Posted by: christinelaennec | September 21, 2014

The week that was

Hello again!  This past week has been fairly intense for me, mostly because the Dafter is continuing to spread her wings and needing help in different ways.  Once again there have been ups and downs, but we ended on a high note.  Also this week I had a very enjoyable birthday, hardly have had time to knit, missed a choir practice just from being stressed and befuddled…  But I am so very proud of the Dafter and I’m hugely grateful for her ongoing progress.

It’s been an intense week for the country generally, what with the Referendum and all.  I hadn’t really planned to write about it, but as several of my regular readers have been curious to know more, and some of you have blogged about it from afar, I thought I would write my own impressions of this Referendum.  So if you live in Scotland and are fed up to the gills with the whole thing, tune in again next time!

Birthday bouquet from my garden.

Birthday bouquet from my garden.

As you will probably know, the result was a No vote, in other words, Scotland will stay part of the United Kingdom.  The turnout was impressive:  85% of registered voters.  55% voted No, and 45% voted Yes.  Rural areas, most notably the Northern and Western Isles and those parts of Scotland along the border with England, voted No.  Glasgow and Dundee voted Yes, Aberdeen and Edinburgh voted No.  Generally young voters were for Yes, and older voters were for No.  You can find out more details here.

My own impressions of the past few months and weeks are these:

It was far from a black-and-white question:

Here is a collection of views and experiences that I encountered.  A few of my friends have campaigned for Scottish independence for years, and so were of course hugely disappointed at the result.  Some of my friends were just hoping that the whole question would just go away.  Some people I know feel passionate about being British, as well as being Scottish, and one older person I know voted No because Britons from across the British Isles fought together in both World Wars.  The husband of one lady I know was told by the company that he works for that he would be out of a job or have to move to England if Scotland became independent.  Another person I know who works for the National Health Service felt that independence was the only hope for keeping the NHS from going private, as is happening in England.  Many people that I know are concerned about how to help the poor – Scotland has far more poverty than England [Edit: this may no longer be true – see comments below], and far fewer vastly rich people – but some felt the best way to do so was by going independent, and others felt that independence was too great a financial risk and would harm the poor even more than current British cutbacks on welfare.  One minister friend of mine, whose work to help the homeless is doing far more than any of the rest of us could achieve, voted No because he felt Britain should achieve social justice by staying as one country.  Some people I know, especially those with children and grandchildren, wanted to get rid of the nuclear submarines that are based less than 30 miles from Glasgow – this was one of the promises of the Yes campaign.  Another friend said “Well, if we go up [in a nuclear explosion], we go up!”  Some people believed that becoming independent was/is the only way for Scotland to stay in the European Union, given that the Prime Minister has promised a referendum throughout the UK on whether or not to stay part of the EU.  Other people don’t care if we stay in the EU, but staying part of the UK is a priority.  There were lots more questions besides the above that each voter had to try to understand and make up their mind about.

Most people I know spent hours trying to understand the various issues, weigh them up (and amongst my religious friends, pray about them) before making up their minds.

The Referendum engaged people of all ages and backgrounds:

It is undeniably the case that it got everyone talking.  The Dafter, who a few months ago was (like many teenagers) fairly allergic to politics, started to pay attention, and learned a great deal about a complex situation.  She now has a basic understanding of things like the West Lothian Question, devolved powers, the Barnett formula, and other “boring” issues that affect all our lives here.  She wanted to watch political debates, she wanted to know where and how she could find out information.  You may be surprised, as was oldblack, that at 16 she was allowed to vote.  As you may know, in Scotland (though not in England) for most things a person becomes legally adult at age 16.  This is why Gretna Green, just inside the Scottish border, was where English under-age couples eloped to:  you can marry at 16 in Scotland without your parents’ consent.  I personally think that 16 is too young to have adult status, but this was the justification for extending the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds in this election.  It is definitely the case that people in the Dafter’s age group are now generally far more aware of political questions than they would otherwise have been.

I was proud of how respectfully the Scots comported themselves during the process:

There was some egg-throwing, and offensive tweets on both sides, but overall I never encountered antagonism.  The people who came canvassing at our door were respectful, and both sides were mostly concerned that we intended to use our vote.  In the city centre there were groups canvassing for both sides, and sometimes with robust public debate, but it was a friendly atmosphere, often with families present.  Amongst my friends, neighbours and acquaintances I didn’t encounter any friction – quite the opposite.  People took pains to show respect to those who had come to a different conclusion.  In the past few weeks, I’ve overheard many earnest conversations, for example two dog walkers exchanging views, but neither one haranguing the other.  Just before the vote, there was a little “One Scotland” movement, especially on social media, with Yes and No friends posing together with a blue-and-white “One” badge uniting them.  The Church of Scotland had a “service of unity” in Edinburgh this morning, and many churches across the country have followed this lead.  I know quite a few families and couples who have not been united in how they voted, but I personally haven’t witnessed any rifts that need healing,  No doubt there are some.  In general people on both sides seem intent on working together for a better future.

