Martin Hannan: Memories are made of Yes

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I remember . . . I am a child of the Fifties, albeit by only a few months. I was raised on the west coast in a loving family where we had certainties in our lives – good schooling, a caring church, the Labour Party in charge locally and nationally, and the fact that our football team was the best in Europe.

I remember . . . At 18 I became a journalist and trade unionist. From my teens, I always had a conviction that self-government would be good for Scotland, and my first political involvement was in the devolution referendum of 1979.

I remember . . . It was a hugely exciting time, and politicised me at 20. I spoke at union and other meetings, arguing for a Yes vote. I never thought of voting anything other than Labour, even when one of the party’s MPs, George Cunningham, committed a gross treason against the people of Scotland by introducing his infamous 40 per cent rule.

I remember . . . On March 1, 1979, some 1,230,937 Scots voted Yes. It was a majority verdict, being 51.62 per cent of those who voted. But it was only 32.9 per cent of the electorate. Democracy was denied, victory was disallowed by Westminster.

I remember . . . After Cunningham’s rule frustrated democracy, the SNP understandably withdrew its support for Jim Callaghan’s minority Labour government at Westminster. Nine weeks after the referendum, Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister.

I remember . . . When Thatcher’s insane economics began to devastate Scotland’s industries, my Labour friends argued that the SNP had precipitated these events by putting Callaghan out of Downing Street. I got a lot of grief for pointing out the truth – that it was a Labour MP who had foiled the democratic wish of the Scottish people. I began to question my Labour loyalty.

I remember . . . I eventually stuck with Labour, though I never joined the party. Thatcher won two more elections and beat the miners. I moved to Edinburgh and gave up political involvement because I was too busy working with politicians at Edinburgh District Council. A lot of them were good people. Some weren’t.

I remember . . . I had long realised that Scotland should run its own affairs, so for me the second referendum in 1997 was brilliant. It brought me into contact with a lot of SNP people and I eventually joined the party in 2001. Like a lot of converts, I am now utterly committed to the cause of independence, because I know that only if Scots run Scotland democratically can we get the society we want and deserve.

Yet still I remember . . . The referendum victory that never was; Thatcherism’s hellishness; undesired Trident coming to the Clyde just 14 miles from our home; Scotland ruled by unwanted Tories; the poll tax; Blair going to war illegally; Brown and Darling screwing up; Cameron and Clegg forming a coalition that only cares about Scotland when it looks like we’re leaving. All of these were imposed on us, and our Scottish “democracy” was a bad joke. But the Scottish Parliament has shown us a glimpse of what we can do.

Now every voter here has the chance to ensure we never again have to endure the impositions of Westminster.

Use your head and heart – it has to be Yes for true Scottish democracy.