Well...it was not to be...this time! The most momentous political event in the UK in my lifetime and an all too rare opportunity to actually achieve real positive change through the ballot box came to naught. A one sided media blitzkrieg and a panic stricken political establishment promising the world, was enough to persuade the grey conservative constituency within Scotland to remain under Westminster rule. For the demographics show the over 55’s were the bedrock of the No campaign. A sizable element that neutralized the votes of the 71% of young voters who had voted for independence.
Depending on your perspective, these older voters who were targeted by the Better Together crew were either ‘Wee Timorous Beasties’ frit of change, or a vulnerable element who were ruthlessly exploited by Project Fear’s scaremongering. Everything from pensions to TV licences, food prices to mortgages. The grey vote was basically battered into submission by an endless stream of negative propaganda and basically, enough of them swallowed it.
For the young and the young at heart, it can feel like a betrayal. A triumph of fear over hope...of cynicism over self belief. It is a fact though, that the conservative constituency is literally a dying constituency. The older generation- many of whom have a WW2 brothers in arms camaraderie with their English, Welsh and Irish fellow combatants; have experienced the deprivations which followed the war and moved through to the relative prosperity of a post 1950’s economy when jobs were plentiful and industries like mining and shipbuilding still thrived- are undeniably more sympathetic to the concept of unionism and see Great Britain as a benign construct.
By contrast, the present generation have seen a weakening of the ties that bind to the extent that the majority see an independent Scottish state as a natural progression from its current devolved state. More European in outlook and just as likely to visit Amsterdam or Berlin as London, this young outward looking generation is more likely to observe the advantages of living in a modern Nordic state than in a tired imperial relic. It is this constituency that eminent left wing Scottish historian Tom Devine refers to when he declares that the ‘independence genie has been let out of the bottle and it cannot ever return’. From the triumphalist Tory journalists who declare that the UK has killed the idea of Scottish independence stone dead- ignoring the 45% vote for independence-to the more sober Guardianists who say that the issue is ‘over for a generation’. I would suggest that with almost half the population voting for independence and with Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow voting break away from Ruritania, then this significant element of Scottish society is not about to meekly touch their forelocks, accept that might is right and slunk off into the night .
There is a new political force in Scotland which crosses the progressive political spectrum. The Yes campaign has managed to capture the centre/left ground, embracing vibrant new non aligned movements, harnessing articulate new young voices and consigning the dismal Labour Party led by the hapless and hopeless Miliband to its rightful place with the rest of the centre/right UK establishment parties. The great city of Glasgow has been a shining light in this great conversation. Ignoring the siren voices of the tame media and the UK political cabal and reviving the spirit of ‘The Red Clyde’. Politically savvy and unafraid to pursue a radical agenda. By contrast, the genteel folk of Edinburgh rather confirming Billy Connolly’s observation that ‘a Glasgow funeral is more fun than an Edinburgh wedding’ ! Conservative, tame and reserved. A city with a sizable constituency of that group recognized by political pollsters as ‘Shy Tories’. Or in this case ‘Shy Unionists’.
As for the future? The UK economy is £1.2 trillion in debt (88% of GDP) and can only function if a tame populace accept zero contract hours, low pay, long hours, welfare cuts, austerity and continued massive borrowing. The irony being that Scotland was continually told it was economically nonviable despite its obvious wealth and potential compared to the rest of the UK. A useful analogy would be to have seen the referendum as a launching of a lifeboat. The provisions had been stashed; a course had been plotted; people had starting climbing aboard but at the 11th hour, with land and deliverance in sight, everyone was ordered to get back on board The UK Titanic!
To be continued......