A slightly bleary eyed blogging this week since I stayed up late to watch the results of the vote on independence. At the point where Eilean Siar (The Western Isles, Gaelic speaking and an SNP heartland in the way the west of Wales is strongly Plaid) voted narrowly No I knew the result would be a victory for the Better Together campaign, so I took myself off to my bed still pondering the question of what was the better outcome. Well the big question has now been settled. We’re staying together for the foreseeable future. That is not to say that we don’t need radical change. I’m an ardent devolutionist and I think the Westminster elite is just that, an elite that has entrenched itself in power to the detriment of the ordinary people of these isles. A federated Great Britain has much to recommend it. Maybe the Better Together campaign’s slightly panic stricken promises of more powers in the event of a No vote will have done everyone a favour.
As an ex-pat I had no vote so I was spared the ultimate moment of standing in the booth with my pencil hovering over the ballot paper. I truly don’t know where my mark would have gone, a large part of my heart leaps with joy at the idea of Scotland as an independent country with a proud heritage in control of its own destiny but we are only one part of a tiny wee island off the coast of Europe. The world and Britain has moved on since the days of Robert the Bruce and so many of the challenges that confront us now are global in nature that in many ways the idea of separating ourselves back down into independent constituent tribes seems a retrograde step.
What was absolutely inspiring about the whole referendum was the engagement of people with the political process. The turnout averaged at 84.6%, in some places it was over 90% which in terms of modern elections is staggering. People have an appetite for engagement when they believe they have the opportunity to make a real difference. It says an awful lot about our political system that most modern elections the turnout is around forty percent.
The referendum was decided in the discussions that took place away from the media circus around the politicians, the quiet ponderings of families and friends, the talk in homes, in workplaces and yes, of course, in pubs about what Scotland’s future and by implication the rest of the British Isles should be. What sort of society we want to create. Everyone in the street who was interviewed by the media whether they were voting No or Yes had clearly given the question a good deal of thought and there were cogently persuasive arguments in favour of both sides.
No-one on either side could be absolutely certain that what they believed in was the only right choice. Separation or Unity are big questions and we nearly all react to them in an instinctive way. We have a ‘gut feeling’ for one or the other. At the end of the day it seems that for most of us it came down to what we see when we look in the mirror. What most clearly describes our own view of ourselves; how we perceive our identity. British, Scottish, some combination of the two or something wider; a sense of the smallness of the planet and being part not just of one tribe or ethnic grouping but of a shared humanity that transcends national identity and national boundaries. A large part of me takes pride in being Scottish but no more pride than I take in being human. In feeling connected to everyone around me; in understanding that we are all interdependent and need to come together to maintain our beautiful planet. I grew up in a small rural community on a farm that struggled to make ends meet; in those terms I probably have more in common with a subsistence farmer in Africa than I do with a banker in Edinburgh just as a fisherman in Fife has more in common with a fisherman in Cornwall or Portugal than with a businessman in Birmingham and that is an important thought in this world.