Politics Next

Following the disappointing result on Friday (if, like me, you fancied an Independent Scotland) there has been a vast amount of reaction from all ends of the spectrum. I knew that defeat was a very real option (see If It Is A No) but I still had a little glimmer of hope that I had backed the winning side. Of course, we know now that I hadn't, but my city, the one I voted in, voted Yes which was nice to see. It also had the lowest turn out too, which confused a lot of people. It amazes me actually that with a 85% turn out nationwide, there was 15% who didn't care to vote (who were registered, of course), but in my city, 1 in 4 didn't turn up to vote, which blows my mind. The most important decision in my political life time, and some of those folk just didn't vote.

I conceded defeat at 5.46am, just before I got up to go to work with a simple tweet.

I then followed that simple tweet with a few more that were less flippant and more confused and disappointed, before tweeting:

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I realised shortly afterwards that that tweet said more than just a throwing in the hands in the air with despair that had created it. It spoke to the core of my politics, which were prior to the IndyRef at an all time low and basically non-existent. I don't mean my internal politics, the ones that make me feel and think about the world and the country I live in, but my engagement with the people and processes that govern us and those that we vote in.

The last time I voted was earlier this year in the European Elections - those disconnected "I don't even know what we are voting for" elections that even after I tried to explain to Connie what they were (and failing), I read up about them (and decided who I was voting for) and even then I still didn't quite understand the system in which I was voting, or how it was going to run down. 

I remember being similarly disconnected from the first time I voted, back in the 2005 General Election, when I didn't know who I was voting for, and didn't read too much about it. It felt like a bewilderingly nonsensical approach to the way the country should be run, and I failed to see how me and my vote could make a difference. The thing that energised me and many other voters in the IndyRef was that it was pretty explicit the two options. There was no middle ground, beyond not voting.

That, and there was something to "play for" - you were either going to be lead down the path one way or the other, and a good chunk of Scotland was going to be annoyed. That is the paradox of democracy - if I believe that the majority should get their way, how can I be annoyed when the majority vote against my own views and win? It is a difficult one to stomach, and one that "Yessers" all over Scotland have been having to deal with since Friday morning.

One thing that has been particularly hard to stomach is the feeling that the IndyRef was hard done by, even if you think that it might have been a fair fight. One statistic that was intersting was that the older voters, the above 55s, voted resoundingly as Nos, when the younger voters voted as Yeses. This lead to some saying the younger voters are less wise and more optimistic (imagine being that arrogant and that dismissive) or that the older voters were scared into thinking their pensions were in danger (which is a legitimate worry, if it weren't for the fact that it was a blatant lie by the No campaign). The ins and outs of the two sides and the campaigns will make for a wonderful study project for students in the future, that's for sure.

The reaction to the vote amongst my friends was varied too - one No voter actually said "Ya fucking dancer!", whilst others were quietly defensive about their choice to vote either Yes or No. In the days that followed, others that had voted No with the promise of more devolution and reform in the back of their minds felt dismayed at the lack of process and the bending of the promises made. The resignation of Salmond was celebrated by a select few who thought he was the head of the Yes campaign, and bemoaned by a few others who mourned the loss of a true politician that was principled and steadfast.

One thing it is clear that has survived is the engagement in the country. I have constant re-tweets, shares and posts still appearing on my social media feeds with folk paying close attention to the way the Westminster Parties are negotiating the next few days. A General Election is there to be won (or lost) and the little speed-bump of the IndyRef has been negotiated successfully. The problem is that something changed in Scotland, and something also changed in the rest of the UK too.

The main parties have backed themselves into a corner that might not be easy to get out of - for the Conservatives, they have said they'll give Scotland further powers as long as England gets them too, which is fair. However, that gives Cameron the power to delay the Scottish changes which isn't what was promised (rightly or wrongly). Milliband has an even bigger issue - he said that Scotland should get extra powers, but disagrees that England should be able to stop Scottish MPs voting on their policies. This is an untenable position, and he's pretty fucked - either he refuses let England decide on their own reform and face a backlash there, block the Scottish powers entirely too and face an even bigger backlash, or agree to Cameron's  proposals and lose the Scottish MPs at Westminster, Labour's big powerplay, and probably the only reason that he was against Scottish independence in the first place.

And that's before you even consider that some die-hard Labour voters that I know of are never voting them again due to their alliance with the Tories, their lies about the NHS (last week it was the NHS is safe if you vote No, and now it's We'll Save the NHS, and generally the fact that the party doesn't stand for what it originally stood for.

On Wednesday the 17th last week...

On Wednesday the 17th last week...

...and then Monday the 22nd.

...and then Monday the 22nd.

As Harold Wilson said, a week is a long time in politics. Maybe not in the memories of Scottish voters, mind.

The point I'd make, to wrap this wash-up post, is that the electorate have changed, in my eyes. I still have politics being discussed in my WhatsApp chats, five days after the vote, amongst people who said before hand that they were "going to be glad when it is over". The Scottish people, the 45% of the population that voted for Independence are going to be watching the UK system like hawks, and the 55% who voted for either the Status Quo or the furthering of devolution, will also be paying close attention.

The UK is going to change. It feels like it has to. If the Westminster parties renege on their promises, the SNP will probably go to the Scottish elections on the mandate of a second referendum following their broken promises. 

As for me, I am considering joining the Scottish Green Party, because they align with my own personal politics very closely.