19 September 2014

Under the low sky

The wiser angels of my nature counselled against blogging today. Like a great many folk in the country this morning, I find myself slurped into an overwhelming mire of despondency and disappointment by last night's result. Intellectually, I can celebrate the remarkable franchise which the Scottish people exercised yesterday. The people are never wrong, and by Christ, they did our democracy proud, turning out in their droves, to make their decision. 

But my soul smarts today. The atmosphere here feels heavy. Glasgow has pulled on a coat of cloud, and under that sunless, airless atmosphere, folk toddle on, with clay feet. Today, it feels like we're living under a low sky. You share knowing, desolate smiles to break the heart. Walk slowly. Take heavy breaths. Order another pint. As I type, the bar's attention is fixed on Alex Salmond's resignation on rolling news. Nobody cheers, but almost everybody watches.

I thought I was reconciled to the outcome. I was wrong. For the last couple of days, my hunch has been that we'd lose, and lose bigger than the final polls predicted. So it proved. When the first Clackmannanshire vote came in, it was like opening a coffin lid. I'd been sceptical for some time about our chances of carrying the day, or coming close, till that final, remarkable couple of weeks. It seemed to me that this referendum was to some extent a premature, unexpected confrontation between Scottish nationalism and its long-kindled ambitions. But to lose was -- ghastly, and the superficial lessons bleak.

The campaign for Scottish independence was, without question, optimistic, but it was premised on an essential pessimism about the United Kingdom, how it is governed, and its susceptibility to radical change. Scotland having voted against independence, and voted against self-government, we're forced to confront that pessimism. Or, I suppose, gloomily to abandon ourselves to it. That can't be right. Nor can it be right to snark and smoulder too long at our fellow citizens for the choices they have made. The deed is done. 

A measure of frustration with the decisions of our friends, family and neighbours is understandable, and would have been understandable whatever the outcome yesterday. The "people have spoken, the bastards" is an understandable quip of the moment, a flash of feeling, but precisely the wrong spirit for tomorrow, and the day after that. I stand by the spirit of mutual understanding and consideration I expressed earlier in the week. To the victors, I'd commend the exercise of that empathy which I advocated on Monday. This is going to take us a little time. 

Scottish independence would, doubtless, have been complicated, but we're all of us going to have to contend with a different kind of complexity within the United Kingdom, to make the best of this, however much it grieves those of us who hoped for a different, and at least in some senses, more straightforward outcome. For the pessimists - for folk like me - reconciling oneself to that, to its straightjackets and obvious limitations, is not going to be straightforward. But we have it within us, and owe it to ourselves, to try our best. As Kevin Williamson wrote over at Bella this morning, trying your best is no bad thing, even or perhaps especially, if life doesn't work out quite how you hope.

Today isn't a day when longer perspectives come easily. I applaud anyone who finds it in themselves to be sanguine and composed. I don't. Not yet. But it'll come. In Glasgow today, all I can see is the low sky. Tomorrow, I hope to be able to pick out brighter specks against that gloomy background.  It'll come.


  1. Your writing has been a source of inspiration to this old geezer over the last few months and helped with my own Indy blog. Please don't do a 'wrap' - you are too good. We need all the inspiration you can provide in the coming months / years. Thank you!

  2. "It'll come."

    You can have utter confidence brighter specks will come... because it is to have confidence in your fellows.

    Kind Regards,
    Someone who disagreed.

  3. better together fell apart sept 19tn

  4. September the 19th was the SDL and other fascists, a facebook event that should have been spotted. Commiserations to all the progressives on the YES side, abstained myself, the reality is some of us have still lost all faith in politics as we practice it. Oppression is cross party, although I am leaning Green at the moment.

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  6. Oh Nil Despernatum LPW.

    You have been one of the best voices in the debate and don't you dare pack up, still lots to argue about - I got the No result I wanted, but this is a process and there are going to be ups and downs for all - we can all work for a decent society.

  7. Think, 7 Glasgow MP's are having not only to return to Westminster in the knowledge that the majority of their constituents voted to leave the UK but in some cases the majority of their supporters. There never was a chance of the referendum succeeding at this time, the unweighted polls were spot on, but the concept of an independent Scotland is no longer beyond your reach.

  8. It is now the 24th of September.

    Green and SNP membership figures are through the roof. I don't know for sure, but I'd imagine the SSP are seeing a few more members too.

    If the latest voting intentions polls are right, then we will not only be a Tory free zone, David Mundell being more of a Panda than a politician, but also see a decrease in the number of Labour MP's.

    This is not over yet.

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