SO here it is. Merry referendum. Everybody’s having fun . . . Well, at least I hope they are.
And I hope after tomorrow morning’s result, that no matter how disappointed some will be, that the fun continues.
Scotland has never been so energised, so fervently political. This referendum campaign has made thousands of people who had never marked an X on a ballot paper before sign up to the electoral register just so they can take part in this momentous vote for the country – and they’re not just aged 16 and 17. This campaign has encouraged thousands to get involved, to attend meetings, to join campaign groups, to deliver leaflets, hold stalls, make speeches, debate the pros and cons . . . it has made politics relevant.
At a time when political parties have seen their membership numbers fade away, when unions seem powerless in the face of global economics, the referendum has proved that it’s the system which has made people apathetic, not real actual raw politics.
For too long there has been a feeling that voting doesn’t matter, that there’s little point to casting a vote because in the grand scheme of things it won’t make a difference. That feeling has been arrived at for two reasons: a belief that politicians are all the same no matter the different coloured banner they stand beneath, and that Scotland never gets the government it votes for in Westminster.
The latter is, of course, nonsense as a look at general election results – the Thatcher years aside – shows that the majority of Scots did vote for the party which eventually took power, be it Labour or Tory. The former, though, is a very different matter, and we can only hope that this referendum campaign, and its possible implications for federalism throughout the UK, has awoken the parties to the problem.
People want something different. They want their politicians to be believable. They want their voices to be heard and their opinions to count, to be able to feel like they have an influence. And the referendum for many is the first time they feel that might actually happen. It’s a wonderful combination of engagement, belief and vitality.
It’s a brio which needs to be retained and harnessed for the good of Scotland. No matter the outcome tomorrow, this new vitality in our politics has to be kept going. If the vote goes against the Yes campaign, all those people who have held at their hearts that independence is about a fairer society need to rise above disappointment and ensure they use their new-found voices to shape Scotland in that image. To hold the No political parties to their vow to give the Scottish Parliament more powers – and to then use their vote in 2016 to make sure that those voted to Holyrood are the kind of politicians who will endeavour to make that happen.
If the Yes campaign wins, then all those who have with such gusto defended the United Kingdom and believe passionately that staying together is the best thing for Scotland will also have to quickly rise to the new challenge of carving out a nation which they, too, want to make fairer and more democratic. They must not wash their hands of the situation and stand back and let divisions within Yes – which, after all, is an extremely broad kirk of political opinion – stop what the changes which the majority of Scotland will have voted for.
It will be in all our interests that the drive and liveliness of both sides of the campaign are used to the good, and to keep people engaged, to keep the 97 per cent of the electorate now registered to vote interested.
That should mean, I would hope, more devolution within Scotland no matter the result. Holyrood should not be about centralisation, the people of Scotland are fed up with the status quo, power in the hands of the few, be it Westminster or Edinburgh. That is the big change they want. Let’s have power back.
Scandinavia has been a constant comparator throughout this campaign, so let’s take a leaf out of Norway or Sweden’s book and have more tiers of local government making them more reactive to people’s demands. They both have a national government, local area authorities then municipalities – Norway has 430 municipalities, Sweden 290. That brings decision-making much closer to people, keeps them interested, makes them feel that voting is worthwhile.
No matter the outcome tomorrow, that is my real hope for Scotland.
I opened this with an adulterated Slade lyric. But the one which follows really sums it up: “look to the future now, it’s only just begun”.
There’s surely sum mistake
HAD to laugh at the idea that naming two new streets around the King’s Buildings after female scientists out of a total of 12 was giving women “equal billing”. I’m no scientist or mathematician, but I’m sure equal would have meant six streets each.
While I’m delighted that genetics pioneer Charlotte Auerbach, above, and X-ray visionary Marion Ross have been included along with ten esteemed male scientists, where are the rest? The Royal Society of Edinburgh, which names the streets in the new campus, says it wants to encourage more women into science and maths. It should have done better with this.
So that’s why we chose today
SEPTEMBER 18, 2014 will go down in the history books as the day Scotland voted Yes or No.
But the 18th day of September is a date steeped in history already. The Irish Home Rule Act became law in 1914, the Netherlands gave women the right to vote in 1919, Nazi propagandist Lord Haw Haw began broadcasting in 1939, the CIA was established in 1947, the North Vietnamese army begins invasion of South Vietnam in 1964, and in 1947 Russ “See You Jimmy” Abbot was born.
Also it means there are only 97 days left until Christmas.