Brexit: a depressing day

Today is a depressing day for those of us who believe in European integration.

In marking the day, I posted six photos on Instagram from a visit last week to the northern European city of Schwerin, where trade, religion and art from all across northern Europe has characterised the city and the people. All six are reposted below.

The Westminster government is putting all such connections for the UK at risk, and whilst parliaments/assemblies in Edinburgh, Belfast, and Cardiff may yet help their people retain those connections, in England, there are few such prospects, it seems to me.

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Brexit – what next? Thinking about the outcome.

I regard the referendum outcome to leave the EU as a disaster for many reasons, as will be clear from my last blog posting, written shortly before the vote. I’ll maybe write something short about my reaction to the outcome in the coming days.

Brexit: what happens next? Click to download the report.

Brexit: what happens next? Click to download the report.

In the meantime, the report from the House of Commons Library makes for fascinating reading (tweeted in the early hours of 25.6.16).

There are countless useful resources here, such as this note (p12) about devolution and how this situation may affect Scotland, citing Sionaidh Douglas-Scott:

It would still be necessary to amend the relevant parts of devolution legislation. But this would be no simple matter and could lead to a constitutional crisis. Although the UK Parliament may amend the devolution Acts, the UK government has stated that it will not normally legislate on a devolved matter without the consent of the devolved legislature. This requires a Legislative Consent Motion under the Sewel Convention. However, the devolved legislatures might be reluctant to grant assent, especially as one feature of the ‘Vow’ made to the Scottish electorate was a commitment to entrench the Scottish Parliament’s powers, thus giving legal force to the Sewel Convention. So the need to amend devolution legislation renders a UK EU exit constitutionally highly problematic.

Section 7 on the future options for Scotland are also very interesting for me (pp17-19), given that England (and to some extent Wales) voted to leave, but Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay. It will be for Holyrood and Nicola Sturgeon’s government to chart a course through this situation; I am confident that she and her allies in Holyrood will do this well. Her speech after the referendum indicates as much:

I think it is safe to say that independence for Scotland looks much more likely in the meantime.

Sleepless in Stuttgart, Stockholm, Stirling…

The stupid EU referendum that the Conservative Party have called is causing me – quite literally – sleepless nights. The danger that too many people, especially in England, are falling for the lies peddled by the demagogues controlling the right-wing press, is deeply worrying.

As so many have done, I grew up and live as a European:

  • my mother is from Germany, my father is from Britain;
  • I have both passports, and have lived in both states;
  • I am married to a someone from Germany who has a German passport, but has lived and worked here since the early 1990s;
  • our son has both passports and like his parents speaks both English and German fluently;
  • my wife’s family all live in Germany;
  • my parents, who both now have only British passports, have retired to Germany, and can do that because of reciprocal healthcare arrangements and the like;
  • we visit family in Germany with ease – in fact, my wife is visiting her sister in Hamburg right now.
My British and German passports

My British and German passports

I am very aware that purple passports are markers of incredible privilege in the global context – and having two means I can choose which one to use when, so I’m even more privileged than most! This freedom to travel is a privilege that I would rather everyone could share.

There have been many arguments against leaving because it would damage Britain’s interests (for example, I liked Carolyn Leckie’s take on this in yesterday’s National and Maggie Chapman’s recent piece on the fallacy behind the so-called Lexit). But it would also damage more than our direct economic or working interests. Given all that I have said about my family, Britain leaving would have profound personal consequences, many of them completely unpredictable, but it’s hard to see how any can be positive. And yet, all these things can be overcome, even if they would be difficult. For example, my parents after a lifetime of constant moving house (my father was in the British armed forces), have finally settled in Germany, but would almost certainly have to move back here – now in their mid-70s – when reciprocal healthcare arrangements end. It’s not great, but it can be done.

No, what worries me even more than the unfolding disaster for Britain or the personal difficulties I or my family might encounter is the complete unravelling of the European ideal (Jonathan Freedland elaborated on this in polemical form recently). Let me add to the family story:

  • my British grandfather (my father’s father, of Irish descent, marrying a woman from Peebles in southern Scotland, and eventually settling in Northumberland) fought in World War Two;
  • my German grandfather (my mother’s father, originally from the Saarland, near the present border with France, eventually settled in the Harz mountain area, later moving to Bonn) also fought in World War Two – on the opposite side.

