WE ARE STILL STANDING

WE ARE STILL STANDING

John and I, at the end of a long and quite tiring though interesting journey through the UK, were seated in the cafe of Chedwood Roman Villa in the Cotswolds, It had mosaics of better volume than quality, but even so it was of course interesting although it struck me as being the equivalent in Romano British society of what a house owned by Jeffrey Archer might be in ours.

Right beside us at the next table were seated two elderly Englishmen and the wife of one of them, having a discussion on the result of the Scottish referendum. They were frankly exultant about the defeat of the movement for Independence. They hailed Gordon Brown as the hero of the hour. Alastair Darling was severely criticised for not having made a better defence for the No campaign. I can’t repeat here what they said about Alex Salmond. They were jealous of the concessions made to the Scots and did not wish them to be honoured. I heard the word ‘parasites’ being used of the Scots. John, listening to them but watching me, said, ‘They are having a private conversation.’ I replied, ‘You’d better get me out of here, then.’ As we prepared to go, the least pre-possessing of the unlovely triad declared, ‘I must say I’m relieved we’ve won. Thank God it’s all over and we can go back to normal.’ John’s hand was firmly in the small of my back as he ushered me out.

It was wonderful being in Scotland in the lead up to the referendum. The vote was the single topic everywhere and everyone spoke to everybody expressing a range of views but it was all polite and good-humoured. Given the level of engagement – there was an 85% turnout – we were surprised that we did not see more Yes and No flags, but the Scots seemed to take the view that everyone’s vote was his own business.

It has never been entirely clear to me that Alex Salmond’s ultimate goal was actually full independence. That he has Scotland’s best interests (as he sees them) at heart I have no doubt, but I have wondered if he said Independence because then Devo Max would be a relief instead, since you were unlikely to get the whole of what you asked for. (He has of course denied this.) But if I can contemplate ostensibly pursuing one goal while actually manoeuvring for another, you can be certain that the much cleverer Alex Salmond can do so also. I do not suggest of course that he was not disappointed in the result, but I do not think he was surprised.

In the event 45% of Scots voters said Yes, but I do not believe they all actually wanted Independence. Some of them had done, but others had voted thus as the only way of jolting the Westminster government to listen to the desire for change of at least some of its citizens. 55% of the vote was No, and again although some had said No and meant it, some had been Yes voters influenced by the Devo Max package offered at the last provided they voted No.

I felt low in the days following the event, though John was proud that his city, Glasgow, had stuck to its guns throughout. I felt that the cause was just, the leader true, but we had failed to be the people. But I had also felt very sad in the days leading up to the 18th at the potential loss of our fellow nationals, and part of me was relieved that we did not face immediate drastic action.

So, where do we stand now?

The SNP’s membership has increased since the vote (without any appeal by them) by 50,000 persons up to yesterday and they are now the third largest party in the whole of the UK. Alex Salmond will resign, as is fitting, but he is not going anywhere. He’ll still be there, the most capable politician, wily strategist and powerful speaker we presently have in the UK.

So if the Scots have any sense – and I believe they do – they will return as many SNP MPs to both Edinburgh and Westminster parliaments as possible. Meanwhile the SNP, heartened no doubt both by this unanticipated show of support and the boost to its finances, will regroup and it will watch and wait to see if Westminster delivers as promised. It will accept anything given, but will continue to apply pressure for the whole of what was offered. In my view, Cameron, or whoever else may be in power, will find it impossible to deliver what they said they would. Someone said (was it Dr Johnson?) that it was not difficult to distinguish between a ray of sunshine and a Scotsman with a grievance, and I think we may see evidence of the truth of this in the months to come. Another potential flashpoint would be if there were a referendum on EU membership and the English voted to leave.

So contrary to the hopeful view of our apology-for-an-Englishman sitting in the second rate Roman ruin, the ‘war’ is not over. That was a preliminary skirmish; perhaps the first round.

One of the things that has given me greatest comfort throughout this whole process has been that there has been not a whiff of anti English sentiment in Scotland; and since the result and our return over the border, we have been greeted only with warmth and kindness.

I believe it will be in all our interests to renegotiate our system of government. We need to recognise the aspirations of three of our nationhoods for greater control of their own affairs in a new system which also recognises the rights of the English nation. We need to progress carefully towards a new position, discussing these matters between us with kindness and consideration for one another. We have been fellow countrymen for a long time, and there is no reason why we should not continue to be so; although it will need to be on a different basis. There are many difficult decisions ahead of us. But as for the bellicose sentiments of our ignorant Englishman at the next table, he is wholly misinformed. Firstly, this is not a war and we should all of us do everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t become one. It is a long and delicate negotiation. There is no going back to ‘normal’. What he pleases to regard as normal has gone forever, swept away.

Stands Scotland where it did? Not exactly. But one thing is certain. We’re still standing.

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About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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