[The title's from Kate Bush's Cloudbusting.]
I didn’t vote in the 1979 devolution referendum for one very good reason: six-year-olds aren’t allowed to vote. But thanks to the wonders of the internet and newspaper archives, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what happened. Scotland was given the chance to vote for devolution (not full independence, just its own Assembly) and the establishment told it this:
- If you vote No, you’ll still get more powers
- If you vote Yes, you’ll lose the Linwood car plant, the mines, the shipyards and the steelworks
Scotland voted Yes anyway, but the government decided that too few Scots had voted, so that meant No.
Scotland didn’t get more powers.
It didn’t get to keep the industry either.
As a schoolboy, I watched what happened to my home town when the steelworks shut down and all the businesses it supported, from taxis to restaurants, shut down too. Friends’ dads lost their jobs at the Linwood car plant when it closed. I remember being scared of the WH Malcolm trucks with steel mesh over their windows thundering past our town to smash through picket lines. And as an adult, I taught long-term unemployed former steelworkers and shipyard workers how to use computers for the clerical jobs that they and I knew they would never get.
Thirty five years later we’re told that if we vote No, we’ll still get more powers. And we’re told that if we vote Yes, we’ll lose countless jobs, what’s left of the shipbuilding industry and everything else of value.
I’m getting terrible deja vu. The images in this post are from 1979 (courtesy of the Scottish Political Archive), but design aside the poster could be from Better Together and the article from this week’s newspaper.
I’m not an SNP supporter (or a supporter of any other party) and as a part-English, part-Irish, part-Welsh Scot I’m as British as they come. But as a result of lots and lots and lots of research, I’ve gone from a definite No to an enthusiastic Yes. I’m enthusiastic because I’d like to see us become a key player in renewable energy, to see the money we currently spend on nuclear weapons spent on things that really matter, to have a political system that’s more representative, to invest our oil and gas revenues rather than squander them. I could go on, but you get the idea.
I don’t think it’ll be perfect. I’m sure there will be problems to overcome and challenges to face. But I also believe that if we don’t take this opportunity, we won’t get the status quo; we’ll get something much worse.
That’s not why I’m voting Yes, though. My vote is a positive one, not a negative. I’m not voting against Westminster, or reacting against Better Together’s negative campaigning. I’m voting for Scotland. I think we could be an amazing country, and I have faith that the people who live, learn and work here can make something truly special.
We’re living in exciting times, and next week’s vote is an amazing opportunity.
How often do you get the chance to make history?
on the bottom bit of the telephone there is a little rounded shaped button that hides a secret hidden fingerprint scanner that you can use to scan your wifes fingerprints while she is sleeping at night time to make sure that she is not wanted for any crimes.
Irrespective of how Scotland votes in next week’s referendum, the campaigning has been notable for the way it’s pitched old media against new media. The newspapers (with the exception of the Sunday Herald and soon, The Sun) and broadcasters have been very heavily in favour of the No campaign, and the Yes campaign has made fantastic use of social media in a way the Nos haven’t been able to replicate. If Scotland votes No it’ll be the mainstream media wot won it; if it’s Yes, online activism deserves a lot of the credit.
Some of my friends’ Facebook feeds include well-shared images demanding everybody on social media shuts up about independence. On Twitter there are lots of people – on both sides – urging everybody to “STFU”. “It’s tediously boring,” one says. “I’m all about democracy and using your vote but SERIOUSLY please just all shut up. Overkill.”
I understand the feeling. The independence campaign has been running for two years now, and over the last wee while both sides have been increasingly vocal. The result is that people I follow for one reason – because they’re friends, because I like their books or their music, because I’ve worked with them – are now posting political content, which isn’t what I followed them for.
When it’s content I don’t agree with, it feels a bit like being harangued by the Fast Show’s religious evangelists, ridiculous characters who try to turn every conversation into one about Jesus.
The thing is, though, most of the content people share on social media isn’t content I’m interested in. I don’t give a flying shite about TV talent shows or baking competitions, about football or the festivals I didn’t go to, about music I don’t like or memes I’ve seen a thousand times before. I’m quite sure many of my friends don’t want to know about my music or journalism or the hilarious thing my kids did today.
