It’s about democracy
This was the week that the three horsemen of the UK apocalypse rode north in tartan cagoules to hold hope to ransom. The fourth horseman, the former Prime Minister, prepared the ground the day before with his assurances of more (yet to be specified) powers.
The partisan pantomime of ‘He’s Behind You’ in the Polls would be a comic farce if it wasn’t such a shameful affront to the positive, civic engagement that has taken root in Scotland during the Independence Campaign thus far. The people of Scotland haven’t been meek observers of political grandstanding; we have been active agents of self-expression and self-determination. It’s been joyous and challenging and inspiring. We’ve seen a flattening of power and influence in our celebrity obsessed modern world. An undergraduate friend casually remarked to me that Noam Chomsky had emailed him asking for a recommended reading list to the IndyRef.
So it was with some irony that the pro-Union side of the campaign were the ones to hoist Saltires and declare outpourings of unrequited love this week. Hitherto, the campaign had been blissfully absent of Balmoral sentimentality. This debate was never about nationalism. It was, and is, about democracy.
In our age of sound-bites and press releases, this has felt genuine and exciting. Many of us found our voice. The playful creative expression (National Theatre of Scotland’s Five Minute Yes/ No/ Don’t Know plays, All Back to Bowies), the cross disciplinary explorations (Imagination Festival) and, most important of all, the gentle face to face conversations at bus stops, office water coolers and kitchen tables…. all references lost on the new Indy media experts fresh off the train from Kings Cross.
Mainstream media has woken up and started to take an interest in our Referendum. I don’t recognise the “divided nation” reported by the BBC or what The Observer journalist Alexander Linklater described as the “[atmosphere] tense, nervous and unimaginative”. For two years, the debate was dismissed as a northern joke, a distraction, a playful game of Scottish tribalism. And now that the polls have confirmed a too close to call result, we’ve been dealt a one week catch-up with frenzied hyperbole, day trips, photocalls and a possible courtroom wrangle if the results appear inconclusive. Rather, we could have had two thoughtful years of reconsidering UK-wide democracy. So very, very sad. Panicky, partisan politics is not the context in which to affirm the best constitutional structures to promote and protect our public service delivery and exercise of human rights.
You’re so vain, you probably think this vote is about you
So England is feeling bruised. It thinks the Yes campaign is an anti-English protest vote in which it doesn’t get a say. This fundamentally misunderstands the outward-looking, letting-go potential of a new Scotland freed from its underdog, victim-hood baggage. And I say this as a card-carrying Eastenders addict who lived in Brixton as a young child. To pit English against Scottish is crass and outdated. Scotland is the ultimate ‘mongrel nation’ and, given the full legislative powers to do so, would welcome a more mature relationship with its island neighbours and an immigration policy that protects the human dignity of the new arrivals that want to contribute to working and living in Scotland. Well, let England shake. Perhaps it is time for a shake-up of a system that election after election conserves the narrow interests of a crowded, priced-out southeast at the expense of redistributing wealth and opportunity.
Shock and awe
Many of us had already voted by postal ballot when the new devo-max offerings appeared as if by magic at the start of the week. I sense that many Labour Party politicians are uncomfortable, embarrassed even, to find themselves on the same campaign side as Nigel Farage, George Galloway and orange order marches. I cannot understand why yesterday’s Labour men share a platform with today’s Condem masters of ‘shock and awe’ campaigning (their words).The Scottish National Party used to be known as the ‘tartan Torys’ by those leaning to the left, or in our house, ‘The Silly Nose Pickers Party’. Now, gone is Labour of love.
Choosing to make Scotland your home, wherever you have traveled from or are heading to, entitles you to a say in this national debate. Yes/ No, win/ loose, the bigger prize is about democracy. The battle for participatory democracy and empowered civil society has already been won. A 97% voter registration and the predicated record-breaking voter turnout will prove this. And then we can get on with other things.