When my parents wanted to get married, my mother’s father was reportedly somewhat sceptical about his daughter marrying a British man, and a soldier at that. But this did not last, and my father and my mother’s father developed a deep affection for one another over the years. My family is as dysfunctional as many, but it is also a great example of European integration, and the EU has – for all its faults, and I think they are many, as my MEPs will know from my emails and letters to them! – embodied much of that. We need structures, we need frameworks, we need patterns around which to build our lives, and the EU offers precisely that. The Brexiteers are wanting to throw all that away, and the readiness with which people are falling for their lies is what is causing me so many sleepless nights. I am, like so many of my generation and younger, a convinced European, right to my core (I often identify as European before I identify with any nation state):

We are the ones whose future will be most damaged by a vote for Brexit, sacrificed on the altar of Conservative Party internecine rivalry. That is unforgivable, and I’d go so far as to say it is a grave dishonour to all those who, like my two grandfathers, fought in World War Two and yet afterwards found ways to reconcile themselves to changed realities, even letting a daughter marry a descendant of the former enemy. Love across borders – what more powerful symbol can there be of what the European ideal is? And yet, we seem to be at risk of losing it all, in a mad headlong rush towards the Brexit cliff edge.

No wonder I’m having sleepless nights.

Better Together? Not according to Better Together’s members…

As many will know, I’m not a member of the Scottish National Party, but of the Scottish Greens.  I shall be actively campaigning for the Greens in the Holyrood 2016 elections, but in the meantime, I am very happy that the SNP appear to be doing rather well in the polls – something of an understatement! – and I hope for a substantial SNP contingent going to Westminster after 7. May.  The so-called “Scottish Labour” party (neither Scottish, nor Labour, in my view), who have had the most Scottish MPs at Westminster for many years now, have not served Scotland well.

During last year’s referendum campaign, the British nationalist/unionist/No campaign used several names for themselves, but the key one was ‘Better Together’ and was in fact the registered name of the campaign.  The substantive argument was that Scotland was better as part of the UK.  The Better Together website appears to have been taken offline now, but I wrote a longer blog about their arguments in 2013.

In the meantime, one might be forgiven for assuming that Better Together was an entirely altruistic affair – it seems Scotland would be Better Together with the rest of the UK, but rUK is not Better Together with Scotland.  After all, what else could explain the spate of stories that have emerged from English politicians and writers decrying the possibility of Scottish voters sending lots of SNP MPs to Westminster?   For example, this week we have former Conservative PM John Major (whose government, as you may recall, was such a good example of shamefulness!) telling Labour leader Ed Miliband that ‘it is shameful that Labour hasn’t ruled out a pact with the SNP,’ whilst in another right-wing newspaper, Max Hastings is being driven crazy by ‘the terrifying prospect of the Scots ruling England [that] is now all too real… [it’s a] nightmare scenario facing Britain after the Election.’  It’s not just those on the right arguing this: the Labour Lord Lewis Moonie (incidentally, I always think ‘Labour Lord’ should be an oxymoron, but…) said he’d ‘rather have a coalition with the Tories than the SNP.’ Meanwhile the coalition that was at the root of Better Together is being revived by Labour and Tories, who are co-operating to counter ‘the current nationalist threat.’

Hastings’s piece is of particular interest to me on various levels, much as I am repulsed by it.  There is much to critique, but let me just pick up one line.  He writes: ‘Like the French and Greeks, the Scots seem immune to rational argument about their circumstances and prospects.’  This is a particularly telling part of his article.  It is classical Orientalist discourse: by describing others’ irrationality, our rationality becomes clearer.  Scotland is being treated as a barbaric periphery, against which the civilised metropole must be defended (a few years ago a colleague wrote a book describing precisely this phenomenon, with the title Discourse on Civility and Barbarity – perhaps Hastings should read it?).  It is ironic that Hastings lumps together Greece (origins of the first democracy), France (arguably the first modern state following the 1789 revolution) and Scotland (home of the Enlightenment in these islands).  His own ignorance is revealing.

