign. In the most important, talked about and reported upon vote, 660,048 people who were registered (15.41% of the total) DID NOT VOTE. Apologies for shouting, but that number is sizeable and significant. For a start, they could have changed the outcome. Think about that for a while.
A couple of days after the plebisite, I saw two people post on Facebook how proud they were that 4.2m Scots had voted. I really had to bite my tongue at this self-congratulationary nonsense over something that wasn’t true. What made it worse was seeing folk agree with them. Jakers, can nobody add up anymore? Of course, it doesn’t help that every damned media outlet misrepresented the turnout by excluding registered voters who did not cast their ballots. That’s a personal bugbear I have touched on before and will come back to next week.
Sadly, that doesn’t tell the whole story. According to the National Records of Scotland, the total population, as of mid-2013, was 5,327,700. Of that number, approximately 5,250,000 people were aged sixteen years or older, which means they were entitled to vote to the independence referendum. That leaves close to 1.6m people who could vote but didn’t. Put it another way, almost as many people chose not to vote as those who voted Yes. While that isn’t quite a third, it’s not far kicking the arse of it at 30.4%.
I have said regularly and loudly that both campaigns were poor and lacklustre. After seven years in preparation I find it hard to believe the SNP could not have seen the currency union question coming or had an answer to it. Here’s a freebie for them; Eire had a currency parity with the UK for over fifty years. Guernsey, Jersey and the Sandwich Island (no, I’d never heard of them either) still do and they seem to manage. In fact, the Chancellor himself is rather fond of the Channel Islands and their tax-free bank accounts.
That, for me, is where we go next. Not whingeing about the current UK Government or the way Westminster politicians behave. Not vilifying those whose views do not mesh with us. Not by pilloring people who trusted others to keep their word. No, we work on developing water-tight arguements that convince those who did not vote, for whatever reason in 2014. Let’s face facts, we have plenty of time to work on the plans and policies seeing we face at least twenty years before we have another opportunity to vote for independence. I know that seems pessimistic but, realistically, I think we’ll be lucky to have the chance that soon.
So let’s forget about the 45 and the 55, consign them to the history books and post-mortems. Instead, we should and must focus on the 30% of the Scottish adult population who were not convinced enough to vote, one way or another. Only when we have convinced them that it is best way forward for the country will the Yes campaign have a chance to win.
This artictle is dedicated to my father. Pa encouraged my interests in politics and taught me well. Over the years he has regularly reminded me of two truths: firstly, that if you believe passionately in something then you must work hard to achieve it; and secondly, if you keep trying and it still isn’t working, find another way to do it.
Thank you Pa, for everything, now and always. You helped make me the man I am today.