I don’t get angry about that stuff. I just ignore it, and if it gets too much, if I find that people are constantly posting stuff I don’t want to see, I mute it or hide it or in extreme cases, unfollow or unfriend them.
I understand the annoyance, I do, but this is really important, and really positive – especially when most of the national media is letting us down so badly. As my wife put it:
I’m incredibly grateful for the internet and social media. Less that 100 years ago women didn’t even have the vote and now we have a voice and a place where we can share information and engage with other people’s opinions – and then, decide for ourselves how to vote.
If people are doing the cloth-eared evangelist thing and trying to bring indy into irrelevant topics then of course that’s very rude, but if people are responding to political posts and attempting to engage and debate that’s a fantastic thing. Over the years politicians seem to have lost the idea that they should be scared of us, not the other way round. Scotland’s reconnecting with politics in a way I haven’t seen in my lifetime, and that’s wonderful and very powerful.
Alex Massie, writing in the Spectator, says:
Of course there has been stupidity and dishonesty and some unpleasantness but, on the whole, the notable feature of the campaign has been its civility. There will be some fraying of this decency in the final, fevered fortnight but this vigorous political carnival has been good for politics and good for Scotland. It has also been a revolt against politics as usual: a cry, from the heart as much as from the head, for a different way of doing things.
That’s something to celebrate, not something to silence.
Yessers and Nawers in Scotland agree on little, save perhaps this: the campaign has been a steroid injection for democracy. Not just because tens of thousands have returned to the electoral register but because politicians are talking about big things at last. Things that go beyond a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. ‘Yes’ or ‘no’, change is coming. This is what politics is supposed to be about; this is what we’re supposed to want.
I think he’s right, and I think that’s well worth having odd thing you don’t agree with appearing in your News Feed.
As ever, my wife gets the last word:
Come the 19th September we can all return to posting cute pics of the kids and jokes about wine, but when your country is about to make the biggest political decision of its life, you can’t expect people to be silenced. Maybe you just need to ‘hide’ us for the next 14 days :)
If nothing else, the referendum campaign has produced some genuinely funny stuff. I’ve been particularly enjoying the spoof news programme Dateline Scotland. Here’s the latest one.
No voters are not evil. Voting No is not evil. But voting No is voting toallow evil to continue governing our lives. It is a vote that ensures every millionaire who received a tax break while pensioners freeze to death in an oil-rich country had their pockets lined, in part, by us. It is a vote that ensures every person who died within six months of losing their disability benefits was facilitated, in part, by us. It is a vote that ensures that every bullet that takes an innocent’s life was paid for, in part, by us.
Today’s Herald newspaper front page reports No campaign claims that we’ll experience “carnage” at polling stations because the referendum campaigning’s turned nasty. It’s bollocks, dangerous bollocks, but I don’t need to write a full post about it because Burdz Eye View has beaten me to it.
If anything told us that they are worried – seriously worried – that the tide in this referendum has turned, it is this little publicity stunt. Because it is designed and intended to keep the Scottish people in their place. To put the fear of God in them that if they turn out to vote on 18 September and to vote Yes, then something terrible may befall them.
It smacks of desperation, that the only way they can prevent defeat by democratic means is by suppressing the democratic process. “We are worried there is going to be absolute carnage”? Yep, I can see why you’d be worried about that. Clearly, the No campaign’s private polls are telling them things that they really would rather not hear.
Today’s other news, the launch of posters suggesting that only people who vote No love their kids, suggests the same.
Apologies in advance to my non-Scots friends, but my posts will probably contain a disproportionate amount of indyref stuff over the next 18 days. It’s a bit of a big deal here.
I’m a big fan of Malcolm Mackay, whose Glasgow Trilogy – The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter, How a Gunman Says Goodbye and The Sudden Arrival of Violence – had me gripped through three successive novels. The Night The Rich Men Burned is his fourth novel, and it’s as good as the Trilogy. I devoured it in a single session last night.
Great cover, too.