Yesterday, Thursday 18 September, I put a cross in a box and walked out into the autumn sunshine full of hope. Hope that my country would be allowed to regain control of its own affairs. Hope that each time I cast a vote, there would be a real chance it would have an impact. Hope that, together with my fellow countrymen and women, we would be able to contribute to building a more just society: a society where no-one would have to rely on food banks; where healthcare would be freely available to everyone; where people would take precedence over big business and bankers would be held to account. Hope that the divide between rich and poor would lessen not widen. Hope that never again would the needs of the many be marginalised in favour of the wants of an elite few.
Today, Friday 19 September, my hope diminished and the sun ducked behind a cloud.
I’ve always believed in hope over fear. I was brought up to be brave and aspire but not at the cost of other people. My late granddad was a great man and an ardent socialist (as are most of my family). He lived in a council house and would never see someone in need, even though he had little himself. He worked hard all his life, owed no money and lived simply. The small amount of money he ‘put by’ for his family was taken from him in his late eighties by a government who cared not a jot about the fact that bad advice and an administrative error had meant my granddad had been overpaid on his benefits. Even then my granddad didn’t complain, he took it in his stride and blamed no-one. He had moved to Yorkshire as a young man, fresh from the war, to marry my grandma but never forgot his beloved country. His political hero was Nye Bevan. My granddad never saw this day, and for once I was glad he’s no longer around. He’d already had to witness the death of socialism in England; this would have been too much for him.
At the announcement of the results this morning (45% in favour of independence, 55% against), the hearts of almost half the voting population of Scotland were broken. Too stunned to speak, Mr D walked around in a daze and I stood in the kitchen crying and hugging C, one of my closest friends. What now? we asked. What now?
We were dejected. We were emotionally exhausted. We felt defeated. But here’s the thing about hope, it never gives up.
The Yes Scotland campaign was positive and respectful. It rallied people together, encouraged creativity and when it was let down by a biased media it took the message to the streets. In the end, the referendum wasn’t lost by the Yes campaign, it was ‘won’ by deceitful politicians who operated a campaign of fear, in cahoots with a, for the most part, disgraceful mainstream media – in particular the BBC who seemed to have forgotten that it is a broadcast medium for Britain and, as such, its position should have been to represent all sides of the argument; after all, Scotland was (and unfortunately still is) part of Britain, a fact the BBC conveniently ignored in favour of kow-towing to the Westminster establishment. And as someone who once believed our media to be amongst the best in the world, this is not written lightly.
For the first time in recent history, the whole country engaged in the debate. An unprecedented 86% of people exercised their right to vote. Young people were encouraged to participate and share their views. Yes campaign groups popped up in all areas: the National Collective with members from the arts; Business for Scotland; Labour for Independence; the Green Party for Yes; LGBT for Yes. Others such as Wings Over Scotland, Bella Caledonia and the Common Weal, disseminated the message via social media. All of them worked together on a single objective, to put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands in the pursuit of social justice.
Volunteers manned stalls, signed up voters and answered questions. Flash mobs formed in city centres, coming together to share information, sing and celebrate the possibility of change. Westminster politics was shaken to the core. The political landscape has shifted as a result, not just in Scotland but in the rest of the UK. People have found their voice and are not afraid to use it.
‘That’s the thing,’ C said. ‘In situations like these you need to rise or roll, and I can tell you now, I’m not for rolling.’ And as the three of us sat around our kitchen table drinking tea, we were joined by our friends and family via texts, phone and social media, all saying the same thing.
Throughout the UK – in areas of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, as a direct result of what’s happened in Scotland, people are starting to talk about change. Groups are forming. The energy of the Scottish referendum is galvanising people everywhere.
This is just the beginning. In the words of another friend, time will tell if we lost a campaign or if we exported it!