I just know that something good is gonna happen

[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.

The Herald, Feb 28th 1979As 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?





0 responses to “I just know that something good is gonna happen”

  1. > Scotland voted Yes anyway, but the government decided that too few Scots had voted, so that meant No.

    This is not true. The stipulation that 40% of the electorate had to vote for the act to be binding was built into the act in 1978, before the referendum. So Scotland went into the referendum knowing what condition had to be met, so those Scots who stayed at home knew what the effect of a non-vote was likely to be. The government did not, as you imply, decide after the referendum as a retrospective excuse that too few Scots had voted.

  2. Gary Marshall

    Bad wording on my part. The turnout thing, as you say, was an amendment made before people voted.

  3. David

    Sort of related, but I think interesting.

    In my area at work today there are 10 people. Most of them don’t hate their jobs as much as I do. (2 are just starting new jobs within the contract, so are quite positive about work) Every single one of them is going to lose their jobs in the event of a Yes vote. (We’re about almost 100% sure of this, but not on the timescale. It may be quite quick)

    1 is No. 2 are undecided but leaning to Yes and the other 7 are Yes. Ages are between 25 and 55. About half have kids. 9 are male and 1 female (who is one of the undecided) I wouldn’t class any of them as a rabid Nationalist either.

  4. g24

    I have some random and not so coherent thoughts on this:

    As with most democratic processes, a majority of the people voting have very little understanding of the consequences of what they are voting for. Scary.

    The de-industrialisation of the seventies happened because those heavy industries were not viable or sustainable. Sadly it was inevitable, a consequence of an evolutionary shift in modern world economies. How this was handled and why it wasn’t prepared for is another matter. People, just don’t harbour grudges over this.

    There are so many unknowns here it’s frightening; is Scotland’s EU membership really assured after independence? Will work permits and visas be required? And, and… so much of this has already been discussed but much of it is still unknown and untested. In life, taking chances is usually a good thing: if it works out, that’s great. If it doesn’t, you learn and you become stronger and wiser. In the case of Scottish independence, however, the ‘learn’ and ‘undo’ buttons might be out of reach.

    Scotland is rich in natural resources and I’m not just talking about Whisky. Freedom to make the most of all that potential is a big tick in the yes box for sure. What irks me enormously about our energy policy down here is that between England and Wales there is a colossal source of reliable, renewable energy – the Severn estuary – yet we choose to build horrifically expensive and potentially lethal French nuclear reactors instead – and not far from the Severn estuary!

    Whatever your feeling on this, FFS, don’t make your vote a protest vote.

    “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.” – Huge respect due for that…

    I have some good and well respected friends who hail from north of the border and the wise ones say no. If I were in a position to vote myself, I still don’t know which side I’m on, mainly because the fear would be greater than the hope…

    Your base (untainted by emotion) instinct is powerful and surprisingly reliable, what is it telling you?

    Disclosure: I’m British/English, distantly Scottish, philosophically an apolitical Pantheist world citizen. Yep, that confuses me too.

  5. Gary

    Hey, great comment :)

    > Your base (untainted by emotion) instinct is powerful and surprisingly reliable, what is it telling you?

    Instinct tells me we can and should vote Yes. I think it’ll cause a lot of upheaval and it certainly won’t deliver utopia, but I think in the long term Scotland would be better as an independent country. There are lots of ifs there – our politicians could be as corrupt/useless as the current lot; our media could be as tame and biased as the current lot, etc – but I think even in the worst case scenario we’d do okay. We are a rich country in very many ways.

    I saw it put quite well online earlier: assume both sides are lying. What can you do about it if that’s true and the promises aren’t delivered? If we vote Yes, we can change our government in 2016, or 2020, or 2024, or… but if we vote No, we’re stuck with that decision for a generation. While we’ve been focusing on the polls up here, polls down south show 49% support for the conservatives and UKIP combined. That, plus the obvious revolt that’s brewing over the promises of more powers, means there’s next to no chance of the No ‘vow’ meaning anything.