Last nights drive back to Edinburgh from the Highlands was gorgeous. North of Perth we put on the radio and Dido’s “Thank You” came on and we both sang along. It was magical.
We stopped in Perth for dinner at a nice restaurant and, while Maia was away from the table I handed the waitress a ring and asked her to bring it with dessert. When it arrived, I barely had time to get down on one knee before she had said yes and was in my arms. So that’s a solid Yes vote on the referendum closest to my heart.
Back in Edinburgh, we first went down to Hollyrood (the Scottish Parliament) to see the crowds of (mostly but not exclusively) young people gathered outside and singing
After an hour or so we are so tired that we can barely stand. Since the final results won’t be announced until 6am, decide to get some sleep.
We wake up at 5 to the screeching of the alarm on my phone and check the news to see the vote tally’s so far. Glasgow has gone to Yes along with Dundee, but not by the margins needed. Meanwhile, No has taken all the conservative regions and many of the contested areas. The final vote counts are 55% no 45% yes. The big breakaway groups for No were, as expected, old people who had been lied to and told their pensions were in danger and people born in England. There were many English people living in Scotland who voted yes – I’ve interviewed several of them – but not enough. The good news is over 70% of young people voted yes, but with so many English retirees living in Scotland it just wasn’t enough to swing it. Still, mortality being what it is, the longer term demographics for next time are promising. If there is a next time.
After a quick breakfast, we head back over to the Leith Yes office, the campaign is in spin down mode and they’ve posted in Facebook that they’re mobilizing crews of volunteers to go around town and take down all the Yes posters and generally clean up. When we get there though no one answers the buzzer, maybe out working or maybe they just can’t face it today. I don’t blame them.
The no vote was by a wide enough margin that there’s no chance of another referendum for a good long while (barring a major change like being dragged out of the EU) but with 45% of Scotland saying at the polls that they are so disgusted with business as usual in the UK that they want to leave, it will be hard for the 3 big national parties to backpedal on their promises of greater devolution of powers to the regions – even though 60+ Tory MP’s announced on TV this morning that Cameron didn’t have authority to promise greater autonomy to Scotland without consulting Parliament and they intend to fight any efforts toward further decentralization. The fact they waited until after the election to make this statement is lost on no one.
If Devolution does happen, it will have to include an English Parliament and more power for the regions of England as well, which is a good thing anyway. Hopefully the Yes campaigners can build bridges to their counterparts in England and form an alliance to win more local democracy. It’s a far far cry from the self determination and radical change that the Yes campaign had hoped to achieve, but it would be at least a small victory.
Still, the sense of missed opportunity and disappointment is palpable on social media. When we read the results this morning, Maia and I both cried a bit and hugged each other before letting exhaustion overtake us and falling back asleep. We have only been here a few days and, though we’re both tied to this place by heritage, our roots are back in California. For the brave men and women who’ve come out and campaigned hard for this every day for months like 17 year old Emerald in Inverness or Brian in Arbroath who’s devoted his life to this cause for over 50 years; the loss must be devastating. All over twitter and facebook I see posts from Yes campaigners describing themselves as “gutted”, “eviscerated”, ” heartbroken”, and similar.
On the street there is no celebration, just business as usual. It is a gray morning in Scotland and I see very few smiles on the street. Still, as I said to one of my new friends on twitter last night, the bad guys almost always win but the struggle for freedom is worthwhile on its own merits. The fight is as important as the victory one hopes to win. After this week, I believe that more strongly than ever.
Good reporting all the way through, Jed. And congrats to you and Maia on the yes vote on the most important referendum of your life.