So, September 18th was a MASSIVE day in British history. Scotland went to the polls to answer the question on whether we should be an independent country or not. Turnout was the highest ever recorded in Scottish electoral history, at close to 90%. It is the first time in my own personal electoral history that I have witness queues and votes being registered every 15 seconds at the polling station I attended. From a democratic point of view, it was simply glorious. I wish all elections and referendums in Britain were like this! It was something I will never forget.
In the evening, I attended another polling station to represent the No Thanks campaign. It was there that I encountered the dark side of politics, and specifically, of nationalism. In all my years of campaigning for the Labour Party, I have never once been verbally or physically abused, but that night, representing a cross-party campaign, all that changed. I received a large number of verbal abuses, from the laughably stupid to the highly offensive and racist kind.
Later on, that night, I was subjected to worse. I was surrounded by a group of young Yes Scotland (the pro-independence campaign) supporters, who not only attempted to intimidate me, but also physically attacked me, and then destroyed signage, which they threatened to injure me with. I stood my ground and refused to be intimidated. I did not fight back, but defended myself sufficiently to cause them to flee! The police were involved, but sadly, finding these young men has proved extremely difficult.
In the early hours of the following morning, the result was in: Scotland voted NO to independence.
What happens next? Well, somehow, the people of this great country have to figure out a way to heal a great rift within our people wrought by the last two years of referendum campaigning. We have to figure out what is right for us. 55% of us said NO to independence, which has proved to have come as a huge shock to the other 45%. That needs dealt with. We need to figure out the way forward for Scotland within the Union – the right place for us to be, in my opinion – and the way forward for the whole Union.
The United Kingdom has forever changed. It MUST modernise. Whether federalism is the answer or not, I am not completely certain of yet. We must settle the dust stirred up by the last two years. It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight. It will require the people of all four Home Nations, all political parties, all community groups, ALL of us, working together for the future of our Great Union.
And……we must defeat nationalism. It is incompatible with the 21st Century, and it MUST be destroyed, and honest, humble patriotism – pride in our heritage, history, people and potential – must be restored.
Now that this referendum is over, normal service on this blog will resume as of next post!