Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Five days after the morning after

It seems like months ago we voted to stay or go - I had a tear in the polling booth, it felt like destiny was weighing on you -  a real chance to make a fairer country - but not even a week has passed since the Scottish referendum. Last Thursday night, it felt like Hogmanay, but you didn't know when the bells would be, or if there would even be bells. I sat up 'til just after midnight but had to go to bed, woke up at six, so nervous, saw a FB message from a friend in Australia, saying, I don't understand all these Nos, my heart sank, and I turned on television to see that No had just won. Alex Salmond made a speech. I wept. My mother - I was staying with her for a few days while my stepdad was in respite care -  knew before me - she'd been up during the night. Friday was a day like no other I have experienced: a tangible grief being felt by 1.6 million people in Scotland, while 2 million others were celebrating, or, if they'd voted No out of fear, thanking their lucky stars. Worth noting, again, I think, that many of us who voted Yes - I think almost half - are not nationalists We simply want a better country, a better everything.

But there was  an 85% turnout, which is, in itself, a wonderful thing. Most of my family voted Yes, half of my friends voted No. There were interesting discussions to be had, certainly, but no one fell out.

Of course, the extra powers promised - aka the vow/bribe made to Scotland by a sleekit, panicked Westminster galloping up north when it thought Yes might just win - were instantly clipped onto wider constitutional reform - the question of only English MPs voting on English issues - when Cameron made his victory speech early on Friday morning. When - if at all - we will see those extra powers remains to be seen. I'm not holding my breath. As Lesley Riddoch said, we've been put to the back of the constitutional queue.

I read so much before and after the 18th, it has all blurred into one, but I thought this was a good article by Jonathan Freedland, the day after.  Also enjoyed this yesterday, by Iain Macwhirter.  I am gutted we didn't get independence, but the referendum was a fascinating event to live through and I will keep my polling card forever. I do believe that politics in the UK will never be the same again. SNP membership has doubled since the result on Friday. The Greens and Scottish Socialist Party are enjoying increases too. Labour is standing in the corner in disgrace for its part in joining with Team Tory to scare the bejesus out of us if we voted Yes.

My stepdad came home from respite on Monday and my mother asked him what he thought of the referendum  results. He replied, What referendum?  Knocking his forehead with his knuckles, he said to me: My brain is mud. My intelligence is still here, but my memory is not. He had a postal vote, but has no recollection.  Later, as he poured himself a wee whisky, he shouted through from the kitchen, Where is Arran?

I've had a *horrible* few days of illness, classic ME, and was mostly in bed for three days (tweeting from my pillow). Thirty years on, this is beyond a fucking joke. Still, on Monday I had an hour in my parents' garden reading, an Indian summer indeed (though it's dark now by half seven).

The article in the photo is from The Sunday Herald - the only newspaper to back independence - well worth reading, by Paul Hutcheon. And I ordered 'Autobiography of an Unknown Indian' by  Nirad C Chaudhuri after reading Ian Jack's very interesting pre-Indyref article last week: Is This the End of Britishness?  Personally,  while I love some things about Britain - our precious NHS - increasingly under threat - is a gem of gems - I've never felt particularly British. I feel Scottish, emotionally and psychologically, though my outlook by default is international. My mother is Scottish, my late father was an Indian-born Pakistani (I'm slowly exploring my Pakistani side, such as it is, in my current writing project). My stepfather is Danish, my sister-in-law is German. My most meaningful longterm relationship has been with someone not from UK. Moreover, the referendum to me was not about Britishness or Scottishness, or anti-Englishness - the worst accusation slung around by media - it was about fairness and social justice. I knew we weren't going to wake up in Norway, but a Yes vote would have surely given us the template for a more equal society.
I'm home now and desperately hoping the baby squirrels haven't been hurt by the ever-present, prowling gangster neighbourhood cats. And I just love the poem 'The Morning After' by Christine de Luca: here it is being recited by Scottish 16 and 17-year-olds, first-time voters. Indeed, 'there are dragons to slay whatever happens'.

And here are the results in full. But, as Jonathan Freedland above said, 'When close to half the population of a nation inside a union wants to break away, the state of that union is not strong. It is fragile'.

There are, for sure, interesting times ahead.

*Update And this by Gerry Hassan worth reading too.


Martin McCallion said...

Nice piece. Carol Ann Duffy's poem was good, too. It was on the front page of Saturday's Guardian, and I wondered how often a major newspaper has printed a poem on the front page.

nmj said...

Thanks, Martin. Yes, I tweeted Duffy's poem on front of Guardian at weekend. It feels comforting to have poetry at this time. I also read your own pieces on indyref - before and after - with interest.

I have also wondered if I would have felt differently if I was living down south just now - or even abroad - my feeling - just from social media - is that Scots not in Scotland feel more nostalgic, in general, about the Union, but I could be totally wrong!