One week ago, on Wednesday 17 September, Scotland was about to live one of its greatest pages of history with most of the Scottish people feeling like on the eve of a battle. Indeed, the Scottish independence referendum WAS a battle, a peaceful battle but with big consequences, a battle between two camps of passionate opponents. Scotland would never be the same after the referendum though everybody hoped that it would be remembered as an exemplary exercice of democracy. For once, Scotland made the headlines all over the world.
On the eve of the referendum the vote was too close to call, so they were saying in the polls…
Two days after, early in the morning, the results fell: the NO side had won… nearly half of the population, and among them many young people carrying the Scottish flag, burst into tears…
But days are passing, people are debating and many people are still wondering… who is the real winner of the Scottish independence referendum?
Alex Salmond, the very popular leader of the YES-Scotland who first admitted his defeat is the best placed to ask questions if there is something to be questioned…
Let us read a few important extracts of the moving speech he made to announce his unexpected resignation…
His speech ends: “Scotland can still emerge as the real winner”.
Alex Salmond announces his resignation at Bute House, Edinburgh (Scottish Government-PA)
“I am immensely proud of the campaign which Yes Scotland fought and of the 1.6 million voters who rallied to that cause by backing an independent Scotland.
“I am also proud of the 85 per cent turnout in the referendum and the remarkable response of all of the people of Scotland who participated in this great constitutional debate and the manner in which they conducted themselves.
“We now have the opportunity to hold Westminster’s feet to the fire on the ‘vow’ that they have made to devolve further meaningful power to Scotland. This places Scotland in a very strong position. (…)
“But today the point is this. The real guardians of progress are not the politicians at Westminster, or even at Holyrood, but the energised activism of tens of thousands of people who I predict will refuse meekly to go back into the political shadows. (…)
“It has been the privilege of my life to serve Scotland as first minister. But as I said often during the referendum campaign this is not about me or the SNP. It is much more important than that.
“The position is this. We lost the referendum vote but can still carry the political initiative. More importantly Scotland can still emerge as the real winner.”
First let us look at the following map and figures to try and understand the facts.
Scottish referendum YES NO vote map
Here’s a map illustrating the results of the referendum, a pink and red map with minute patches of blue…
At first sight, the NO victory seems to be overwhelming!
And the YES side appears to be limited to very small areas:
Dundee : 57.35 %
Glasgow : 53.49 %
West Dumbartonshire : 53.96 %
North Lanarkshire : 51.07 %
Inverclyde : 49.920 %…
But is not this map insidiously misleading and rather unfair?
Le us have a look at the results themselves, keeping in mind that about one million of Scottish people living abroad could not vote and that 400,000 residents in Scotland, all nationalities taken together, could vote.
Scotland decides No-Yes figures Source BBC Scotland
With a difference of only 383,937 votes separating the NO and YES sides the result of the referendum expresses a ‘NO BUT’ rather than a clear “NO”, all the more since the NO-vote figure includes a number of people who had been very close to vote YES… and even people who regret to have voted NO!
Who in the pro-independency camp could have dreamt of such a result a few months ago? Once, it even seemed to have the lead in the polls, which immediately rocked the United Kingdom to its foundations. Indeed, would the Westminster government have taken the risk of allowing such a referendum in Scotland if they had knew the results would be so close ?
A young girl carrying the Scottish flag
The old Scottish dream is NOT dead. How could it be after such an extraordinary cross-generational, cross-party campaign which gave rise to a huge wave of enthusiasm all over the country and even abroad, leading to the polls so many people usually indifferent to politics. The extraordinary turnout at the polls (about 85%) must be underlined! It is a victory in itself! In France we dream of such a figure at the polls !
Alex Salmond and the old woman Source Telegraph 10 september 2014
“Thursday 18 September 2014″ will remain a historical date in Scotland and we sincerely hope that the old Scottish dream of becoming independent, as the country was a long time ago, will come to be true one day…
Alex Salmond and Sean Connery BBC News
…many influent people think it will and wear the white little rose on their lapel
..O would, or I had seen the day
That Treason thus could sell us,
My auld grey head had lien in clay,
Wi’ Bruce and loyal Wallace!
But pith and power, till my last hour,
I’ll mak this declaration;
We’re bought and sold for English gold-
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!
Though its origins have often been questioned, the United Kingdom is a powerful political entity, born more than 300 years ago and it is quite understandable that its leaders should be ready to do anything to defend it. There are big political, geo-political, economical and financial interests at stake, and we must not forget that many British people are deeply attached to the union. But now that the golden age of the British empire and of the industrial era (as illustrated in the London Olympic Games opening ceremony) has gone, the old values of those who had made the system flourish are crumbling.
