Scotland after the referendum: as things stand

By Tam McTurk
October 8, 2014

All over the nation, people are still trying to work out what exactly just happened in the referendum on 18 September 2014. We were asked a very simple question: Should Scotland be an independent country?

The one conclusion that can be drawn from the result is that when people were casting their vote many of them were actually answering all sorts of other, different questions.

Some were answering questions such as: do you fear losing the fourth lowest pension in Europe, do you fear being deported, do you fear a wave of terrorist attacks if we don’t have Trident to defend us, do you fear economic Armageddon if your country keeps its own oil revenues?

Others were answering questions like, do you believe the claims of a backbench opposition MP that federalism is not only just around the corner but is ‘guaranteed’ by the three party leaders from London? Still others were answering the pressing question of how much it was that they hated Alex Salmond.

The essence of all of the No side’s scare stories was and remains a very simple concept – unlike any other country in the world, the pro-dependency parties think Scotland is incapable of running its own affairs and needs help from its neighbours to do so. Again, you reap what you sow. A nation where more than half of the people believe such a fallacy is not a confident, happy place.

Despite three hundred years of the assimilation project and three years of the most amazing barrage of propaganda, a total of 1.6 million people took the time to ponder the actual question.

So what motivated the No voters?

Speculation is that a proportion (the unreachables) think their own country already has too much power over its own affairs. Another group (the unreached) are said to think their own country already has enough power over its own affairs. A third group (the nervous Nos) is thought to have believed Gordon Brown could guarantee unspecified greater powers.

Claims abound about various different age gaps too. The polls vary but it seems that over 65s were the most pro-dependency. Hardly surprising given the constant dog whistling about pensions.

The class divide was impossible to mistake. As the ballot boxes opened, working class areas were solidly Yes. But the No majorities in comfortable and affluent areas were huge, as was the turnout. Did Scotland just witness a class mobilisation on a massive scale?

Where and what now Scotland?

Right now, the people of Scotland should be engaged in a mass public debate about dividing up assets and liabilities with the rUK. We should be debating the written constitution, the bill of rights and whatever else the people demanded of their new nation.

Instead we have a Lord appointed by the UK Prime Minister running a commission. What could possibly go wrong? Make your submissions by all means – well not you Colin Fox and the SSP – just don’t expect any more powers than Westminster has already decided it is willing to grant.

Instead of our media following every dot and comma of the independence negotiations, we are treated to wall-to-wall coverage of the UK party conferences. The Labour leader told us about all the cuts he hopes to impose. Cameron and Boris pandered to the far right, pledging new pain for the poor to try and shore up the Tory vote before the next few bye-elections. The Liberal Democrats griped about their coalition partners.

As for the promised new powers – three weeks on and we still don’t have a definition of what 'The Vow' actually entails, never mind how and when it will be implemented and by whom. The three Unionist parties, so united the week before the referendum, seem less keen on sticking to the same line now that the UK balance of payments, its petrol currency and the repayments on its 1.5 trillion debt have been secured.

A political party isn’t just for Xmas

One of the outcomes of the 18 September result has been a rush to join the three Yes parties. It’s a bit of a surprising turn after the most invigorating, dynamic and creative political campaign anybody in the country can remember. Let’s face it, political parties aren’t renowned for being fun and imaginative.

Are the highly disciplined Scottish National Party (SNP) members of the last decade ready for a party that has trebled in size? Will the surge in Green and Scottish Socialist Party membership be reflected at the polls in 2015 and 2016? What will the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) do, once it finds a conference hall large enough to cope with its conference? Will the Common Weal ‘think and do tank’ make as good a job of the doing as it has until now of the thinking? Where will all of the non-party activists who poured heart and soul into the Yes campaign invest their time, energy and intellect?

There is no blueprint for where Scotland is now or where we are going. This is uncharted territory. How do we try to find out what the pro-dependency parties were actually proposing and then force them reluctantly to deliver? How does the Yes movement persuade the nervous Nos that The Vow in the Daily Record was just a last gasp sham by a panic-stricken establishment? How does it persuade the unreached that the status quo is not serving them or the nation?

A start would be to maintain the local grassroots diversity, campaigning fun and unity that came so close to winning last month. Join a party if you like but remember that Scottish parties rarely attract the support 1.6 million of the electorate, let alone the two million that has to be the minimum next target for the Yes movement.

* This article is excerpted, with permission, from:

* More on the Scottish independence referendum from Ekklesia:


© Tam McTurk is a non-party activist in the Yes Scotland campaign, based in Leith. His website can be found at He is director of Citadel Translations Ltd.

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