Scotland votes No...for now.
This is the editorial that we at Point Central did not want to write, but write it we must. Its official, Scotland has voted no. The yes campaign has talked this country up, and as a movement whose aim was national independence this was the right thing to do.
We have celebrated the fact that we in Scotland are left of centre, social democratic and most definitely anti-Tory. There has hardly been a town hall in the country where the democratic deficit argument – the fact that Scotland is stuck with Tory governments it did not elect – has not been made. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the yes campaign has been one of the best things ever to happen to modern Scotland. Yet we lost. By the narrowest of margins albeit. But defeat is defeat, and as Burns said, facts are chiels that winnae ding.
Just as devolution was ‘lost’ in 1979 and disappeared until 1997, many will believe that this defeat represents the parking of the independence argument for a generation. For some that’s a relief, for others, especially those hurting just now, it’s unfinished business. But whatever your view, today’s defeat changes the psychology of modern Scotland. Simply put, Scotland has lost its innocence. No voters ensured that no more can we say, with the same defiance and moral outrage that, ‘we’ do not support the Westminster establishment. No more can we say that they have ‘no’ mandate. Scotland didn’t vote Tory, that’s true, but when our chance came to reject the Tories, pink, yellow and blue, too many showed conservatism with a small c instead of bravery. Fear instead of hope. On September 18th 2014, for every lion rampant who roared there was a mouse who squeaked and ran for cover under the skirting boards.
Today is not the day for in depth analysis. That will come in time. But we say this. The reasons we lost are complex and do not warrant any single explanation. Any attempt at serious analysis today would result in findings too raw and emotional as to be rational. We are hurting.
Whatever the intention of our fellow country men and women who voted no ( and we know that for a few at least their intentions, if not their actions, were progressive) they have nevertheless delivered a boost of confidence to a British establishment and the neo-liberal driven austerity project. Had the vote went the other way there is every chance that the odious Tory Prime Minister David Cameron would have resigned. Today, he is celebrating.
Despite the incredulous claims of Scottish Labour that we are better together, it’s not the forces of progressive change celebrating but those who defend reaction, wealth and privilege.
Perhaps, in the end, the forces ranging against the yes campaign were just too strong and powerful – the power and the grip of the Unionist parties, especially Scottish Labour, which despite decades of betrayal continues to have influence over significant sections of the working class cannot be ignored in the face of this result. The supine pro-establishment nature of the main stream media and its ability to distort and bend debate and opinion has been exposed for millions to see.
Then there is the power of the big corporations and financial institutions who bullied and blackmailed the Scottish electorate the week before the most important referendum in Scotland’s history. How dare they threaten the people before a democratic election? But they did. And not only did they get away with it, for some it worked. For every person who stands up to bullying and intimidation there are always those prepared to run and look for cover or do the bidding of their masters. For every person who stands up to the boss there are those who seek a pat on the head. It is a familiar story throughout humankind’s long slow crawl towards civilisation and progress.
The Point would also like to note that it was disgraceful for the three unionist parties to announce a pledge committing themselves to more powers for the Scottish Parliament only three days before the referendum. How on earth could these pledges be subject to debate and scrutiny in just three days? Compare these disgraceful and anti-democratic tactics to that of the Scottish Government, whose White Paper, Scotland’s Future has been debated endlessly for the best part of nine months.
But that is the past and this is now. The yes campaign is not above criticism and only the most ruthless of propagandists can say that in the end their side was faultless. But today is not the day for navel gazing. These wounds run deep and it will take time to recover.
But we want to end on a positive note. The movement that is the YES campaign should not, must not, go away. To every single supporter of the campaign we at The Point salute you; generation yes, RIC, the national collective, the common weal, women for independence, business for independence, trades unionists and so many others, too many to name, you did your country proud. Socialists, greens, feminists, environmentalists, and those with no ‘ism’ to speak of whatsoever other than a desire for social justice and peace and a better world for your children – you gave your all in the greatest grassroots campaign this country has ever seen. Regardless of this setback each and every one of you changed has changed the face of modern Scotland. At the start of this campaign it had been the case for decades that about a third of the electorate supported independence. No it is nearly half – and that idea of independence has become firmly linked to a left of centre political agenda
Today, we hurt in the face of our defeat as we should. Our pain is real. But in time our collective forces must organise to ensure that real powers – true devo max, not the poisoned chalice the Unionists are proposing - are devolved to the Scottish Parliament and delivered as quickly as possible. A movement that is almost half of the population cannot be wished away. They may have won the popular vote today by the most invidious means but, in the longer term, it will prove a pyrrhic victory. The British establishment cannot ignore this movement for democracy.
And as for the radicals outside of the mainstream parties, we say this. This referendum has been good for the left. After too long in the wilderness, we have finally turned a corner. A new generation has come to the fore. The referendum debate has focused attention on our national parliament. RIC, Common Weal, anti-cuts campaigners, trades unionists for independence, and others, we must find a way of getting our voices organised inside Holyrood. We may not constitute a majority but this referendum has proven that our views chime with significant sections of modern Scotland that needs representation. The Point will continue to support all efforts that seek to maximise that unity.
Finally, we leave you all with this thought, and another quote from Burns. The ground has been irrevocably broken, the seeds have been planted. A five percent swing could win it for YES in 2024. In ten years time the current demographic will have changed in our favour.
Despair not, friends and comrades. You have been magnificent. And history and time is on our side.
It’s comin’ yet for a’ that.