Referendum

by Paul Maharg on 22/09/2014

MacDiarmid had the words for it:

The rose of all the world is not for me.
I want for my part
Only the little white rose of Scotland
That smells sharp and sweet – and breaks the heart.

In truth the Referendum vote, Yes and No, is a continuum into the future.  In that future already, only days later and even before the resignation of Scotland’s First Minister, there were broken promises from Cameron, Miliband, Clegg and others, bickering between those politicians who were earlier so avowed in their intentions.  Now they have trousered the vote they can safely ignore this scottish nonsense — business as usual at Westminster, top-down politics from the top boys, including the threat of measures to further reduce the powers that Scots MPs have at Westminster – a reward for Scotland’s temerity in forcing on the Coalition further devolutionary reform in England at a most inconvenient moment in their Westminster election calendar.  If new devolutionary powers are shelved till after the UK election then as I said here, we will be back in 1979, with a new administration refusing to be accountable for others’ promises.  Or if there are powers, they will be worn threadbare by Westminster inter-party negotiation, where Scotland’s promised future will disappear along with the West Lothian question into the meat-grinder  of Westminster English party politics. And in the meantime politicians who call for unity in Scotland demonstrate they know nothing of the psychology of self-determination and healing, only the hypocrisy of political motivation and triumphalism in which facile speeches become building blocks for superannuated careers.

But the future is far more complex and unreadable: the stories and debates and historical moments will come together again, in fresh patterns, and for younger people.  There is much to hope for.  Last year Neal Ascherson had it right in this response to Schama’s dismal accusation in the FT that a Yes vote was a betrayal of the UK’s past.   And again he gets the radical inversion exactly right in The Guardian today, writing of Scotland’s future —

[T]his long campaign has changed Scotland irrevocably. Campaign? I have never seen one like this, in which it wasn’t politicians persuading people how to vote, but people persuading politicians. At some point in late spring, the official yes campaign lost control as spontaneous small groups set themselves up and breakfast tables, lounge bars, bus top decks and hospital canteens began to talk politics. What sort of Scotland? Why do we tolerate this or that? Now, in Denmark they do it this way…

And Helena Kennedy here, Armando Ianucci here, and Will Hutton here.  Not for the first time has Scotland shown England how to be a nation, nor will it be the last.  That will be when Scotland finally agrees she must finish the job for herself, for her children, for good.

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