Scotland is the only nation paralysed at the thought of full democracy.
A heavy melancholy swamped the cold cobbled dawn on the Friday we failed to accept the gift of liberty. The silence was palpable. Streets were empty of bustle from traffic and office workers on their way to their open plan pews; no children chattered. We shivered.
The hush was burdened with sadness. It was difficult to think of the day’s chores as anything but a waste of time, meaningless. I dragged myself into my car and sat staring blankly out the windscreen. It felt the sudden death of a loved one had just occurred.
If there was a greater Being watching over us, that Deity was surely shaking his head in sorrow and bewilderment. Why would a Scot not want to see their country prosper by its own efforts? Would an Italian vote for France because it’s bigger and wealthier?
A handshake on Friday is worthless on Monday
My first thought was how people can scare so easily, toss away their rights and sovereignty as if the freedom offered was worthless, or too good to be true. We did not even trouble to protect the existence of our parliament. No one with half a brain could believe in the Vow, a nebulous promise made in panic. But some did, and some because they believed the threats from doddery earls and badass Labour bruisers warning us over and over again Scotland would be punished for its ambition.
At the earliest, give and take discussions and rearrangements for transferring power, formal independence was sure to take two years or more to come into effect. (Self-confidence would be immediate.) So why the angst? Scotland’s administration asked the electorate for a mandate to negotiate. If anyone disliked the thought of a return to an independent nation but wanted more powers they had to vote Yes. It transpired a good number of voters did want that compromise. But they voted No.
Whomsoever was sent to negotiate transfer of powers was legally bound to return to the Scottish Parliament with proposals they felt they could support, lay them before Holyrood, debate them, and let the population decide what was good and what was bad. That mandate refused, Westminster emboldened, peanuts was all we got, all we were going to get. The Vow? A handshake on Friday is worthless on Monday without a signed contract.
Is a watered-down ‘commission’ merely a ‘con’?
The Smith Commission proposals were diluted until useless except to Westminster’s government keen to destabilise Scotland’s economy. The process of punishment had begun. A ferociously unremitting neo-Thatcher battalion did what came naturally, block substantive powers, aided and abetted by a Labour party choking on its own vomit at the sight of Scotland’s government not in their grasp.
They maligned a nation because they felt safe suckling the teat of the British establishment. Powers promised for Scotland were watered again by the weak and spiteful Secretary of State, the befuddled muddler, lone Tory Mundell, and further urinated upon by his boss, David Cameron.
A nation in passionate debate about its democratic structures and institutions, hungry for change, found Westminster treating it with brazen cynicism. A time of exhilarating debate was not about Scotland’s democracy at all. The only change was to be that England got exclusive powers. The Referendum was really about English votes for English laws.
We were promised Home Rule. We were given Home Confinement.
For those who expressed loyalty to a corrupt and broken UK they got English votes for English laws.
Staying close to mummy for spending money
We had been suckered. Again. But this time we only had ourselves to blame.
This time the population was not barred from voting. We could claim we had been lied to by the barons of the modern age, the corporate businessmen, the bankers, (their slogan ‘never lend money to those who need it’) and the savagely right-wing newspapers with their toxic brand of propaganda.
We can sneer at our supposedly ‘neutral’ Queen, who in a sly, well-rehearsed aside to the nation, told us we’d be foolish to take our future into our own hands. Well, she would say that, wouldn’t she? But given we should not have been shocked at the attacks on us, treated in the same ways England treated India’s dissidents, we let slip our future.
We owned Scotland for one whole day and sold it for a false promise.
Scotland is a wealthy nation. A Tory university academic calculated that if we had been independent since 1981 Scotland would be in surplus to the tune of over £60 billion, and that’s before any oil revenue. With oil it would rise to over £100 billion.
We pay the UK Treasury our earnings and it gives us an annual allowance in return. Scotland is England’s cash cow. And we rent our own country. A Highland one. BBC Scotland makes it all plain; it takes many millions in licence fees yet devotes a miniscule amount to purely Scots driven programmes, rarely promoting any internationally. The coffers are in London, and that’s where they will stay.
Trading freedoms for a false flag
We had the opportunity to use reason and weigh enough evidence to reject their hypocrisy and blatant falsehoods. Instead we assumed England holds us in great affection. It does not, and it never did.
Westminster dislikes entanglements. Entanglements are too European, too ménage á trois, too Johnny Foreigner. The only kind of affection England entertains is one in which nations are subordinate to it, in admiration of it.
The English definition of civilisation is a good game of cricket.
Then came witness to the dark character of British nationalism, the very heart of its motivation – dejected Scottish supporters attacked in George Square, Glasgow, beaten, kicked, spat upon, flags torn from their grasp. Exalted Unionists stuck their arms in the air Nazi-style in gleeful derision.
Humiliation by Scots on Scots. We were reminded of how close to fascism English nationalism can be, and how cosy it got to fascists last century.
The trouble is the lack of faith in ourselves
We believe we are not good enough. We thought us weak, small, broke.
We realised too late blind and deaf No voters had voted for brutal austerity. The state is to be shrunk, the rights of workers annulled, £500 billion spent on a weapon of mass death, and even more wealth and power taken into the hands of the ruling class. No voters had welcomed a degenerate form of capitalism.
From the belly of the beast came forth honey
Hope crushed turned into anger, and anger into resolve. We argued we were not like our national football team – plucky but not quite good enough. And not for the first time, the alternative media, social chat sites devoted to independence and democracy, showed how powerful they can be by sharing truth, questioning authority, and keeping everybody better informed. We began helping each other up to face the right direction. It was a remarkable transformation.
Sometimes it takes a bloody nose to teach us to fight
The day before the first plebiscite in Scotland’s history I published a paraphrased extract from the novel “The Shawshank Redemption“:
Get busy living or get busy dying.
I find I am so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head.
I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel.
A freeman at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain.
I hope I can make it across that promised border.
I hope to see my friends and shake their hands.
I hope independence is as fine as it has been in my dreams.
I hope …..
It is still relevant today.
To travel endlessly is never to arrive
What I did not foresee, no one did, was how we had changed out of all recognition.
Realising we had been cheated, our gorge rose and our fury exploded. In double-quick time Scotland sent fifty-six of its potential fifty-nine MPs to Westminster, all members of the Scottish National Party. The people of Scotland rejected austerity, rejected enforced poverty and subservience.
We watch Westminster with mounting distaste.
We ask ourselves how Scottish we feel if not in two minds about being British? We know the enemies of democracy are scared – on the next plebiscite they will not have the luxury of two years to mount and sustain a fear campaign, or repeat the same slogans with the same power. Slowly, against our disbelief, imperceptibly, the vote for independence gains the last yards of winning. With a quiet certainty, we know a second attempt is inevitable.
The walls are breached.