Yes votes lay like tattered betting slips on a bookies’ floor. The Scottish separatists’ gamble was always a long shot, but they dared to dream. And if they didn’t get exactly what they wanted, they did win something.
The Scots gave the establishment the kind of kick it takes to upset the status quo and demand respect. One that made a prime minister fear for his political future – one that hit David Cameron squarely in the balls. It’s not just that 45% –1.6 million UK citizens – voted to leave the union. The Yes campaign won in Glasgow and Dundee, and it was more popular among young people.
The government panicked two weeks ahead of the vote. Cameron held an emergency briefing, jumping on the bandwagon to Edinburgh to basically say: “It’s not like a General Election where if you’re fed up with the Tories, give them a kick.”
It’s an appealing prospect isn’t it? Giving the Tories a kick. For the last four years, we’ve been pissed off about the politicisation of austerity, about the lack of women and ethnic minorities in the government, about politics that favours big business.
And the strength of the Yes campaign reflects this wider sense of political malaise. The Scots feel the same resentment against Westminster as the thousands marching about climate change and austerity, as the students who saw Nick Clegg switch sides and as the little-England Ukippers fighting Brussels’ tyrannical hoover laws.
These groups campaign on different issues, they always have. The difference now is the strength of these movements, and what that says about the cancer of disenfranchisement that’s taken root in British political discourse. It’s only recently that the Scottish independence movement gained this level of traction and Ukip’s victory in the European elections marked the first national vote in modern history won by someone other than Labour or the Conservatives.
The idealist in me felt a pang of jealousy when Tommy Sheridan and sixth form debate team captain (and award-winning columnist) Owen Jones were arguing over which result would be better for socialism.
The vote was about nationalism, but it’s also about political ideology. Scotland’s a left-leaning country whose ideals are continually let down by Westminster, and they had the opportunity to challenge that. In the June issue of Crack, we called for a leader on that side of the political spectrum that could ape the success of Nigel Farage. The Yes campaign showed us how these issues can take centre stage, and the sheer level of political engagement that’s possible.
Without pausing for breath and just days to do before the vote was due to take place, the three main parties clubbed together to promise a string of new powers to quell the rebellion in the north. It was another last-minute ivory tower debate on how to placate the proles, and that sums up a lot about Westminster inability to understand public sentiment and their role as leaders. It was another last-minute ivory tower debate on how to placate the proles, and that sums up a lot about Westminster inability to understand public sentiment and their role as leaders.
Ed Miliband used his Labour conference speech to talk about how the attitude in Scotland reflected the wider problems with politics. But the Scots and, strangely, in some ways Ukip have given me more hope, because they’ve shown how you can re-write the agenda. More than that though, Miliband was there when the rot started settling in. A vote for him in May next year will still likely feel like the best of a bad bunch of options.
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Words: Christopher Goodfellow
Illustration: Lee Nutland