As we mark the first anniversary of Scotland’s extraordinary referendum, Derek Bateman reflects on the 12 months that followed and what they mean for all of us.
Does a year matter? Of course not. The truth is it might as well be 10 years since the referendum, the outcome is the same. We are denied the powers of a sovereign nation and remain trapped in a right-wing straightjacket devised by those who never had our interests at heart.
Yet 12 months has been long enough to discern the shape of things to come and this is what it looks like…a blinkered Tory apparatus intent on restricting our aspirations, denying the people’s mandate and, through knuckle-headed reactionism, bringing ever closer the day of the second referendum.
It has taken less than a year for the mulish obstinacy of UK Ltd to bring into collision two related events – the decisive No vote to independence and the even more decisive result of the UK general election. One they proclaim with finality, the other they hide beneath the magician’s three cups…look – it’s gone! They are not mutually exclusive but are in perfect harmony.
If you wanted to read the peoples’ mind you would first conclude that the No vote ended the matter but not terminally because the Yes vote was creeping dangerously close. Having begun at roughly 70 to No and only 30 to Yes, a final tally of 55 to 45 per cent shows a distinct movement eventually needing a five per cent swing for a reversed outcome. Therefore a sensible politician, or even just a democrat, would deduce that steps were required to appease public opinion in order to stave off growing demand, no matter how often he trumpeted his triumph. Rather than the vulture hovering over the carcase with his claws sharpened for EVEL, Cameron should have assumed the surface serenity of the swan, paddling like mad out of view, to avoid a repeat.
Then, eight months later, like the clap of doom, the Scots threw out the Westminster placemen in the clearest rejection of the old regime any government could possibly have. This was more than clear-out, it was political cataclysm. First they had, with glowering reluctance, accepted the offer to be Better Together with its heavily spiced lure of extensive additional powers (near-federalism, nothing-is-off-the-table) and then, by way of hammering home the point, thrown out the Union’s puppets and endorsed on a majestic scale the Nationalist party which had led the independence campaign. In the boxing ring, it is a swift left-right combination that leaves the opponent on the canvass.
Being slowly dragged to his corner for the patch-up, any fighter with a brain would be working on his defence. But not the bold Cameron who lacks not only the wiles of the crafty operator but the grace of the sportsman. He turned Scotland’s historic debate into a petty row about English votes in the parliament. He compounded the error by refusing every single amendment to the new Scotland Bill that would have recognised the election result (and the crushing of his own party in Scotland)
He had the perfect vehicle – the Smith Commission agreed by all main parties. It should have formed the basis of a supercharged reform that would reflect the flowery language of the Vow and softened the nationalist grievance which was already cranking up into mass support for the SNP. But conceding, or rather recognising the democratic will, is not proving to be Cameron’s style. He’s a man who honours his word with caveat. In David Mundell we have the ideal lackey, servile, ambitious and willing to act against his own people – a kind of powder puff Patrick Sellar.
There is no democratic mandate for Tories in Scotland but their continued pretence of normality in the face of electoral reality will continue to drive the resentment and injustice on which so much of the Yes movement was born. The explosion of interest and collective engagement is coming from Yes and the Left with no equivalent action on the No-voting Right where Tory commentators gamely insist a revival is a-comin’. Well, I suppose in the sense that if Labour fall any further in public esteem, they will join the Tories in the depths…
The London government is still making the critical errors of judgement that led to the rise of the SNP in the first place. Their failure ‘to get it’ is confirmation that we are two different countries and we are merely delaying the day of separation. A glance at the demographics underlines the point still further – it is mainly the elderly who cleave to Union – the younger generations are already there.
We now live and think like an independent country, the agglomeration of powers will surely follow. The elected chambers already demonstrate this and they are the physical embodiment of the peoples’ will.
Scotland’s long journey towards independence has rarely been decisive…it has been a slow burn and justification for the so-called gradualists. It has required steely commitment and above all, patience. To lose that now for a quick referendum would be betrayal of all those who have built the case over many years. Better to know we are right and the benefits may have to flow to the next generation.