Fighting for Independence, we missed that we had already gained more power
The referendum results programme temporarily stole my soul.
Slowly, over 8 hours all of my hopes and aspirations for Scotland seeped away from me. Every undecided I had persuaded, every hour I had researched, every word I had written seemed meaningless. The night had started so joyously as well. A referendum party, lots of people gathered around the kitchen, food, drink and hope fuelled joviality abounded. Someone joked it was like a second Hogmanay, a night where we lament the past and usher in an optimistic future.
Like many a New Year it didn’t live up to our expectations. Peter Kellner was first to put a dampener on it with his regrettably accurate 99 percent certain of a No victory quip. Clackmannanshire looked a bit ominous. Then we were miles behind, then almost neck and neck again but soon the recognition of defeat was etched in every face in the room. We were subjected to plethora of talking heads, the Yes faces looking broken and the No faces smug, goading their defeated combatants with shallow offers of immediate reconciliation, while already backtracking on the vague promise of more powers.
Then Salmond was wheeled out in front a media that had repeatedly stabbed him in the back, he read out his own political eulogy and magnanimously conceded defeat. The atmosphere in the house was that of a wake, many of my friends were crying, many were cursing, all drowning their sorrows at 6am. I muttered that Scotland no longer exists, I screamed that it was dead to me, then put on my Scotland Jersey, and left the disconsolate assembly.
I did nothing most of Friday and Saturday, occasionally I would check the internet just to make sure I hadn’t imagined the result.
It felt like a bereavement which is not surprising given the amount of effort that went into the campaign. The fug began to lift when I realised there had been 20 of us in that room, up all night watching a political broadcast, all of us were gutted and not one of us had cared about politics before. We had gotten involved in the campaign at various levels like hundreds of thousands of people across Scotland, sharing large chunks of own time and resources for something we believed in. Our pain symbolised that in some measures we had won. We used to be apathetic but now we cared. And at present, less than a week after the vote it seems that across the whole movement, the pain and anger
Our pain symbolised that in some measures we had won. We used to be apathetic but now we cared. And at present, less than a week after the vote it seems that across the whole movement, the pain and anger has quickly subsided, and been replaced by action. Our Facebook page and Twitter account are busier than they were before the referendum. People are joining political parties in their droves, new groups are being formed, new sources of media are being created, tactical voting is being plotted and the boycotting of businesses is being enacted.
If the referendum taught me anything it is that it is almost impossible to achieve our goals from the top down. The whole apparatus of state and media was against us and we still managed to get 45% of the vote. They voted Yes despite being subjected to the biggest negative propaganda campaign imaginable. And most of these people were won over at the grassroots level. And worryingly for the powers that be, most of them are still here.
I love the idea of Scotland being an Independent country but I think that I speak for a lot of people when I say that this was not the main thing I was fighting for.
Independence, for me, was a means to an end. I was fighting for more representative democracy closer to the people and in many ways we have gone some way to achieve our goal. I was fighting for empowerment. The throngs of people energised by the Yes movement have made politicians sit up and listen and if they don’t act then the end is nigh for this Union regardless of the referendum result. I don’t fundamentally care what my country is called or where its borders lie as long as it is a country that I can be proud of.
I wonder what we can change from the bottom up now we have such a force behind us?
One of the best points made to me during the campaign by a No voter was that we could achieve a lot of things we want without full Independence and there may be some truth in that assertion. Looking at the Key ideas of the Common Weal there are many things that we could do now, without central government, and by doing them we would enrich and empower Scottish communities. We can form our own media fit for democracy, we can have stronger local government, we can work towards universal childcare, make the Scottish government more open, form lobby groups to promote investment in infrastructure and communities, crowd fund new businesses, create business investment banks, promote green energy, promote healthy food, tackle gender inequality and violence against women, build more affordable housing and encourage cultural participation.
There is so much we have the power to do now and while we would be more effective if we had full autonomy, building up our communities from the bottom means that the next time we vote we may have just that little bit more confidence to go it alone.
Now that my referendum gloom has vanished I feel so optimistic. As soon as the votes were counted Better Together splintered like the brittle entity it always was, petrified by the thought of losing their grubby little monopoly, unaware that in the modern interconnected world their way of doing things is endangered. We on the other hand have stayed together. Let us punish the Unionist parties at the forthcoming elections so that we hold the power at Holyrood and the balance of power at Westminster. Let us lobby for as much power as we can practically get devolved to Holyrood, whether than means full independence or more pragmatically, a new constitutional settlement for the UK. And let us build up our communities, for even if we don’t gain any new political levers now, we can all become a little more empowered and all of our lives a little more enriched just by being involved.
I was wrong when I said Scotland does not exist, a new Scotland is only just beginning.