If, as seems likely, Scotland votes for a large number of SNP candidates and the SNP play a role in forming or enabling a government of some kind in Westminster, it will be one of the few times since World War II when Scottish votes make a difference at Westminster: in general, Scottish votes have not changed the outcome of Westminster elections, so that effectively, rUK has got the government it voted for (except on three occasions: in 1964 a Labour majority of 4 resulted from Scottish votes, otherwise the Tories would have won albeit with a majority of 1, and the government collapsed after 18 months anyway; in the second 1974 election, Labour won a majority of 3 on the basis of Scottish votes, but in the end formed a pact with the Liberals so wouldn’t have need Scottish votes anyway; in 2010 Scottish votes meant the Tories couldn’t get an overall majority without a pact with the Liberal Democrats, resulting in the present incumbents; incidentally, I suspect Wales hasn’t voted Tory too often, so actually, Westminster generally reflects English votes).

Surely, having Scottish voters’ wishes respected in a Westminster parliament is exactly what Better Together wanted, isn’t it?  Or did Scotland misunderstand the parties when they argued for being ‘better together’ – perhaps they meant the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats are ‘better together’?  Or perhaps they meant we’re only ‘better together’ if we vote the way they want us to: we should be obedient colonial barbarians, just as Hastings wants? But, but… that’s not quite what most of us thought we were being told…

The only reasonable response to be made to the kind of nonsense now being peddled by British nationalists/unionists is to say loudly and clearly: ‘Get over the referendum, please – that was last year! You wanted us in the UK – well, we’re here, and you have to respect our votes.’

——–

Incidentally, I note that whilst I was mocked on social media for suggesting some form of Labour-Tory alliance at Westminster (in November, in December, and then more flippantly in January), this is undoubtedly being discussed as a serious possibility, as the links above suggest.  As I said in November: ‘the Yes campaign members were not the only ones to have collaborated closely – the No campaign also worked closely together: I, for one, will never forget the “Labour” and Tory parties at the Stirling count early on 19.9. celebrating Stirling’s No vote together – who is to say that kind of cosy arrangement doesn’t herald greater cooperation in other contexts?  (Incidentally, it amazes me that few on the former Yes side seem to think this is important.)’

Ed Miliband is not stupid enough to go for a formal alliance with the Tories, but if the votes pan out in such a way that Labour decide to form a minority government rather than an alliance with the SNP (the SNP have said they won’t ally with the Tories), I think it’s safe to assume there will be informal agreements between Labour and Tories about not allowing the government to fall in case the wicked Scottish Nationalists gain in influence.  If that happens, so be it: that’s part of the FPTP system.  However, the British nationalist/unionist parties should bear in mind that this will further the argument for radical reform of Westminster – and Scottish independence.

Addition, 7.3.15: as if to make the points I’ve outlined here even more dramatically, here’s the cover story of today’s Independent:

Westminster coalitions: why the SNP will win at the 2015 General Election

One of the best political parody accounts on Twitter commented on Alex Salmond’s decision to stand as a candidate for the Scottish National Party at Westminster:

Most Scots, whether they voted Yes or No in the referendum, want Devo-Max.  This is not what the Smith Commission is suggesting the Westminster parties offer Scotland.  This is because it cannot: the raison d’être of the Smith Commission was to preserve the existing sovereignty of Westminster (which derives its authority from the monarch, not the people) and the principle of devolution is that the powers of Westminster are effectively ‘loaned’ to Holyrood, and can be taken back at any point without consulting Holyrood, as happened with the (energy) Renewables Obligation in 2013 (see here, and here, for example).  What the Smith Commission has essentially done is (a) look for any other titbits from the lucky-bag list (Lesley Riddoch’s term) that Westminster could give Scotland, or (b) things that will damage the standing of the Scottish parliament, and especially the SNP in the expectation that this will strengthen the unionists’ cause (as Iain Macwhirter argued eloquently in the Sunday Herald: “The Tories didn’t propose income-tax devolution by accident. It is a scorched earth policy that they believe will kill social democracy in Scotland.”).  Devo-Max, or Home Rule, is easy to understand – everything apart from defence, foreign policy and macro-economic policy – whereas almost nobody I’ve spoken to remembers anything much from Smith, except the poisoned chalice of income tax rates without the power to change thresholds.  We are certainly not getting rid of Trident as most Scots want; indeed, the Ministry of “Defence” (War Ministry is more apt given British foreign policy!) is planning on relocating further nuclear submarines to Scotland in the near future.