The role of mainstream media vs. social media came into the spotlight:

I believe only one Scottish newspaper took a Yes position (the Glasgow Sunday Herald).  I think all other newspapers, UK-wide and in Scotland, came down on the side of No.  The swell of support for Yes made it clear that people were turning to other sources of information (on the internet, specialist blogs for example) in making up their minds.  Many people I know feel that the BBC’s UK coverage was very biased – people who had always seen the BBC as an impartial source of information.  Michael was infuriated by the Guardian’s coverage, and almost stopped doing the crossword, until I told him not to be so silly.

Change is afoot, even with a No result:

About 10 days before the election, when polls showed that Yes might actually win, Westminster politicians offered further devolved powers to the Scottish parliament.  As I mentioned above, the Prime Minister had already promised a UK-wide referendum on membership of the EU.  For some time there has been growing talk of England having an England-only parliament.  And within England, there is debate about how to rectify the imbalance of the wealthy Southeast with other parts of the country.

It will be interesting to see what happens next.  Overall, I feel the whole experience got people talking, and really engaged the younger generation, and for that I am very grateful.

And that concludes my own impressions of the Scottish referendum on independence.  Onwards!

A very happy birthday!

A very happy birthday!

 

Advertisements

Responses

  1. I’m not sure it’s true that here is more poverty in Scotland than in England. If that is the case, I’d be interested in figures. Of course there’s a lot of poverty in Scotland, but I had thought the same was true in significant areas of England. And even in wealthy parts of England there are a lot of people working for very low wages. It’s sobering to think that a lot of people who qualify for benefits are actually working, but very poorly paid.
    I’ve just been speaking to a daughter who voted differently from how I would have voted if I still lived in Scotland, and we agreed it has been a very good thing that so many people have been taking part in the argument. I was really pleased that the turn-out was so incredibly high.

    • Flora thanks for that. Perhaps I’m wrong that there is more poverty in Scotland than in England these days. This blog post by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation indicates that child poverty rates in both countries are now about equal at 19%: http://www.jrf.org.uk/blog/2013/02/scotland-vs-england-poverty-stats But it is the case that there is less wealth in Scotland than in England: “Scots do pay £290 per year less in income tax on average, partly because incomes in Scotland are more equally distributed, with fewer of the very high-income individuals who provide such a large share of income tax revenue in the UK as a whole.” http://www.jrf.org.uk/blog/2013/02/scotland-vs-england-poverty-stats
      I completely agree about how shocking it is that working people cannot earn a living wage. And yes, it was really good that the process engaged so many people.

      • Inequality is an issue the whole UK needs to tackle, even here in the South East there is massive inequality. In the borough of London where I live there are houses that cost millions of pounds, but also people living in dire poverty, whole families to a room in bed and breakfast accommodation. This report shows it up well – 7/10 poorest places in the EU are in England, while the richest place in the EU is inner London. http://inequalitybriefing.org/graphics/briefing_43_UK_regions_poorest_North_Europe.pdf I think the church is beginning to do good work in tackling this but we’ve got to keep making a noise.
        On the subject of the referendum I hope the politicians don’t rush into hasty decisions or end up creating lots more jobs for more politicians just to be seen to be doing something. I also hope this referendum will remind us all that politics and democracy are important and involves everyone, the turn out figure has been amazing.

  2. Thanks for posting about this, and I’m glad to hear that there is general unity on all fronts.
    Happy “late” Birthday to you! Hope it was a special day for you. 🙂

  3. Thank you for this insider’s look at the referendum, Christine….though the one question I still have (and I’m sure my ignorance is showing here) is – how can Scotland secede from the UK, just like that? Hasn’t North Ireland fought (sometimes violently) for the same, and the UK would never allow it?

    And cheers to the Dafter, both on her recovery and her responsible interest in the future of her country. xo

    • Hi Stacy,
      I’m hardly an expert on politics! But I believe that the answer to your question is that the Westminster parliament agreed, two and a half years ago, to allow the Scottish government to carry out the referendum. The Scottish parliament had to agree with Westminster on the exact wording of the question. So it has been a long, negotiated process. I believe this is not the case in Catalonia, where the Catalans wish to hold a referendum, against the will of the Spanish government.

      • Very interesting. Thanks for the update. xo

    • Northern Ireland held a referendum on indepencence in the 1970s and voted to remain part of the Union. The Irish Republic withdrew its claim to jurisdiction of Northern Ireland in the 1990s so if another referendum were held, NI could choose to leave the United Kingdom and become an independant nation but if they wanted to reunite with the Irish Republic, it would be up to Ireland to decide whether they wanted to take Northern Ireland back.