Most people, all parties taken together, admit that the YES campaign has been the best one. The NO campaign repeatedly tried to frighten people, focusing day after day on the dangers of becoming independent. The NO campaign even turned to a show when David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband, the main UK party leaders, decided to visit Scotland to campaign against independence, ahead of the referendum. It was easy to guess the political calculations hiding behind the tearful speeches and last-minute promises. Why dit the UK leaders and their promises come so late and just after a reversal of the tendency in the polls had been suddendly announced in the news causing political turmoil in London and a dramatic fall of the shares at the London Stock Exchange.
Alex and Moira Salmond going home after the referendum
When Alex Salmond, the Scottish PM and charismatic SNP leader announced that he would resign in November from his functions as Prime Minister and SNP it came as a shock for many people in Scotland and abroad. Alex Salmond is certainly one the best politicians of his generation and nobody could have embodied as well as he did the old Scottish dream of independence … but if the facts were to confirm his most recent declarations that the Westminster government may have tricked his people, by making false promises, he would certainly not be the last one to react and nobody could reproach him to denounce the plot and take action…
Now, voices can be heard all over the country, expressing new hopes, opening roads…
Personally, I never miss Mandy Haggith’s newsletter (“Cybercrofter”). In the article published on 21 September she mentions three online ‘fora’ (forums). It aroused my curiosity and I’ve begun to read them. They seem to express perfectly what we love so much in Scotland, the spirit of Caledonia…
So, I let the last word to Mandy and the three online magazines…
Bonne lecture !
Mandy Haggith outside with a book – Suilven close – Photo from Mandy’s website
Remember Northings? I think it’s time to get it working again.
Chewing over the post-referendum bitterness, spitting out the pips and trying to find something that feels like a way forward, I find myself coming back to the things that make me angry. There’s energy there.
One of the things that most infuriates me is that there is virtually no main-stream media willing to come out on the side of independence for Scotland. We have, apparently, 37 national newspapers, and only the Herald is pro-independence. The BBC is structurally biased in favour of the establishment. Even the Guardian thinks self-determination is a good thing for Palestinians, but not for Scots.
It is clear therefore that we need to create new Scottish media platforms that have an editorial openness to all opinions about the future of this country, in order to balance the space available for the views, opinions, news, ideas and knowledge of all people and communities, not just unionists.
One of the most distinctive things about Scotland is the cultural sphere, which is completely different from that south of the border. Up here in the Highlands, I perceive it as a Gaelic-rooted culture that relates strongly to the land and sea, that wears emotion openly and honestly and is laced with a quiet, wry self-deprecating humour. One of the things I love about living here, and why I will never live anywhere else, is because I feel surrounded by a great intensity of creative people – artists, craft makers, writers, musicians, story-tellers…
We used to have an online magazine that celebrated this creative intensity. It was called Northings. It was set up as an online community, to enable us to talk to each other, highlight news and upcoming events, review performances and exhibitions, delve deeply into the creative work of individuals, discuss movements and trends. It was great. I loved it. But when HI-Arts was killed off last year, it was mothballed. The creative voices of the north were silenced. I blogged about it here. It was a travesty.
Perhaps this is the time to find a way to revive Northings, and claim back our voice. Perhaps Northings could embrace the hopeful visions that the referendum has stirred up, and continue to showcase the depth and breadth of the culture that makes this part of Scotland so special. Perhaps the National Collective could use it as a platform. Perhaps it could also provide a space for views, news and opinions about our culture in the widest sense, including politics. We need to find ways to continue the conversation about the future in all parts of the country.
There are some excellent independent online fora, like Bella Caledonia, Newsnet Scotland, Wings Over Scotland (there must be more, please tell me!) but cultural stuff doesn’t get much coverage, and anyway, we need at least 37 of them, for balance. If, like me, you think Northings has a valuable legacy that could be the springboard for an ongoing conversation, get in touch. If enough of us want to do it, we’ll find a way.
From Bella Caledonia : a short extract from a moving article by Serge Marti, published on 22 September 2014 in the aftermath of the YES defeat
The beautiful and very expressive logo of Bella Caledonia, one of the online forums (fora) quoted by Mandy in her newsletter is taken from an Alasdair’s Gray painting and if you want to know what particular link it has with Alexander Salmond just read on the full article of the BBC
“Bella Caledonia is a painting from an image in Gray’s ceiling mural at Glasgow’s Oran Mor venue.”