Some argue that the May 2015 General Election might change all this if the SNP hold the balance of power, with neither “Labour” nor the Tories able to form a simple majority at Westminster.  Nicola Sturgeon has reaffirmed that the SNP will not support the Tories, and that the price for supporting “Labour” would be to get rid of Trident (and presumably stop other nuclear submarines from being based here).  That’s a welcome move on her part, but not one that “Labour” will necessarily find easy to deal with, wedded as it is to the hypocrisy that WMD are A Good Thing (as long as it’s us that have them and not countries we don’t like).  However, even aside from such a policy issue, I’d be surprised if “Labour” will want to have any kind of alliance with the SNP.

The key difficulty for “Labour” is that they pretend the Scottish branch is left of centre, whilst the rest-of-the-UK party is actually right of centre, as they seek to outdo UKIP and the Tories.  The obvious problem with trying to outdo such racists rather than addressing their racism is that it makes “Labour” racists too.  We can also point to “Labour’s” broad acceptance of the Tory/LibDem budget and austerity plans (minor tinkering aside) and we can see that “Labour” have clearly positioned themselves to the right.  That is their choice.

However, that the SNP, even under Salmond, has in recent decades become more left-wing than “Scottish Labour” could ever even pretend to be given the policies the Scottish branch is told to support from the London head office, is a profound difficulty for them in Scotland and in the wider UK.  It now gets worse for “Labour” because Sturgeon is genuinely more left-wing than Salmond, and “Labour” simply cannot convincingly argue a left-wing case against the SNP (as this desperate internal message from one of the “Scottish Labour” deputy leadership candidates, Katy Clark, shows; see also here).  And for the 2015 General Election, the old “Scottish Labour” message that voters need to vote “Labour” to keep the Tories out no longer holds: Scotland voted “Labour” in 2010 (40 out of 59 MPs) and the Tories still got in.

There are many people in the “Labour” party in Scotland and rUK who are genuinely left-wing.  How they cope with the right-wing leadership is difficult to comprehend… except, of course, that they chose these leaders because their primary purpose is achieving power.  There is little sense of how that power might then better be used to benefit the wider population, and that, perhaps, is one of the consequences of Westminster’s sovereignty issue: if your power comes from a useless hereditary institution such as the monarchy rather than the people, it will eventually make the people irrelevant and result in a political cartel, as John S Warren puts it.

So never mind “wee things” like Trident (as former “Scottish Labour” leader Johann Lamont memorably described our WMDs, illegal wars, the Bedroom Tax, childcare and more): the real issue is that the SNP, especially under Sturgeon, is far more of a left-wing party than the Scottish branch or UK “Labour” as a whole can hope to even pretend it is.  This, I think, substantially drives the irrational visceral hatred of the SNP on the part of “Scottish Labour” and to a somewhat lesser degree the wider UK “Labour” party: there is a recognition that the SNP are where “Labour” once were, but deep down they realise they are no longer of the left, despite their public protestations.  And with Sturgeon in charge of the SNP, this is likely to get worse, not better.

So will there be a coalition at Westminster in 2015?  I’m sure that if there were a coalition between the SNP and “Labour” we would see Trident being got rid of, and a substantially improved powers arrangement coming into play, probably moving towards Devo-Max, with Salmond heading that up for the SNP at Westminster under Sturgeon’s direction from Edinburgh.  However, I think a coalition between “Labour” and the SNP is unlikely.  Whilst I think the SNP could enter a coalition with the “Labour” party based on policy agreements on issues such as Trident and Devo-Max, I don’t see how “Labour” could overcome the resentment they have for the SNP being where they think they should be on the political spectrum, even though they themselves refuse to make the necessary changes to be put themselves on the left: Salmond as Deputy Prime Minister would be too much for “Labour” to cope with.  As I wrote a few weeks ago, I think the cartel may well come into play and we’ll see a Grand Coalition of “Labour” and Tories sharing power between them: not only are their policies very similar, they are both far more comfortable with each other than they are with the provincial upstarts from North Britain.  Whilst Britain has not had such coalitions in the past (other than in war time), other countries have had such coalitions, and Britain is changing: up until 2010 there hadn’t really been a coalition such as we have now between the Tories and Liberal Democrats.  All things are in flux, and they could easily argue the economic crisis is so severe that a Grand Coalition is needed to fix it (never mind that the Tories have made it worse, and “Labour” would do the same).

