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!
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!