This morning I had the relative advantage of waking up at my normal time to watch the Scottish Independence Referendum via the BBC’s World Service – when I got the box going the first result had just been declared. As the dog & I sat on the sofa and watched the results come in, it appeared quite early on that Scotland was going to vote ‘No’ – and that’s exactly what happened, by 55% to 45%. (BBC Coverage).
As I posted previously, I wasn’t convinced by the ‘Yes’ argument – but as I said on Facebook it was Scotland’s choice to make:
It’s been interesting… On one hand you’ve given me Tunnock’s Tea Cakes, Supernan & Rab C Nesbitt. On the other hand you produced the Auld Firm, Ulster-Scots, RBS & deep fried pizza (it’s just wrong).
To those of you have already voted fair play. Democracy is a beautiful thing – it’s been ignored for too long as turnout totals have shown – even in you rugged land. It’s increasing under attack too from those who don’t understand that you don’t always get what you want from it. Debate has been stifled by the ‘everyone’s the same’ shift that we’ve had over the past 20 years. Arguments are both won & lost – we need to remember to act with grace & dignity which ever side we fall upon.
To those who’ve voted yes – I hope your reasons are good, honest & pure – and above simplistic nationalistic bigotry. Nationalism will offer you nothing but division & fear.
To those who’ve voted no I hope you will stand up & be counted regardless of how it goes. You have as much if a voice as any other view. Don’t be scared to use it in the face of bullies. You have your reasons, you are as much Team Scotland as anyone else.
To those undecided, I urge you to think clearly & rationally… Emotion is great & all but it doesn’t put bread on your table. The imagination is a wonderful thing but sometimes even it gets carried away. Think about the country that can be realistically built in either outcome, bearing in mind who else is going to be in it. Is that where you want to live? Do you think you can help build it? Then vote for it remembering that both an independent Scotland & a United UK are going to require YOUR input.
For what it’s worth I’m easy going about the outcome. Thing stay the same as much as they change & at the end of the day what country your in matters a lot less than faith & family. I love the UK but I know it’s not perfect, I’ll defend the defensible & critique the wrong. I’m in the majority on some aspects & the minority on others. But remember if you go your own way your relationship with the rest of us will change. Your self interest will not be our self interest. We will look after our own first & foremost.
I think I’d like you to stay deep down & to build on what we’ve achieved, but it’s your shout & I don’t think I’ll be shedding tears either way.
If you could reign in the deliberately obtuse & inflammatory language after the result is out, that’d be appreciated too. Remember you’re going to have to live & work with people you’ve probably already offended. Rubbing peoples noses in the result will help no one – “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;” as Kipling put it. Smile if your side wins & be compassionate for the other. Excess will not help.
Finally a big shout out to the Police in Scotland… It’s going to be a long day & night. There will undoubtedly be less than decent behaviour at polling stations across the country. Intimidation, rigging & corruption happen in the UK – and across the world. In a vote so close the temptation will be greater & so please be vigilant & protect our base values. The majority will be virtuous but in such times evil lingers.
God bless Scotland today & the weeks ahead.
In the immediate aftermath of the result, there has already been some pretty shocking reactions – people distraught, claiming their fellow countrymen are not “Scottish” or that they’re a “disgrace” for voting for the Union. One young girl claimed she would never vote again… I have even seen one foreigner claim that the UK Gov’t added votes to the boxes and that there was no way Scottish people could have voted for the UK to remain – for the time being – the way it was.
I’m reminded of Winston Churchill’s words when I read something like that:
“In war, resolution; in defeat, defiance; in victory, magnanimity.”
Now is the time for reflection and calm. People win and people lose referendums, but it’s not in this instance going to be a case of life or death. There was certainly some nasty elements to the campaigning (one polling station had graffiti on it which said “Vote Yes or Else” – now is not the time to let that sinister edge boil over into something worse.
All the elected politicians in Scotland and indeed in the wider UK now need to come together in this review to be led by William Hague and work out a logical, fair and sustainable model for the United Kingdom. They should do so from a position of strength – nigh on two million people voted for the UK yesterday, lets not forget. They need to do so with controlled urgency. I’m a little concerned about the timetable mentioned – it seems light speed fast in comparison to how both politics and particularly constitutional politics work. This needs to be done right and well more than it needs to be done quickly in my view.
I fear the timetable is being driven by party politics rather than a need for haste due to the 2015 General Election, in which more extreme groups (SNP and UKIP in particular) are likely to consolidate and expand respectively – hence why the Labour Party and the Conservatives might want to have this wrapped by the Spring. That spells trouble as rushed constitutional change can have unintended consequences.
How Wales and Northern Ireland react to all of this remains to be seen. I don’t get the impression that Wales is anywhere near an ‘In / Out’ referendum on the UK and it wasn’t that long ago that polling in NI suggested just 7% of the public wanted to leave the United Kingdom (although recent polling in Scotland wasn’t accurate, it wasn’t that wrong!). It would seem rather unfair for Scotland to get some special place within the UK’s constitution whilst the other devolved Assemblies did not – whether Northern Ireland is ready for it or not is quite another question.
And then of course there is England. I think it’s fair to say that England has been the poorer cousin in all this ‘local power to local people devolution’, that the Labour Party implemented in the late 1990’s. Why England didn’t get it’s own Assembly or why the ‘West Lothian Question‘ or the ‘Barnett Formula’ wasn’t properly resolved back then I do not know. It certainly appears now on the agenda – and I think that’s only right.
Whether they go with a single Assembly – likely the Conservative favoured option – or a series of regional Assemblies – likely the Labour Party’s favoured option – remains to be seen. Listening to David Cameron’s speech this morning I’d hazard that we’re looking at one main Assembly and a number of City Assemblies in places like Manchester, Liverpool & Birmingham (to mirror London).
All of which points towards a type of Federal State within the United Kingdom. You’d expect Foreign Policy, Defence and probably Welfare to remain central with perhaps everything else divvied out. Taxation will be a tricky one as I fear some will want devolved Taxation (i.e. the net contributors) and some will want it centralised (i.e. the net recipients). If Welfare remains central then I can’t see how Tax could be devolved – lower income tax in Wales than the rest? Or lower corporation tax in Scotland than the rest? Seems unpalatable and probably unlikely.
Anyway, this is now getting in to decisions & details that will be negotiated & revealed down the track… but according to David Cameron – still the Prime Minister of a united United Kingdom this morning – not too far down that track.