Whichever way the 2015 election goes, presuming the SNP maintains something close to its current level of support, Sturgeon’s party wins:

  • if “Labour” or the Tories win a majority even though the SNP take most of Scotland’s Westminster seats, the “democratic deficit” argument is immeasurably strengthened, and any decision on the Smith Commission proposals will probably be watered down still further.  Both of these things make the case for independence ever stronger, especially since the cuts the Tories and “Labour” plan to continue making are going to be devastating (as is evident from local council budgets: 1, 2) – if you think they’re bad now, in a few years’ time they will have transformed the country, and not in a good way!).
  • if there is a coalition, the SNP can justly claim they got rid of Trident and achieved something better than the Smith Commission proposed, approaching the Devo-Max that the unionist parties promised before the referendum and that many Scots want; this would be a positive move for Scotland (and indeed the rest of the UK, even if rUK media seek to portray otherwise!) and a real achievement for the SNP.  Of course, Salmond would be a responsible Deputy PM in coalition, as evidenced by the competent way he behaved as First Minister of Scotland – he takes such responsibilities seriously.
  • if “Labour” need a coalition partner but opt for the Tories in order to exclude the SNP, they have no hope of recovery in Scotland and possibly elsewhere for a generation or more (how would “vote Labour to keep the Tories out” sound then?).  Meanwhile, the SNP can make left-wing mischief for the government at Westminster from the sidelines, perhaps with Plaid Cymru and the Greens.  I’m sure Salmond would make a very good leader of the opposition to a “Labour”/Tory government, in a way that would probably come as quite a shock to their comfortable rhetorical routines.
    More importantly, the arguments for Scottish independence would become ever stronger and the case for another referendum would become more difficult to resist.  A “Labour”/Tory government would, of course, resist that, perhaps even along the lines suggested by the “Labour” party’s Jack Straw, but would they really want an irredentist Scottish resistance movement on their hands, rather than a peaceful campaign for independence?  They’re surely not that stupid?

Katy Clark is right: “Scottish Labour” are in deep trouble.  More than that: “Labour” as a whole are in deep trouble.  She’s right that “Labour” don’t have the “right values and policies” – the problem for her and the rest of “Scottish Labour” is that Ed Miliband’s “Labour” shows no intention of moving towards the “right values and policies” before the 2015 election.  All of which benefits the SNP – perhaps the Angry Salmond Twitter account really is onto something in suggesting Salmond ‘takes’ Westminster: the SNP will win regardless of the outcome.

PS No, I still am no further with thinking how, as a Green party member, I should approach the 2015 election.  I’ll be waiting to see what happens with candidate selection and perhaps discuss the issue there…

Alliances and Not-Alliances: Westminster 2015 – postscript

I don’t want to harp on about this much more, but I do want to add two short points to my last post on the Scottish National Party’s failure to pursue an alliance with the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party in the 2015 Westminster elections (and warm thanks, by the way, for the lively discussion in the comments section of that posting – they are well worth reading if you haven’t already done so).

Firstly, whilst I welcome the news that Nicola Sturgeon is entertaining the possibility of an alliance at Westminster between the SNP with Plaid Cymru and the English and Welsh Green Party, her failure to engage in a similar alliance with the SNP’s erstwhile YesScotland allies in Scotland, the Scottish Green Party and Scottish Socialist Party, emphasises the narrow party political advantage that she and her party leadership are pursuing now that the referendum campaign is over. The idea that the SNP might continue to co-operate willingly with other parties after the referendum needs to be treated with great scepticism: the massive growth in party membership that all the pro-Scottish anti-austerity parties have experienced, with the SNP benefiting the most as they were the largest of the three parties to begin with, seems to have blinded the SNP’s leadership to the advantages that strategic alliances – and that word strategic is key here – might bring. That is rather disappointing, but will need to feature in the ways in which decisions by the SGP and SSP are made in future.

Secondly, related to that: I made a mistake in my last posting: having been away for my branch party’s AGM I missed the fact that the Stirling Greens decided to field a candidate for the 2015 election; the candidate is to be nominated in December. Obviously, since I was not present for the debate on this I don’t know how the arguments went. However, despite the fact that all canvassing is good in raising our party’s profile amongst the electorate, I am yet to be convinced that this is a positive move. What I think will really count at the 2015 Westminster election is giving a pro-Scottish anti-austerity party a chance at winning this seat, rather than the Scottish branch of “Labour” perhaps retaining it, or, just as bad, the Tories winning it. Whether my fellow Greens like it or not, this area is not like Edinburgh East and the only pro-Scottish anti-austerity party that has any hope of defeating the pro-austerity unionists here is the SNP.  This means that SGP (and perhaps SSP) members who supported independence face a dilemma: canvass and vote for a Green candidate in the knowledge that this might enable one of the pro-austerity unionist parties to win because votes for the Greens take away from the pro-Scottish anti-austerity SNP, or – gulp! – not canvass for our nominated candidate and perhaps even vote SNP, despite the SNP’s narrow-mindedness on the question of co-operation.  I don’t yet know where I stand on this question myself.