“Bella Caledonia is an iconic work by this artist. She appears to be an enigmatic figure, but Bella Caledonia is an independent, free-spirited woman with an enquiring mind and a strong sense of social justice and Alasdair has captured all of these qualities in this painting.”
‘Thoughts for the Pheonix’
On Friday the 19th of September, we were in mourning for the loss of our dream. A progressive independent Scotland. A beacon of hope in a grey world to counter the gathering clouds of hopelessness.
Peoples eyes were cast down. A few of us exchanged glances, more exchanged hugs. The tears flowed, and the anger too. Friends shouted into the void – ‘ Why did you do this! Why did we do this!?’. Most of all there was greyness, silence, bar jackdaws squawking from someplace in the haar. We knew that in the face of the unified onslaught of the mainstream media, the corporate imperial state, and their puppet masters in global finance, we lost.
Yet if we have lost, why do so many of us feel that our determination has grown? If we have lost, why are the ideas already flowing thick and fast from the National Collective, Women for Independence, Labour for Independence, Common Weal and many others?
From Wings Over Scotland
An extract of the very beautiful article posted on September 18, 2014 by Rev. Stuart Campbell, the very day of the referendum
”Us, now, or never”
We have fifteen hours.
The next fifteen hours mark the only ones in the entire history of time in which the fate of Scotland has rested democratically in the hands of its people. In 1707 the country was sold from under its people’s feet by a tiny handful of “nobles”. Before that it was won or lost in blood and sorrow. Today, the will of the people – every man and woman with one equal vote, regardless of wealth or property – shall decide.
Voting Yes won’t magically solve our problems overnight. But they’ll be ours to own and solve for ourselves. We need not do things in the way they’ve “always been done”. We can take Scotland – a nation at once both proudly ancient and reborn afresh – and shape it in whatever form we choose.
It will be a land not inherited from our predecessors – for they never owned it to give – but lent to us by our children, to build into a place they can prosper and flourish, not be forced to leave in search of opportunity. For those already driven away, a home worth returning to. And for those who’ve never been, a welcoming beacon of hope.
All those Scotlands, shared by all of us. Something old. Something new. Something borrowed. You know the rest.
Our enemies are not the good people of England. They, like us and much of the rest of the world, suffer the injustices and indignities imposed by a ruling class which has no nation but power and no language but money.
A new feudalism grips the planet, a reversal of much of the progress of the 20th century. Workers have seen their rights diminished, and ever-greater toil yields an ever-smaller share of the rewards, which are greedily hoarded by the wealthy on a scale not seen since medieval times. Our children are placed under a yoke of enormous debt before their working lives even begin, our elderly pushed ever closer to the grave before they can rest. (…)
From News Net Scotland
Newsnet Scotland was launched on March 2010 to address a perceived imbalance in the reporting of Scottish News and current affairs. We believe that a nation without a balanced media is the poorer for it. Staffed by volunteers Newsnet is the fastest growing news outlet in Scotland, each month we enjoy double digit readership growth.
The tide goes out
by Paul Kavanagh
We stand on the shore of the sea loch, and watch the tide go out. Now is the time to shelter the flame of hope from the howling gale.
No has won through fear and threats of loss. But the dream is not dead, the dream still lives within the hearts and minds of hundreds of thousands who refused to be bowed by fear, who refused to succumb to the one sided stories of the self-interested. It is not a dream that will be forgotten. The flame of hope still burns within.
I’ve already lost this year. I’ve already had to grieve. But I will not grieve for Scotland, because Scotland still lives and hope still lives within me. I do not feel ashamed for the shame of others. Now is a time for building, for defending what we have built, for ensuring that the politicians keep their worthless words.
We achieved so much with so little, we learned how to organise ourselves, and we must use those skills to maintain the pressure for change. I didn’t come this far only to give up now. It is only if you slink away that they will have won. We cannot go back into the shortbread tin. We have outgrown it.
It was always a big ask, to break through generations of apathy at the first attempt, to leap the prison walls of cynicism in a single bound. In the end we could not overcome the weight of a media almost uniformly opposed to change, and because of that a million minds remained closed and out of reach.
Uig-Tarbert Caledonian MacBrayne ferry © 2003 Scotiana
The tide goes out. The tide will return.
Stand on the shore undaunted and unafraid, building for the future, and waiting the tide’s return.
The high tide will come again. But we have work to do.