They say you end up with the face you deserve. I wonder if the same rule applies to independence referendums.
You might want to ponder that – just don’t furrow those brows, think of the wrinkles – while we’re waiting for the last of the votes to be totted up following Thursday’s Scottish Parliament election.
After the year we all stayed home, it’s humbling to think the number who turned out may be the factor that determines the future of not just Scotland, but the United Kingdom.
Our pre-election polling had the SNP on course to win 66 seats, a slim outright majority. Others predicted slightly fewer, but still enough to get them over the line with other pro-independence parties.
Like it or not, it means talk of Indyref2 is not going away.
Another saying: history is written by the winners. Maybe that’s why there’s such an effort to paint the last Scottish independence referendum as a bitter and divisive affair, so damaging it would be madness to reopen old sores as we focus on the Covid recovery.
I get the Covid bit – I haven’t forgotten the need to recover from Brexit either – but that is not my recollection of 2014.
Victory for democracy
I voted on Thursday. Maybe it’s the lockdown talking but there was something quite emotional about the thought of all those citizens alone with their pencils at perspex booths in community halls scoring determined little Xs after so many months of feeling powerless.
I’m ashamed to admit it now but there were years when I didn’t bother. Sorry suffragettes. Disillusionment, disengagement, the dog ate my polling card, plain old apathy, there are no good excuses.
Then 2014 happened and we got all fired up on democracy and now there’s nothing that would keep me from voting on election day.
You get to keep your pencil! Best election ever
— Morag Lindsay (@morag_lindsay) May 6, 2021
It’s hard to believe how much the referendum dominated the discourse then. I kind of feel sorry for the kids who didn’t live through it.
I’m not saying it was Woodstock or anything but the country was buzzing; every office, taxi rank and baker’s queue ringing to deep philosophical discussions – and yes, disagreements – about currency, defence policy and the constitution.
It wasn’t just here. I went to Afghanistan for work during the campaign and I swear Scottish independence was the only thing people wanted to talk about. Which was disappointing, because I’d spent all that time beforehand swotting up on Kenny Dalglish, but there’s always Mastermind.
A moment in time
My abiding memory is of being in a beer garden in Aberdeen on one of those blessed sunny nights at the tail end of summer and realising everyone, at the bar, at surrounding tables, at the bus stop, at the taxi rank, was talking about politics.
They weren’t all agreeing. I dare say some of them weren’t even listening. Elsewhere maybe the conversations weren’t so courteous.
But there and then it was good humoured and euphoric and one of those rare occasions, rarer still in drink I suppose, when you recognise in the moment that you are living through something that’s really quite weird, and a little bit special, and that you are going to cherish it.
The voting split between my pals probably mirrored that in the country on September 18. And on the Saturday after, the social convener among us organised a boozy lunch so we could put matters to bed.
Hugs were traded – remember hugs – wounds were licked, pints were sunk and we talked about other things. I think that was the day we were lip synching to If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher, using a rotary fan as a wind machine, in a harbour bar by teatime.
They’re still my pals. We’ve got too much dirt on one another to risk it coming out now. I’d still vote the same way tomorrow. I don’t know about them. Maybe I’m about to find out.
Social media has consumed society on a scale we couldn’t have predicted in 2014 and it’s changed the way we interact with each other
Before you suggest I take the rose-tinted glasses off, I’m not a total Pollyanna. I accept some people didn’t find it so easy to move on, that there’s no way of telling how we’ll conduct ourselves in any subsequent referendum.
Social media has consumed society on a scale we couldn’t have predicted in 2014 and it’s changed the way we interact with each other in all kinds of ways.
There are whole phalanxes of zoomers lurking in the darkest recesses of Twitter and Facebook, eager to cry Cybernat or Yoon at every perceived slight. I’ve probably triggered some now.
I’m sorry they’re a thing. And I’m sorry if the referendum wasn’t as positive and uplifting in the circles you moved in. That it was ugly and hostile and left you fearful of opening old sores. But please don’t rewrite my history.
Because a country where people are having earnest and civil debates about the kind of society they want to live in and the best way to go about achieving it honestly doesn’t sound like such a bad thing to me.
I can’t do much about the face I’ve ended up with but I’m glad I got to have that referendum.