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Friday, 19 September 2014

WASTED VOTES?

As the world now knows - sadly or happily depending on your affiliations and ideals - the majority of voters in Scotland have said No to the question of whether Scotland should be governed as a separate country, and thus leave the "United Kingdom" of four nations. Tellingly, the pound soared on the news, and David Cameron looked pleased. Anything which makes financiers and Cameron happy is likely to be suspect.

I wanted a Yes vote, because I cannot imagine any good reason why the Scottish people, with one of the major cultures of Western Europe, are unable to govern themselves, and because I believe that he governs best who governs least far from home. Far-flung empires and federations are never as accountable to their citizens as more local governments, which are usually preferable, except where state or provincial urges tend to the unethical (one thinks of segregation in the Deep South).

In this case, the Scottish government seemed motivated by a rather benign sense of national quality, and, after 300 years of being essentially run from London, despite devolution offers and options, a Yes vote promised a great and good change.  Idealistic, hopeful and optimistic, true, but backed up by some offshore oil, and a plan to cut Trident, a nasty thing.

Anyway, here we are - a strong vote for the mediocrity of the status quo - and, despite 45% of the population daring to dream big, Scotland is a smaller and less interesting place today than it was yesterday, if only because its options have rather collapsed overnight.  There has been a lot of talk about how impressively this revolution was bloodlessly managed, except, in the end, it wasn't one.  Instead, it was recapitulation.  It was cap in hand time.  Instead, we are told great change will come anyway - "Home Rule for Scotland".  Which is a 19th century idea that Ireland would have got had there not been a first world war. There are not many Canadians or Australians who would want to go back to Home Rule or Dominion status.

It may be geography that allowed Canadians to become what the Scottish seem incapable of becoming - independent, a proper country.  That doesn't mean it isn't melancholy to think about.

I am sure Scotland as a nation among four in a united kingdom punches above its weight - but who wants to punch and be punched? There was a destiny calling, and the call went unanswered.  It is nice to know that over 80% of those who could vote came out, but less nice to consider that many who roared out of their homes and flats and offices to the polls did so not to create an historic, once in a lifetime, peaceful new country, but instead, to protect their pensions, mortgages, and salaries.

In short, money fears robbed the Scottish of their chance to grab for the brass ring.  I rather suspect the children of these voters will regret the austere practicalities that crushed the great dream. But this is just a Scottish-Canadian poet who has become British speaking. I tend to be impractical, because the great inventions come from daring to risk all, or much.

Editor's note: since writing this, Alex Salmond has resigned as First Minister.  I find this very solemn and sad.  Salmond has been a visionary and offered the Scottish nation the greatest gift of all - true freedom and independence, and his sweet fatherhood was rejected.  In time, his vision and his campaign will be seen as a great moment in British history.
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