The Devil they know
Dawn breaks over Glasgow on a grey September day made greyer by the realisation that too many of our fellow Scots lack the self-belief necessary to run our own country. The poorest city in the United Kingdom awakes to find that it will, for the foreseeable future, remain part of that entity despite voting for change. Of course as democrats we accept the result of the independence referendum with dignity but that doesn’t mean we should applaud the tactics used to achieve this result. For the Yes campaign to achieve the result they did in the face of an aggressively hostile media and project fear was laudable. The more disadvantaged areas voted in great numbers for change and perhaps some recalled the old Bob Dylan song which contained the line ‘When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.’ The more affluent areas voted as the petite bourgeoisie usually do, in what they perceive as their own self-interest. For too many, fear trumped hope. Like the old man who told me that he was voting no because he feared an independent Scotland would be like 1950s Northern Ireland. Or the pensioner who thought she’d lose her bus pass in an independent Scotland. We expected what we got from the loyalist fringe too stuck in their medieval mind-set to ever really envisage that things could be different. The referendum told us much about how we see ourselves as a country and while 1,617,989 Scots had the courage to envisage change with all the challenges and possibilities it would bring, more sought comfort in what one no voter called ‘the devil they know.’
Make no mistake about it, Westminster really feared that it was indeed possible that Scotland would vote yes and every weapon in their arsenal was brought into play to help stave off what would be a catastrophe for them. The sight of Labour politicians sharing a platform with more right wing Conservatives and celebrating as the results came in was nauseating. Where is the party which once fought for the poor? Where is the party which strove to make the lives of ordinary people better? They will pay a heavy price for their actions when the next election comes along. In the eyes of many they sided with the establishment, with the biased media, with big business and that was not a part of their founding principles. Many yearn for a party more worthy of the values Labour once held dear.
So now we await the extra powers promised which will no doubt be watered down as London no longer fears losing Scotland and its resources. But the brave people who voted yes and dreamed of a better world are not going meekly back into their box. The people’s involvement in this process came very close to causing a seismic change in the politics of these islands. The involvement of so many in the process is laudable and it’s to be hoped that that engagement continues because there are fellow Scots out there still struggling, still on the breadline and they need hope.
Meanwhile most of the world looks on agog as a nation is offered its independence and says ‘No thanks.’ That must be a first.