I think we’re all supposed to be cock-a-hoop in contrast to the expected deflation of defeat as we were supposed to grub around for some vestige of consolation. Personally, I’m not dancing in the street yet but I am buoyant and confident of where Yes is leading and if this is second prize, I’m happy with silver.
A burgeoning engagement, new media, astonishing membership stats and a pervasive mood music of positivity is infecting everyone – we are all lit up in vivid colours while Unionism fades into monochrome. I can’t think when a leadership contest for Labour caused so few ripples, so much indifference.
From now on the darker elements of our politics which have become stuck in the repeating echo chamber of cynicism will tell us the optimism will fade, the branch meetings will decline, disillusion will follow, the polls will narrow, Murphy will win and the dreary conventional formula of machine politics and media compliance will gather pace.
Maybe. I’ve been wrong before. I was wrong about the referendum result and I was only partly right that there would be a sympathy vote for Alex Salmond after a respectable defeat. But I didn’t foresee just how energised we would be.
Ridiculously, we are in a quiet period. Post-vote there was bound to be a lull and we are now in the dark days of winter with holidays and current affairs fallow periods ahead. Yet with the SNP conference and the new leadership there is a continuing platform, Labour will produce a wee hiatus in December and the travails of Miliband are morbidly fascinating – and as predictable as Jingle Bells playing in Debenhams mid-November.
I have a caveat though…I am uneasy at casual talk of a second referendum.
This is not how democracy works. First comes the vote and the result. Then comes the acceptance. The people have spoken. That is, just for the record, the Scottish people in a deluge of 85 per cent from the Northern Isles to the Border. The referendum is over and the referendum issue is laid to rest until circumstances change.
I don’t believe this is a time question as in waiting for five or 10 years for it to return as postulated in a poll this week. This is an events question because only an undeniable and ground-shifting change in circumstance can justify a second vote.
To argue otherwise isn’t just anti-democratic, it is anti-Scottish. The 55 per cent are our countrymen.
For my taste there are far too many assertions that it will magically come round again as if No voters are already filled with regret. Maybe they are but hell mend them. The answer is not to pretend September was a mistake or we weren’t quite ready or the Unionists lied. (Of course they lied. This is the British state – it’s in the DNA. And if any adult Scot couldn’t tell that was happening, they were either too dim to merit the vote or would vote No regardless of the facts). The answer is to say out loud: The referendum settled the debate.
There is no longer a mandate in winning half the Scottish Westminster seats. It was, pre-devolution, the benchmark that was set by the SNP but it was trumped by the referendum, the internationally acknowledged method which leaves no doubt about the electorate’s intention. Any process less than a Yes/No referendum will henceforth lack legitimacy. The UDI brigade are also shouting down an empty tunnel. Bald statements of sovereignty apply when a nation is oppressed and denied access to democratic solutions. And what is independence anyway without international recognition – which would be denied while London resisted.
There is another reason why strident claims of indyref2 should be put on mute. They are troubling the No Scots who look on in wonder at how their victory is being treated like a scrag-end, a threadbare, unloved thing despised as soon as it entered the world. This has the effect of painting what we regard as a glorious, reforming democratic movement as demagogic and intolerant, hell-bent on getting its own way no matter what the rules say. It also turns them away from us rather than inviting them in to think again. If there ever is to be a future vote, we will need a significant number of them to get on side and to do that they must not only buy the arguments but feel at ease in our company. The affront Yes people feel about the shredding of the Vow is the same emotion No people feel about demands for a re-run.
Judgement on Unionism and the Smith process will be played out in the elections of the next two years and there is no doubt in my mind that an abject failure by Smith allied to a Tory-led Euro referendum would constitute a change of circumstance that would justify unwrapping the referendum package a second time. But that is for then not for now.
Hurt as I am by the outcome and – at times mad with anger at the No folk – I believe we live or die by democracy and that in time it is democracy that will frame the next step. The Unionists traduced the ethos of our democracy by their behaviour in the campaign but we are in danger of dishonouring it ourselves with reference to another referendum. If it is to be, then it will happen through events and a sense of democratic outrage. It should not be openly talked about it now.