In conclusion: I remain concerned that whilst so much of what Sturgeon’s SNP is doing is really positive and good for Scotland (and indeed the rest of the UK even if all it is doing for other parts of the UK is demonstrating a viable alternative approach to the pro-austerity unionist parties), this failure by the SNP to work together might yet cause them real electoral damage.

“You can only come to the morning through the shadows”: Indyref 2014 – a No voter writes

[Warm thanks to Francis Stewart for writing this guest posting on why she voted No in the recent referendum and what might come next.]

Nietzsche tells us, “The desire for a strong faith is not the proof of a strong faith, rather the opposite. If one has it one may permit oneself the beautiful luxury of scepticism and is secure enough, fixed enough for it.” (Twilight of the Idols, p85 1990 Penguin edition)

The Independence Referendum in Scotland last week demonstrated – to my mind – the truism of this for both the Yes and No campaign. The Yes campaign desired an independent Scotland and with a fierce will very nearly succeeded. The No side (I hesitate to call it a campaign as it was by no means as organised or coherent as Yes) however had a strong faith in the strength of the union and so responded with scepticism to the promise of what an independent Scotland potentially would be.

I voted No and this blog posting is written in response to the eloquent, passionate and at time heart rending calls by Michael Marten to work together towards the next step. I firmly believe he is right to make this call and I join him in echoing it. I also believe that for us to work together the reasons why some people voted No need to be listened to – rationally, fully and without the heat and anger of rejection and defeat. Then perhaps on a basis of common understanding we can move forward and work together to achieve the future we all want and/or need.

Choosing No was a very tough decision, but I stand by my choice and I made it with much soul searching, honest consideration and conviction. My first reason was that I was not receiving proper, full, viable (let’s say grown up) answers to questions and concerns from those politicians who were supposed to be leading us into independence. Questions were being repeatedly asked but wish lists and dodging was the response – for example, there was no real sustainable fiscal policy other than oil money. There is no denying oil is a powerful and lucrative resource, but as someone who actively pursues greener solutions I longed for independence to be based financially on finding new solutions to energy use. Why were wind farms, tidal power or something that someone much cleverer than me can come up with not being engaged with as an economic basis for a future? In short, the visions and answers were precisely that – short term – and thus not tenable for a long term, sustainable independence that made great strides forward, which is what I truly desire for Scotland.

My second reason was that as someone who grew up in Northern Ireland and lived in England for many years before moving to Scotland I was very concerned about how myopic the discussion was. I have long felt that Westminster does not work for anyone who lives outside of the bubble of London and have argued many times that each country should have a fully devolved government with Westminster engaging on issues and decisions that affect the whole of the UK only – security for example. This would, I hope provide greater voice to the wide range of needs in a tailored way for each country. When the three main parties promised that Scotland would have more powers, I saw in that promise a chance for devolved powers for England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It seemed selfish to just vote for Scotland when the decision has the potential to radically alter a flawed and failing system. I genuinely believe that, just as Scotland has proven, in issues that affect them young people and those typically thought of as apathetic can be galvanised into engaging with politics and voting. It is a sincere hope that devolved powers for each country is a major way of ensuring that long term.

Combined with the above my third reason was one of a deep seated mistrust and discomfort at how the votes in Scotland were being allocated. International students who would most likely not be living in Scotland and so the outcome would have little effect on them still had a vote. Whereas, Scots living in England (who undoubtedly still had family and keen interest in Scotland) were denied a vote. It was quickly transparent that in effect votes were being bought – you get the vote if we think you are more likely to vote yes. This is not a reflection or criticism of those who voted, but rather a scathing rejection of the types of people who want to lead a country and are willing to do so using such machinations. What I am saying is that it indicated, for me, the ego behind the call for independence – not amongst the many Yes campaigners – but in Salmond, Sturgeon and others. This was further cemented for me in the reactions after their defeat – Sturgeon immediately said “I am willing to work with other political parties”, all well and good and as it should be, except the underlying theme is that of the continuation of power. Salmond I respected when he accepted the public’s vote and urged others to do so as well. A lot of that respect was lost when he then resigned, I don’t know his personal reasons for doing so but it is hard not to wonder if it was ego that was really driving him. Those driven by ego and power are not the people I want running my country and yes I realise that is exactly who we have in Westminster, but if we are to create an independent country then we need to be clear on the type of people we do want in charge and why and we were not united on that.

