I HAVE a confession to make to readers of The National: I was a No voter.
Not a “staunch” No voter, or a “die-hard” one, and not one who particularly sought to convince anyone else to vote the same way.
I could see why the Yes campaign grew in strength as the referendum campaign went on, and didn’t doubt the passion and conviction of those involved, but I remained unconvinced. I felt the potential negative impacts of independence were being glossed over while promises of a brave new future were being over-sold to an audience who desperately wanted to believe.
Uncertainty is the new normal. A picture of Nicola Sturgeon “in talks” appears online and we hold our collective breath
I was a No voter, and now I’m a Don’t Know voter. Such has been the bizarre, dream-like nature of this past week that it seems entirely possibly there will be another material change in circumstances in the time between me finishing this column and it appearing in The National. Uncertainty is the new normal. A picture of Nicola Sturgeon “in talks” appears online and we hold our collective breath.
It must be tempting for those who’ve backed the Yes side for years, or decades – the staunch supporters, the die-hard ones – to view the recent converts and sudden switherers as having finally seen sense. But that would be a flawed starting point for forging new alliances and uniting in common cause.
That the Yes side has gained support since last week’s Brexit vote does not mean anyone has seen the error of their ways
That the Yes side has gained support since last week’s Brexit vote does not mean anyone has seen the error of their ways. Rather, they’ve seen the error of England and Wales’s shockingly rash act of self-sabotage. They’ve seen its masterminds run for cover and UK politics fold in on itself. They’ve seen David Cameron give a resignation speech and they’ve felt sad. They’ve seen David Mundell pick crumbs out of his beard and eat them. If Jeremy Corbyn had pulled down his pants and mooned everyone at Monday’s Parliamentary Labour Party meeting, Britain would probably have just retweeted it with a couple of exclamation marks, shrugged and carried on.
In my first draft of this column I pondered whether PM Johnson might be a figment of our imagination … I got my answer sooner than I expected
It should not be assumed that any switching of sides is irreversible. Almost by definition, those moving from No to Yes are head-over-heart decision-makers – so if the facts, figures and forecasts change, they may swing back. Those who felt independence was a permanent solution to what was hopefully only a short-term problem (an unrestrained Tory government on a mission to destroy the welfare state) may have drawn a line at Prime Minister Boris Johnson, but now we’ll never know. In my first draft of this column I pondered whether PM Johnson might be a figment of our imagination. “Does Johnson even want the job, now that he’s actually won the EU argument and risks being held accountable for the consequences?” I wrote. “If the inevitable can be downgraded to the possible within a week, might it be the improbable by the time the dust has settled?” I got my answer sooner than I expected.
A Yes vote may be a more appealing prospect for many Scots now that it looks like the best way to secure our place in EU, but for the time being excitement in the pro-independence ranks is muted. Those who have switched from No to Yes may in fact want a second independence referendum sooner than those who wanted independence for its own sake and who suspect indyref2 will be the last shot in their lifetimes. What a topsy-turvy situation we find ourselves in.
While Brexit has handed a golden opportunity to the SNP and their pro-independence allies, it is also a cautionary tale. It’s easy to castigate the English and Welsh for failing to heed expert warnings, but a wee bit outrageous to do so mere days after decrying such warnings as part of “Project Fear 2”. I’ve yet to hear from a single one of the Leave voters who now regrexit bemoaning the fact that no-one made the “positive case for the EU” forcefully enough.
Perhaps, just perhaps, No voters weren’t all cowards and fools who were hoodwinked by blatant Unionist lies
Perhaps, just perhaps, No voters weren’t all cowards and fools who were hoodwinked by blatant Unionist lies. Did they all believe The Vow? No. Did Gordon Brown’s bellowing make a difference? I doubt it. Most importantly, were they all self-interested old Tories? Absolutely not.
It’s impossible to say how Scotland’s economy would have fared if Yes had triumphed, but it’s hardly a stretch to suggest there would have been challenges in the short-term, at least. I probably would not probably not have been hardest hit. In fact as a journalist I might well have prospered as Scots looked to home-grown media rather than London-based papers for their news and analysis. I wouldn’t have borne the brunt of any further public-service cuts because I’m privileged enough not to rely on those services: I rarely use my local library, I don’t have a social worker and I when I’m involved in community outreach it’s as the one reaching out, not the “service user”. I didn’t vote No because I don’t care about those less fortune myself. I voted No because I do.
Of course, many on the Yes side argue that short-term pain would be a price worth paying for Scotland taking control of its own destiny, just as many Brexiteers are untroubled by the financial wobbles of the past week. I respect their views. Less respectable is the determination of a minority – and thankfully it seems a small minority – to keep on characterising No voters as misguided fools or, worse, selfish monsters. This is not a time for fostering division. It’s a time to unite.
A version of this article first appeared in The National.