This is the last of three articles reflecting on the year since the independence referendum. The first set the scene with some statistics that should make uncomfortable reading for nationalists although predictably some said I viewed the facts through rose-tinted spectacles. The second should have dispelled that notion as I pondered what I had not enjoyed about the last year.
So now I come to what has been good about this last year in Scotland.
First and foremost is the fact (and I do believe it’s a fact) that another referendum is a long way off, if it ever happens. There are many reasons for this good news, not least
- the SNP, or at least the wiser counsel amongst its leadership, will not promote another referendum until they can be sure of winning it
- even if they do well in the 2016 Holyrood election they must have learnt by now that not all the folk wanting them to govern in Scotland also want independence
- their own, at best, patchy record in government will also count against them: the longer they’re in power the more chickens there will be coming home to roost
- they live in continual expectation that the UK government, of whatever party(-ies) will perpetrate such horrors that there is universal revulsion against them and a clamour for separation. There hasn’t been yet and is unlikely to be
- and finally, no UK government of any stripe is likely to agree to a second referendum in the near future (unless they are sure that the SNP would lose it by a country mile).
In my previous post I referred to the ‘relaxed day to day non-political space’ that many of us live most of our lives in and that has certainly made the last year enjoyable.
Occasionally it’s been the chance to get away from Scotland and to enjoy it all the more when I come back. A highlight was a now rare munro north of Laggan on a beautifully clear early spring day, the snow up on the plateau crisp and clean, hares and ptarmigan in their winter colours scattering from us, deer dotted on the far slopes, a pint or two at the end of a long day.
Then on another day in early summer, the trees rustling in a warm breeze in Auchenblae kirkyard, I found a memorial to an English ancestor who had escaped my family history clutches and disappeared to marry ‘a Scotch woman’ in the 1870s. Until a few weeks before I had not even known where his bride came from. Now I know I have a much earlier connection to the North East than my own happy time here.
And people very much alive have helped too. Seeing on very different occasions three speakers who all made me laugh – Steve Bell lecturing about political caricature (a sharp intake of breath from the Yessers in the audience as he put up one of his wickedly accurate cartoons of Salmond); Will Self’s deadpan answer to an innocent post-grad student who asked him if he wished he’d written poetry – ‘Well, poets do get to shag a lot [pause] but mostly with other poets’; and Jim Naughtie, not only calmly and magisterially on the radio but in Edinburgh, his story worth retelling in full:
I was walking along the pavement in Morningside one dark winter morning when a fellow citizen stumbled out of a pub the worse for wear and hailed me. ‘Hey, you,’ he said, ‘You that bloke off the radio?’ I confirmed I was. ‘Right,’ says the man, swaying too close to me, ‘I’ve got a question to ask.’ ‘Go ahead, ask me,’ I replied. ‘Naw, naw,’ says the guy, ‘I want you to ask a question.’ ‘I’ll do my best,’ I said. ‘When you got that UKIP punter on yer programme next, you ask him. Does he park his car in his garidge or his garaarzhe?’
Finally, in my last article I said I would have good reason to feel positive today in particular. That’s because one of the big things I’ve enjoyed this year is the solidarity, mostly online, with like-minded people who still believe we’re ‘better together’ with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. But occasionally we meet in what I have learned to call a ‘tweet up.’
We’re a pretty diverse bunch – young, middle-aged and older, both genders and different ethnicities. We come from the four corners of Scotland and beyond. We belong, I suspect, to various political parties and none. We will be meeting today and will arrive separately and quietly at the ——– Bar in the city of ——– (sorry for the anonymity – we wouldn’t want to be interrupted by unfriendly people of another persuasion). We will not be waving flags (any) or shouting slogans (any). We will be civilised and the company will be congenial. We will be sharing stories and ideas. We will not be at all like the parody of unionists put around by the more rabid cybernats.
I am sure we’ll raise a glass or two to the future but if you’re not there I’ll raise a glass to you and your continued future in a united island. My thanks for reading my blog and don’t give up the struggle for unity.