For a minute it wasn’t clear to me whether my six year old was talking about the yes voters or the flowers. She’s still asking questions about the referendum and she’s asking questions because she, like the rest of Scotland, was electrified by it.
On the day of the referendum she got up at 6am with her dad to put out A boards at polling stations. All day she handed out leaflets, skipping up to voters with a big grin that made them impossible to refuse. She steadfastly refused to believe it could be a no vote, despite being told it likely would and despite her playground being evenly decided between yes and no.
That’s right, her playground. Because even in P3 the vote was all they could talk about. When I asked her about what she said about it to her mates she said, “That it’s not right that England should tell Scotland what to do.” When I asked what her no voting mates said to her, she said: “That things are fine the way they are, so why change?” or “Because their mums and dads might lose their jobs.”
Add to these two points a third and a fourth: “Because they feel like they’re British, not just Scottish,” and, “Because they don’t like/trust the SNP or Alex Salmond,” and I think that the playground chat pretty much reflects the conversations I had at polling stations on 18th September:
– too many questions unanswered, particularly about currency and the economy
– a fear of nationalism
– a distrust of the SNP
– national identity e.g. “I’m British, not just Scottish”
My daughter burst into tears when she found out that Scotland had voted no. I joined her. And together we cried as the dawn came up on a dreich and dismal Scotland, whilst her exhausted dad – who’d poured his heart and soul into campaigning for independence – slept for a few miserable hours.
For two days I felt tearful and fearful about the future, whilst no voting friends in Scotland, and pro-union friends in England rushed to reassure me. “Look what’s been started!” “Now there’s a real chance to work together to get real change.”
I couldn’t see it, didn’t feel it. I looked at their positivity and saw naivety. I looked at their hope and saw people who’d been duped. In fact, I felt a lot like many no voters probably felt about yes voters in the run up to the election. I watched the bright chalk campaign messages scrawled on the pavements wash away in the grey drizzle and just wanted to cry.
In that time social media erupted. #the45 was born. There were hints at electoral fraud. Membership of the SNP and the Green Party rocketed over night. TV licenses were cancelled and companies boycotted.
And the news agenda moved on from Scotland, distracted by war in Syria and constitutional reforms for England. Scotland isn’t the story any more.
Wrong. The story is just beginning.
Scotland will be independent. But only if we learn.
I wanted independence because it offered a chance to reinvent Scotland as a socially just society. It was an opportunity for radical social change not dragged down by the millstone of an increasingly right wing neo-liberal plutocracy.
“Why do you think Scotland will be so much more just?” Friends in England asked me. “Why should it? Do you actually think Scottish people are nicer?”
I’d talk about the values being different in Scotland people cared more about social justice and that that was evidenced by voting patterns for the last fifty years. But there was a niggling doubt that didn’t leave me. That’s because for all the discussions about universal childcare, free higher education, nuclear disarmament we weren’t brave enough to suggest answers that would address the questions people had.
– We clung onto the pound, when we didn’t need to do so.
– We allowed ourselves to be drawn into quarrels over financial services (gradually drifting to London anyway) and oil (finite), two of the world’s least moral industries, instead of exploring an alternate economic landscape in which neither of these industries featured large.
Can that work?
This isn’t necessarily a radical swing. 99% of private sector businesses in Scotland aren’t big companies, they’re small ones – and this represents more than half of all private sector employment. Is it too drastic to imagine an economy powered not from the top down, but from the bottom up? One that isn’t focused on the uncertain financial services sector but on making and selling?
Can that work?
It already has – 1.6 million people joined a broad-based alliance to campaign for yes and achieved a powerful momentum and clarity despite differing views and allegiances.
But it has to be about what we have done, not what we say we will do.
Like anyone else, I’ve been on an emotional rollercoaster in the last few weeks. I needed the strength and the affirmation of #the45 like anyone else. But ultimately, if we are to achieve what we set out to do, the focus can’t be on dodgy ballot papers and business boycotts.
The focus has to be be on building an unshakeable foundation for a radically different future.
A future not based on top down party politics, on big business or anything PLC, but one which reduces our dependency on these things. They are a barrier to our a progress. Let’s not win them over or flatten them, let’s walk around them.
Let’s make those playground bullies not important any more.
We’ll get to vote again, I’m certain. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow but before too long. And when we do, let’s make sure that people power is what is shaping the agenda. Not big business. Not banks. Let’s empower ourselves so that when the time comes we’re not talking about what we will do but pointing out how far we have already come.
Without independence, it’ll be harder. But it can be done.
So what am I going to do:
1. I’m going to get active, helping people and organisations who I think feel the same way as I do. Organisations like the Common Weal.
2. I’m going to be vocal whenever and wherever I can be. On social media. Face to face. Door to door. I’m going to keep challenging misninformation wherever I find it, even if it means I’m a pain in the arse.
3. I’m going to explore new – and old – ideas and look for examples from around the world that can inform what I think and feel, that can provide evidence to take us forward.
4. I’m going to vote for pro-independence MPs in the next general election, not out of revenge but as a positive choice – to ensure that the people who go to Westminster are those who have Scotland’s best interests at heart, not those of their political party.
5. I’m going to continue involving and talking to my daughter about these things, so that when she is a woman she is empowered to shake the foundations of what we now had.
How did you feel a week ago? Has it changed you? Where will you go now?