It’s difficult to find the words to explain how I felt on Friday the 19th of September.
Partially as the result of getting caught up in the passion of the movement, I hadn’t quite prepared myself for how deeply emotional a No vote would be, or quite how hard it would knock me sideways. Somewhere deep down, my heart and soul simply refused to accept that the Scots would vote against their own independence when given the chance. It was unlike anything I have ever felt before, and left me feeling completely adrift; seriously questioning whether the things I had always believed about my country were true. The only way I can think to describe it is like discovering that a friend you have always looked up to has betrayed you right at the point you placed the most faith in them, and that any sneaking suspicions you had about the flaws in their character were proven to be true.
It’s difficult to articulate this in a way that won’t sound either contrived or naive to those looking in on this from the outside. It’s easy to see this as the sore response of someone on the losing side, but that would be a gross simplification.
I cried alone, but also alongside my fellow Scots, not just for the nation that we could have had, but because it felt like the nation which we believed in might never have existed at all. For the first time, it was our own people that had stood against us, and that was the hardest thing to accept of all.
What was the point now? With our rejection of independence, what were we meant to do to hold those in power to account? Did we even deserve anything, given that we rejected our chance to have real say or control? Was this really the country and people that I had grown up to believe were stoic and courageous? Seeing British nationalist neo-nazis with Union Flags causing chaos in Glasgow wasn’t shocking or new by any means, but felt like the final nail in the coffin. The image of those thugs ripping the Saltire from the hands of a broken lassie on the ground will stay with me forever. We were once again just voiceless subjects, and we had done it to ourselves.
I went to bed battered and dejected, and I know I’m not the only one who shed more than a few tears – not because my political views had been rejected, but because the image I had of my country had been shattered. Picking up my crumpled kilt, I hung my Saltire over the chest of drawers at the end of the room. I was unsure about what these symbols even meant anymore. I didn’t know if the Scotland I believed in was simply fantasy, or if I wanted to be associated with what had happened. This simple act felt like I was giving one last chance for them to develop meaning again.
Waking up on the 20th, things felt different. The unexpected, crushing feelings of loss from yesterday were still there, but the sharp pain had been removed.
I thought back to what I had read and felt over the previous days, and how some of my friends had responded with such admirable resilience in the face of adversity. Despite longing to resonate with the virtues expressed in the likes of ‘Wipe your eyes. On your feet‘, I just didn’t. It was too early, and seemed far too militant. I had expected more, and needed time to grieve. For the first time I had felt loss I couldn’t rationalise away, and this wasn’t going to be as easy to just pick myself up from defiantly.
Beautiful and inspiring things were said by many people, and in the clear light of day they began to take on new clarity. Through the fog, I could feel the fire begin to return to my heart. See here for just one example.
The vision of the independence campaign had made me forget that Scotland is often a damaged, and impoverished place, marred by sectarianism and shameful violence. I was far from an activist, but felt like we had almost achieved what we hoped and dreamed about. Seeing so many people passionate about social justice was a victory in itself. To those who decried the entire debate itself, I contest that it has been one of the most engaging events in Scottish political history. The turnout speaks for itself.
For me, this referendum was about the chance to make real and fundamental changes to the country we lived in: to scrap nuclear weapons, to make a commitment to free education, and to ensure political accountability for and to the Scottish people. Whilst I, and 45% of the country believed the best way to achieve this was through independence, the values expressed are those articulated and shared by those from both sides.
The Scotland all of us envisaged might not exist yet, but that’s even more the reason for all of us to fight for it.
Let’s be clear: the Scottish people had the chance to vote for independence, and they said no.
I may be heartbroken about this, but that is what has happened. Those questioning the validity of the process, or pushing for some elusive recount are doing no good for any of us. Either way, the people have spoken; Salmond has resigned; and the decision has been made.
That said, this does not mean that we have to accept that the current situation is the best option for Scotland, and I don’t.
The question about Scottish independence may well be resolved for a generation, but the fight for Scotland’s future has just begun.
In recent years there has often been talk about younger Scots being opposed to Thatcher merely because of historical precedent, rather than through actual understanding or experience. Well now we have experienced first hand the full mechanisms of the British establishment in action. Whatever side of the vote we came down on, the debate was filled with empty promises and misinformation from those we have come to trust. Never has the duplicitous agenda of those in power been so obvious, and this is coming from somebody who always believed such espousals to be mere biased paranoia. The media and political parties rallied together for their own benefit, rather than a desire to seek what was best for Scotland.
Whilst I believe I will see Scottish independence in my lifetime, that is not the question for today, or even tomorrow. Now, more than ever, we have to stand together to fight for our common values – irrespective of our differing views on self determination.
What has been, and what lies ahead
For weeks, the atmosphere in Scotland was electric; the country felt alive.
The majority of people in Glasgow, the UK’s third biggest city… my city… voted to leave the UK.
Reservations have been expressed about the seeming redundancy of our national anthem Flower of Scotland, particularly over the line ‘we can still rise now, and be a nation again’.
Know what? I’ve never felt more like a nation than in the past few weeks. The real disgrace isn’t voting no; it’s to let go of the dynamic and push for real transformative justice – across party political divides.
From the article in Bella Caledonia mentioned earlier, these words hit home for me:
‘Armed with little more than social media, blogs, and DIY creativity, we tried to take on the might of the British state and the vast power and wealth of the British establishment. And for a few weeks we had them terrified. Hold on to that feeling and be proud of it.’
Finding those common bonds that united us over the previous weeks is vital. For me, the momentum still exists for change… possibly even stronger now that it is not tied to a single ideological question.
Whilst these are my own views, those that have conspired to influence the Scottish people for their own agenda should count their days numbered. We are slow to forget, and just as we have reduced the Tories to insignificance in Scotland, so too will we reject the complicity and hollow vows of the BBC, Labour party, and Liberal Democrats. You’ve shown your hand, and now we are going to come after you.
I love Glasgow, and I love Scotland. Today I am proud to be Scottish, but perhaps for different reasons than I was before. I am proud of us dreaming and debating what a better future might look like – whether that is together or independent. Now that the majority has spoken, it’s time to ensure that the shared values that rose to the surface are pursued.
Let’s keep asking the difficult questions and challenging the status quo.
Fighting for a fairer nation doesn’t stop here.