This time last week, the UK could talk of nothing else. From the sidelines, it seemed that the whole of Scotland was alive with possibilities, with hope, with an excitement envied by many of us. Scottish independence had become the conversation on everyone’s lips and it seemed that everyone had an opinion, one way or the other. Including me – my heart was passionately rooting for a Yes vote, and I will confess to feeling more than a little tearful when I woke up to a No.
I’m not Scottish, by the way, though I did spend five happy years at St Andrew’s. By birth I’m three quarters English and a quarter Welsh, though my great grandfather was a Scottish Watson. But it wasn’t through any tenuous sense of ancestral identity that I felt so passionate about the result.
More, it was the sense that a vote in favour of Scottish independence could change everything, for all of us, for the better. And let’s face it, that’s a pretty unusual feeling at elections. Come results day, we all know that we’re pretty much guaranteed a high proportion of self-serving, over-priveleged fuckwits around the Cabinet table, whatever the colour of their tie. While I would never not vote (too many people fought hard and long for my right to do so) I know, as I make my mark, that there is no real change imminent. I vote for the least worst outcome, that being the best I can hope for.
But Scotland – Scotland was different, somehow. Scotland seemed like it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance for all of us to choose a different path. Scotland felt like something much bigger than labels, or heritage, or national pride – all of which of course played a part.
It felt like this was the beginning of the rejection of the current system.
And you know what, it’s absolutely not right, this ‘system’. It’s not right that people should starve to death because the state safety net has been hacked away to a tightrope. (and that only the Mirror should shout about it). It’s not right that we should watch our public services be sold to the highest bidder, with no comeback when they fail to discharge their duty. It’s not right that the rich get richer, while the poor have to rely on food banks. It’s not right that Goldman Sachs can be let off a £10million tax bill with a handshake, while we’re all encouraged to spy on each other so we can report fraudulent benefit claims (which, by the way, add up to smaller sum than that of underpaid benefits).
A ‘yes’ vote in Scotland would have actually felt like a big, healthy, No. A No, we don’t accept that this is how it must be. No, we don’t accept a world where the rich get richer and the poor are left to fester, as long as they’re out of sight, mind. A No, thank you, but we want to choose our own way, we want to build our own society, and what’s more, we have faith in ourselves and our hearts that we can do this better.
And if Scotland had led the way, in a peaceful rejection of the status quo, perhaps the rest of us could have followed.
I am sure there are those that will tell me that I’m hopelessly naive. That I’m not Scottish so I have no real understanding of the issues. That things aren’t as bad as they could be, so we should all get back to making the best of it. That I should not have pinned my hopes for a changed society on one small country’s quest for self-governance.
But I did pin my hopes on it. And now I feel as if the chance has gone, for all of us, for a generation or more.
And that’s why I cried on Friday morning.