Friday, 19 September 2014

'x' marks the spot: Scottish Referendum thoughts

Today I made my mark.
No signature.
Just my mark.
The historian has not yet left the building of my soul: fleetingly, I thought of manuscripts poured over in the course of my research.  
Of other marks made, instead of signatures, by folk without the benefit of an education basic enough to write their own name.
And, today, people who love and live in Scotland were marking 'x's and making a wee mark in the fabric of history on this referendum day.  
Such a little thing, yet such an enormous thing, 
this freedom to exercise the democratic right to voice your opinion.

Just over two hours ago, ballot boxes were sealed and sent off to be counted.
to the simple, unadorned question on the paper:  
"Should Scotland be an independent country?"

After 307 years of Union, should we stay or should we go?

At the beginning of the campaign, 'no' were well ahead by 22 points.
In the dying days of the campaign, pollsters were saying 'too close to call'.
And in between?
Somehow people who perhaps had long ceased to believe that their voice mattered,
that their vote could make a difference, began to register themselves to vote.
Began an ongoing national conversation...
'What's best for our country?'
'What vision do we have for our future?'
In the corridors of power, in supermarkets, the hairdresser's, in the pub, 
and on the high street, people got interested in matters political.
An astonishing 97% of the electorate registered to vote.
Even as the sealed ballot boxes are being opened and counted, 
it's predicted over 90% of the electorate might actually have turned out.
We may yet make history for sheet numbers of turnout in a 
modern electoral campaign in the West.
Democracy is suddenly cool in Scotland.

There's been a gathering momentum, an energy, an engagement.
There's been a feeling in the air that has given me hope.
This has been a process unlike anything I've ever seen before.
On both sides of the debate, there have been some minority extremists who've
let their own side down by unacceptable behaviour in isolated incidents.
In general, however, while it's been robust at times, 
there's also been humour and wit; 
people have been mostly good-natured,
law-abiding, and peaceful.

Should the vote be 'no', I don't believe we'll slide back into a status quo:
the tectonic plates of this wonderful, wee country have changed in some indefinable way.
And I think the shock-waves may yet shake Westminster out of complacency. 
I hope, I so hope so.
I'm praying that the energy, the engagement continues.
When I wake up in about 7 hours time, I suspect we'll know the result.
My own prediction: a very close 'no'.
I'd be delighted to be wrong, but however it pans out, 
the next step is to crack on, work together, harness the energy for
change that's come out of this process, and build the best Scotland we can.
There have been no barricades, no barbed wire, bombs or bullets.
Just an 'x' on a card in a ballot box.
I'm so proud of our wee country, whatever we decide.