Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Sunshine on Govan

When the result of the Referendum on Scottish Independence became official David Cameron telephoned her Majesty the Queen to inform her of the outcome. Such was her level of contentment at the confirmation of a no-vote her majesty was allegedly reduced to 'purring like a pussycat' - a response normally elicited by the royal rabbit. She was equally as enthused when the good people of Belize opted to keep her face on their money.

Most Better Together supporters celebrated the no vote with a content Tim Henman style fist pump. Others opted to dust off their Union Jacks and take to George Square for a good old fashioned riot - apparently getting the Referendum mixed up with the UEFA Cup Final.

Personally on the grey early-Autumnal day after the Referendum I marked the occasion by gloomily waiting in line for a consolatory, now discontinued, macaroni pie. While waiting I overheard two older people discuss their respective reasons for voting no; 1) "to teach these young people a lesson" and 2) "to remind these young people where they've come from". Granted in this particular provincial town in central Scotland young people knowing where they've come from would be considered quite the rarity, nevertheless it is this episode more than any other that sticks out as my abiding memory of the 19th of September. No amount of masquerading idiots on George Square could sum up the classically Scottish ideology these two old folkies articulated so perfectly. That's the way it was, that's the way it should be, that's the way it will be; complete, concrete, affirmation of the Status Quo. The faint smell of pish hanging in the air felt apt at the time - I'm not being ageist, I was in Greg's.

The Status Quo has however undoubtedly been rocked in the wake of the Referendum. There has been a shift in political voting habits, in the Scottish population's engagement with politics and their expectations of the people they elect to Parliament. Such was the level of global attention the Referendum attracted it is now engrained as a Scottish cultural curiosity. When I meet people from other countries the Referendum has climbed to the top of the ladder of those classically generic questions you get asked as a Scottish person, the answer to all of which is 'yes'.

The Referendum brought with it many firsts in Scotland. For the first time 16 and 17 year olds were given a vote. This was undoubtedly a huge boost for the Yes campaign, particularly in Dundee where the city's teenage population are famed for their inability to say no. The country was also exposed for the first time to a 'Scottish' version of John Barrowman. 'Big Tam the Shipyard Worker' was an inspired character act rolled out by Barrowan for the benefit of the Better Together campaign while simultaneously promoting his new musical 'Sunshine on Govan'. Barrowman's mastery of accents was really quite impressive, I can't wait to see his take on the Australian accent for the opening ceremony of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Most markedly the Referendum inspired political activism on a scale no one could have predicted. Whether it was on the streets, over the dinner table, during lunch breaks, on social media or in town and village halls, the Scottish people were immersed in the Independence debate.

The Yes campaign in particular utilised grassroots politics appealing to a large and previously politically-disengaged proportion of society. The message was one that talked up Scotland's potential and possibilities, forgoing the temptation to gripe about Westminster or foster any kind of anti-English sentiment and 'Braveheartesque' ideas of Nationalism. An Independent nuclear-free Scotland rejecting austerity, confident in itself and with a more representational government seemed like a no-brainer to me. Essentially the Yes campaign, from my perspective, was one fuelled by hope, hope for a more socially democratic, equal, and progressive nation.

The Better Together campaign, for their part, did a great job of bussing activists up from England.

*At this point I would like to make a disclaimer in case of any suggestion that this blog entry may be biased in any way. Let me assure readers this entry has been written in strict accordance with the BBC's guidelines on fairness and impartiality.

Better Together told us we were too small and too poor to go it alone. We'd lose the pound, be refused EU membership, businesses would leave and there would be uncertainty from everything from national security to mobile phone bills. If we needed an organ - we're Scottish, there's a good chance - we would no longer get it from English or Welsh donors. The oil would run out, and China would take back our f*cking pandas - or our 'non-f*cking pandas'.

The incessant negativity reminded me of being in primary two when our teacher Mrs Smart made a trip to a local farm more terrifying a prospect than getting lost in Jurassic Park. Mrs Smart, in a move not deserving of her name, decided to show the class a farm safety video to prepare us for our trip and I'd never seen anything more terrifying in my life. In the video foolhardy teenagers were being knocked off by the second thanks to their farmyard horseplay. Children were being crushed by tractor tyres, falling off trailers, getting limbs mangled in complicated machinery and finding themselves trapped in huge silos. If this wasn't terrifying enough for a class of six year olds to endure they threw in a ghost for good measure. The ghost would roam the farm repeatedly chanting 'never rest, never rest' apparently trying to warn the children and keep them safe, like a deranged version of Casper the friendly but f*cking terrifying ghost.

That video scared me so badly it's about the only memory I have of primary two other than getting my head stuck in a chair.

Still, Mrs Smart showing a class of six year olds a farm safety video apparently directed by George Romero wasn't as ill-judged a move as Better Together's now notorious, 'The Woman Who Made Up Her Mind' television advert. It was aimed at undecided female voters, albeit the kind of female voters Tyson Fury would consider his ideal woman. The advert's depiction of a wife and mother too busy to listen to 'that guy off of the telly' was a real home-run for feminism and provided us with some quite hilarious internet memes.

David Cameron, Ed Milliband, and Nick Clegg then gathered in séance towards the end of the campaign to resurrect an ancient Goelm reanimated for the purpose of saving the No vote. Every time Gordon Brown appeared on the television my immediate and natural reaction was to jump behind the couch. I kept thinking it was the ghost from the farm video coming back to haunt me. You can understand my consternation, an old man desperate for rest but called upon at the last minute to save the day, it's no wonder I was confused and scared.

It wasn't financial doom he was delivering this time however, but a last minute vow signed by the leaders of the three 'main' political parties promising more powers would be delivered to Scotland in the immediate aftermath of a no vote. It was all a bit vague and confusing, a transparent attempt to sit on the fence that was more like political purgatory than compromise, and of course like purgatory it turned out to be total and utter bollocks.

In the end  the vow did just about enough to convince the Scottish people that a Tory Government and a war on Syria was worth sticking around for. Yes, it was a no. Ultimately the people of this country chose to stay in relationship for fear of something worse if they left as opposed to leaving one for something potentially better.

That's okay, understandable even, if undoubtedly defeatist. We stand alone as the country who opted to vote against our independence.  Nevertheless I feel like I've learnt a valuable lesson in the year and a bit since the Referendum. I've forgone some of my own Independence and, under the tutelage of Better Together, I now know if my girlfriend ever wants to leave me all I have to do is undermine her confidence, threaten her way of life, and remove any notion of any kind of credible, peaceful, or content existence without me. That way she'll be mine forever, or at the very least the question will be 'settled for a generation'.

If the Independence question has been settled for a generation then it will be years before either of the Westminster Better Together parties has even the remotest chance of making the people of Scotland 'purr like pussycats'. Squealing like pigs perhaps more apt for the current administration, and if Scotland really are the swine in this analogy then David Cameron will take pleasure in shafting us. I'm going to need to stock up on consolatory pies. Which leads us to the question, would an Independent Scotland have allowed the discontinuation of the macaroni pie? The answer may haunt us for a generation. My heart really is broken.

1 comment:

  1. Very good mate...

    Looking forward to the Speakers Night if I don't see you before then.