Last night, everyone in Scotland lost.
45% of the electorate in the highest turnout in modern UK political history voted for hope and for change, and didn’t get them. 55% voted in terror of change, but will get it (for the worse) anyway.
The No campaign desperately abandoned all pretence of being an alliance and turned into a red-and-yellow-branded Labour one, only to lose in Labour’s core Glasgow heartland and doom the party to all but certain defeat in both 2015 and 2016. The SNP will likely take advantage at the ballot box, but win only a poisoned chalice.
The Tories will triumph in the next UK election as saviours of the Union, then be forced into an EU referendum only a demented minority of them really want, and which will result in a disastrous exit from the EU. And of course, the Lib Dems were dying no matter what.
So it goes.
The 10-point defeat is closer than anyone had imagined the Yes movement would ever get until the final few weeks. As it turned out, the polls were too optimistic.
In the Yes strongholds, home to the “missing million” on whom the campaign’s hopes were pinned, turnout bucked the trend and was lowest. 25% of the people of our biggest city simply didn’t care. The unprecedented surge of electoral engagement and participation was mobilised mainly to prevent something from happening, not to make it happen.
Scotland, it pains us to say, will get the reward it deserves for its gutlessness. Having voluntarily surrendered the only bargaining chip that it’s had for the past few decades and scorned the chance to be the richest country in the world ever to declare independence, a harsh new “devolution settlement” will be imposed that will rob it of most of the gains of the Scottish Parliament, and the parties of the Union will be able to say truthfully that in doing so they’ve delivered exactly what they promised. The theatrical protestations of numerous Tory MPs in recent days will vanish when the reality is spelled out to them.
(It’s surely the bitterest irony of the entire independence debate that Scotland’s only faint hope of avoiding brutal fiscal evisceration in the coming years is to pray that all three Westminster parties DO break their promises.)
But that’s it. The battle is over. Let there be no doubt that the result was a fair and accurate reflection of votes cast, the odd isolated incident aside. That the odds were stacked against Yes by the massive vested interests of billionaires, gravy-train MPs and a uniformly hostile media is neither here nor there – with the exception of the BBC, all of those interests were perfectly entitled to act to their own benefit, not that of the Scottish people, and if the Scottish people willingly allowed themselves to be frightened and cowed they have nobody but themselves to blame.
While entitled to its bias, however, the Scottish press has beyond any reasonable dispute disgraced itself in terms of professional journalistic integrity. We suspect that without the referendum that it covered so abysmally poorly to prop up sales, its ongoing decline will accelerate rapidly. We will not mourn it.
(On a purely personal level, I’ll be cancelling my BBC licence fee on Monday. This clip was the final straw – its breathtakingly audacious, brazen, jaw-dropping dishonesty would have made employees of Pravda shuffle awkwardly and stare at their feet in shame, and there can be no possible defence of it. It’s not necessary to break the law to dodge the licence fee. In the modern age, fewer and fewer people watch TV live anyway, and it’ll be a minor inconvenience well worth enduring for the satisfaction of knowing that I’m at least no longer paying to be insulted and lied to.)
As for Wings Over Scotland, we’ll be taking some much-needed time off before coming to a decision about whether the site will carry on or not. Right now it’s difficult to think of any useful purpose it can serve. The brave new Scotland we could all have built is lost. The Scottish people can bring no meaningful influence to bear on politics for the forseeable future – whoever they elect at Holyrood will be crippled by budget cuts as a result of the new tax “powers”, and Scottish votes will be as impotent at Westminster as they’ve always been. We cannot envisage the UK government allowing there to be another independence referendum in our lifetime.
But decisions shouldn’t be made in haste in the depths of defeat, so we’ll take some time to consider it. And whatever happens, we owe you, our incredible readers, thanks that can’t adequately be expressed in words.
Over the last three years you’ve supported this site in ways beyond our dreams. In the month before the referendum, thanks to your donations and your tip-offs and your links and tweets and shares, we reached over 820,000 readers, and your donations and your work helped us distribute well over 1 million copies, in digital and print formats, of the Wee Blue Book. Not one Scottish voter has the excuse of ignorance. The information was before them if they wanted it.
That we all terrified the elite and the establishment more than it has ever been frightened in living memory is not in doubt. In the end they were too strong, and all of the UK will suffer as a result.
But let’s not engage in vainglorious denial. This is a story of failure. Our best efforts fell short. Our
nation region bottled it. Whether there’s any point in continuing the fight is a choice we’ll all have to make for ourselves. Good luck.