Beyond that I had two other reasons, the first of which relates to my own personal identity as an anarchist. A part of that ideology is a disbelief in the concept of borders, especially as they have to be policed. For me, I did not for a second believe any of the appalling fearmongering that was going on in regards to have to build border check points between Scotland and England, furthermore I have yet to meet anyone else who did. However borders are not simply physical, they are psychological as well. In creating an independent state no-one was again discussing in a sensible, sustainable and engaged way of the consequences – good and bad – of creating smaller borders. Would we flatten our horizons and be unable or unwilling to see beyond Scotland? That way leads to a very concerning view of humanity in general. Would we be open and welcoming to all – could we do so without rousing even more nationalism and appalling rhetoric about “immigrants”? I have seen little evidence to suggest we could.

Finally, I could not sufficiently answer for myself the most important question of all – why divide a nation that is not divided? Multiple studies have shown that throughout Great Britain (Northern Ireland is different so not the UK, as I will explain in a moment) there are little variation in people. Fishermen in Cornwall, Grimsby and Pittenweem have the same concerns and issues. Factory workers in Greenock, Dundee, Newcastle, Leeds and Birmingham share the same issues and concerns and so on. As a people there is a commonality, so why seek to create artificial differences where none previously existed? The only place demonstrably different is Northern Ireland and that is due to the unique circumstances involved in the formation of that country and the civil war it has gone through and is trying to emerge from. Again I acknowledge that divide and conquer is the tactic used by Westminster, but that has the potential to be stopped through devolved powers and a parliament for England.

Ultimately for me, independence is a path; it can only be taken one step at a time. Run along it and you will fall, create pitfalls and potholes, try to avoid parts and you risk landing in the ditch. If independence is to be the future for Scotland then it must happen at the right pace, and we must enjoy as much of the journey as possible with one another. For that to happen we must – Yes and No – work together. I would argue that the most important step has now occurred (and as we all know the first is often the hardest). We have engaged and enlivened a politically switched off, fed up and apathetic people and shown them that they have a voice, a place and future. Equally important is we have demonstrated the importance of grassroots. As a punk I have long been involved in activism and the do it yourself principle. I have seen it much maligned as the discontented behaviour of a few malcontents and agitators. Nothing could be further from the truth and the referendum has demonstrated that. The Focus E15 mothers group in London for example, I would argue is a direct result of being shown by Scotland how powerful grassroots activism can be.

The alternative can also be seen – just look at Northern Ireland and note that the same language that appeared at the start of the troubles is now being used in Scotland. That is evident in the divisions maintained through #45, descriptors such as loyalists and nationalists. I wasn’t alive when the troubles began, but I lived through the consequences of them. I saw and knew people who died or were badly wounded for life because they fought for their (and my) right to remain British or their desire to create a united Ireland. I also saw and knew many more innocent people who died and were irreparably hurt because they just happened to be there. I can’t and won’t forget them, but I can’t let their lives dictate mine. I have to make my own choices and take the consequences that come with them, but I can learn from what happened in my own country and work to try and make sure the same does not happen in Scotland, those lessons are actually learnt from the past rather than it simply being a sound bite.

Working together is possible. I titled this blog posting with a quote from my favourite author J.R.R. Tolkien (yes Michael I can see you rolling your eyes already). It is something that he wrote in the trenches of World War One; just prior to going over the top into the part of the Battle of the Somme he would be engaged in and badly wounded in. He held onto it for years before utilising it within Lord of the Rings as a means for a character to give courage and strength to another. It is an incredibly powerful quote because it demonstrates that with the darkest times, with pain and loss we can find meaning in life, we can find hope if we are willing to walk through that dark and that pain. Walking through it together could lead to a “morning that shines out all the brighter” (yes another Tolkien quote) because the world cannot go back to how it was, it must move on. People have been stirred and motivated; change is now in their hands.