Just over a week ago, I received a lovely gift in the mail: my voting card, which meant I was able to go vote in Thursday’s independence referendum. And I was stoked to vote. I haven’t been that excited to vote since my first presidential election. This was a big deal with serious ramifications for my life, my husband’s life, and our son’s life, and with the polls as close as they were, it really felt like every last vote made a difference. I crossed my ballot and really felt like I’d made some sort of difference.
We woke on Friday morning to find out the polls were right: the country leaned ‘no’, but just barely. A staggering voter turnout resulted in a 45-55 split. If this were a US presidential election, the Supreme Court justices would have immediately begun pulling on their robes and rolling their eyes while campaign staffers on both sides squinted at each and every ballot. But it wasn’t like that here. Each side accepted the result with good grace (though Alex Salmond’s sudden departure suggests the SNP wasn’t quite so accepting behind the scenes. And I’m sure Cameron and a few others down in Westminster had to change their shorts before going in front of the cameras do deliver the usual ‘well fought, well fought’ patter.), although I’ve heard talk of at least one clash in Glasgow, one of only two cities to firmly go Yes. But although it seems like everyone’s acting like grownups here, there’s no denying there’s some work to be done. Nearly half the country is right now ranging from disappointed to outright enraged or oddly freaked out (I’ve actually seen Yes supporters on Facebook talk about how ‘terrified’ they are right now). Many Yes voters, who already hated to current Westminster government, are now even more resentful of what they view as Westminster’s scaremongering tactics, which they doubtless attribute the loss to. Never mind that many of the points the No campaign, Cameron, and business leaders were making were legitimate concerns regarding currency, pensions, relocating nuclear weapons, and the complexity and cost involved in setting up an independent nation. Anti-English sentiment has always featured rather heavily north of the border. It’s going to take some doing to bring things back to an even keel.
But although Scotland is going to remain part of the UK, the nationalists haven’t been defeated, not really. The Yes side’s unexpected popularity gave Westminster a serious kick in the ass. It woke people up to the realisation that Scotland was not happy with the status quo, and more needed to be done. And, in a panic, Cameron promised new powers to Scotland that fall a bit short of devo max (which should have been on the ballot in the first place, but two years ago Cameron was so cockily certain of victory he refused to put it on there. That’ll teach him.) but give Scotland more control over setting income tax and controlling certain benefits. This particular Hail Mary has already caused some consternation south of the border, with some politicians protesting over the unfairness of Scottish MPs at Westminster having a say in these matters in England, whereas English MPs can no longer do the same in Scotland, and the Welsh starting to agitate for similar control in Wales. Leader of the House of Commons William Hague in in charge of sorting out the details, and a draft plan of the implementation of the reforms is due on 25 January (Burns Night). Many are wary that Westminster will renege on the deal or water the powers down to almost nothingness, but honestly (and bear in mind, I’m not a political expert by any means, so this is purely me speculating) I think they’d be hard-pressed to do that without risking setting off another independence battle up here, and one they could very well lose on another round. You can only kick someone so long before they turn on you, and they already just barely managed to hold the union together.
So that’s the state of things here. Nothing much has changed in daily life, other than all the ‘yes’ posters suddenly disappearing from windows. But like I said, there’s work to be done, and now all eyes are on Westminster, just daring them to try and screw Scotland over. The ball’s in your court, Mr Cameron. Don’t fumble. We throw hammers and giant tree trunks for fun up here. You want us on your side.