  4. Happy birthday, that looks like a lovely birthday cuddle you got! I think you covered the referendum quite succinctly! Hubby has ‘fallen out’ with the BBC! He is very disappointed to discover how biased their reporting was, he said he always believed they were the ones to trust with the news and he feels very let down by them now. I told him he can fall out with them all he likes but I must still be allowed to watch the Bake Off lol. Did you see the latest, after the idiots caused trouble in George Square at the weekend, lots of people went and left bags of shopping for the foodbanks. That’s the Glasgow we know and love! x

    • Interesting that your husband has also lost faith in the BBC. As for Friday’s events in George Square, we happened to have to drive past there in the evening, not really having heard much about what was happening. By that point the police had things well under control. The Dafter said, “It’s just people provoking, and goading,” and I think that sums it up. Lots of my Scottish friends have been quite mortified to think that this is the face that Scotland shows to the world, but I say there are extremists in every country. Also, several months ago the No campaign (Jim Murphy) was very clear that they wanted nothing to do with that group of people. So they really only represented their own minority point of view, not Scotland.

  5. About Northern Ireland recently: a significant part of the population there wanted to leave the UK and join the Republic of Ireland, but at least as many people were determined to stay in the UK. This conflict seems to have been settled by the Good Friday agreement, with the help of the UK and Irish governments.

  6. Happy Birthday Christine! Thanks so much for your take on the vote and the poverty and all. Statistics are one thing, but impressions and the way we feel about things are quite important too! Hope things improve just because of the conversations that the politicians have been involved with. Also so interesting about the 16 year olds and all they can do. Take care!

  7. Excuse my cynicism, but I reckon in a year from now, or even two, you won’t see any sign of a change that can be attributed directly to this referendum (except perhaps more cynicism among the Scots). I hope this year’s 16 year-olds won’t feel too let down as a result, but they might as well get used to that feeling.

  8. A good, dispassionate round-up, Christine. Happy birthday & greetings to your family! I’ve deposited JuliE in Glasgow for uni so one of these days I hope to catch up with friends in the Glasgow area (if J will allow me to visit her too!)

    • Good for J, I hope she is enjoying herself. You must miss her very much. Let me know when you’re going to be in town. X

  9. Happy belated birthday and great news that your daughter is still on the up and was able to engage in the referendum, after all it is her future that is at stake. It will be interesting times for a while for all of us, whilst the referendum is over the fall out from it isn’t. Have a great week.

  10. That’s a lovely photograph of you with the dafter, Christine. My vote goes there!

  11. Happy Birthday Christine and well done on your summary of the Referendum. My own family’s position on the vote, to anyone who asked, was that we must give thanks that we live in a country we we can exercise our democartic right without fear. Lovely photograph of you and the dafter-she looks very happy and healthy.

  12. So glad to see the Dafter looking so vibrant. And belated happy birthday!
    Thank goodness the referendum is over, tho of course it all rumbles on. Just one point of factual accuracy in your masterly resume of the referendum – it was not only the rural areas of Scotland that voted No. Scotland’s other two large cities, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, voted No.

    • Linda, you’re absolutely right. I originally wrote a lengthy paragraph trying to sum up all the results, and then in the interests of my readers I edited it way down, and put in the link. I will go back and add that in, though.

  13. Well, Happy Birthday! You don’t look one bit older 😉

    Wendy in NH

    • I cleverly hid behind my beautiful daughter!

  14. Thank you everyone for lovely birthday wishes, happiness about the Dafter, and a good (“robust”?) discussion about the politics of the UK, etc. I appreciate people’s contributions, as I still am learning about the history and government of my adopted country. I will watch political events with interest, but here on the blog I’ll be happy to return to my usual topics of Scotland, travel, family life, knitting, sewing, a dash of religion and a large serving of Whatever!

  15. Happy belated birthday! I’ve missed your blog but I’ve finally caught up now 🙂 Really great to hear about the dafter’s progress, and your garden’s been looking lovely. Yes, interesting times indeed. *Something* will have to change so I’m keen to see what the governments come up with. I just hope they really think about it and make the difficult decisions based on what’s best for the people, not just what they think will get them votes!

  16. Birthday Blessings to you Christine!!

    Beautiful flowers 🙂

    xx

  17. Christine, I have been meaning to come over and see if you wrote about this subject and am happy to see that you did. Thank you for sharing some of the discussion and views about this. Things are rarely black and white, and you highlighted many of the gray areas. Happy belated birthday and many good wishes for a great year for you and your family!

  18. Belatedly, Happy Birthday, Christine! Thanks for your “insiders” view of the vote. I had been wondering how it affected you. I am trying to catch up on your posts I missed while traveling and recovering from traveling 🙂 Several days ago Mt. Hood got a new coat of snow and I thought of you and took a photo with my iPhone which I will try to post soon. xx


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: