This is the second of three articles to appear on three consecutive days. The first set out some facts about political opinion in Scotland a year after the referendum. The third will describe what I have enjoyed about Scotland in the year since the referendum.
Anyone who read my account yesterday of some of the statistics around Scottish political opinion at the moment will know I was undecided whether to make today’s article about what I’ve enjoyed about Scotland this last year or what I haven’t.
I was moving towards a positive tone (after all ‘We won’, didn’t we?) but woke up, unusually early for me just after five a.m., with the thought that today was the 18th September. In that half-awake state we all experience, the memory of waking up on the same day last year swam into my consciousness. I had switched the radio on to hear the news that the referendum result had been declared – 55% No, 45% Yes. Before I drifted back to sleep today I remembered that my dominant feeling a year ago was not of triumph but of relief.
I woke later today to the radio again, this time a replay on Radio 4 of an interview Alex Salmond gave to BBC Radio Scotland yesterday. As I write I can’t track down the precise words but his argument was along the lines of ‘All changed … Trident … welfare cuts … Brexit … I believed indyref was once in a generation … indyref2 now inevitable and maybe sooner rather than later.’
I found myself speaking to the radio – ‘No, you didn’t “believe” the referendum was a once in a generation opportunity. You signed an agreement saying that it would be a decisive expression of the views of people in Scotland and a result that everyone will respect. You kept saying it was a once in a generation opportunity.’
Of course what he said yesterday isn’t new. The SNP have been punting the same line for months. But it is any wonder that this sort of relentless rolling back from their previous promises has made the last twelve months an unenjoyable year for me and many others? The relief of 19 September 2014 has been replaced by a continual unease that these people will not give up until they get their own way or wither on the vine (I am currently considering an Open University module on Advanced Vine Withering).
If the respectable face of nationalism is the 10% of the iceberg above the water line I’ve also not enjoyed the frequent emergence of the dark underbelly below – the online abusers, the rag tag and bobtail army that emerges blinking into the light of George Square to proclaim the nonsensical ‘Hope over fear’, the self-evident crazies of the Scottish Resistance Army (and my thanks to those who confirm my judgement by posting snippets of their lunacy on social media from the Army’s closed Facebook page).
There’s a nastiness around I don’t enjoy and I would have to admit it is not confined to those who shout loudly for independence.
Even when government policy is being pursued (quite legitimately of course) through parliament there is a feeling it’s often not for the betterment of the people of Scotland but to support the SNP’s one over-riding aim of separation. Scotland is different, but what better way to make us want to be separate than to exaggerate existing differences and create new ones, inappropriate imposition of Gaelic on non-Gaelic speaking areas being one of them? And what better way to increase the control of the SNP by centralising so many public services and arguing for control of the BBC to be devolved to the Scottish parliament? None of this bodes well for a plural and open Scotland.
With all this floating round I know I am one of many who avoid discussing politics with people whose views they don’t know, at least face to face. I feel two spaces hover around me, a relaxed day to day non-political space and an edgier political cul-de-sac that I try to avoid entering.
I’ve written about most of these things over the last year or so. But today’s not a time to scatter my thoughts with links to other articles on No Thanks! You can find them if you want. Today and tomorrow is a time to set down my feelings as honestly as I can. And despite everything, I remain positive. They will not win. So tomorrow, when I have good reason to be positive as you’ll find out – what I’ve enjoyed about Scotland in the last year.