The Silence is Broken

Scotland

Scotland has voted to remain within the 307-year-old union with the rest of the United Kingdom.

The final result, which includes the Highland result that was the last to announce, was 44.7% to Yes, 55.3% to No, with the No camp taking the win by nearly 400,000.

Last night saw an astonishing turnout, with the number of votes exceeding 90% in some places, and very few below 80%.

Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, has this morning given his speech, declaring that he “accepts the verdict of the people, and I call on all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland”.

Throughout the night, Twitter feeds were alive with the latest results, and even saw “Clackmannanshire” trending worldwide – something I never thought I would see. From that moment, the mood in Falkirk (where I was based) turned to ice, and threatened to crack at any moment.

As the news from across Scotland spread through social media, it was evident there was a definite trend towards the No campaign. Aberdeen, East Dunbartonshire, East Lothian and Fife were – from very early on – being predicted as voting against independence.

Orkney was one of the first results to be announced, and showed the Yes side to have been clearly defeated, picking up just 32.8%. However, for an area where only 25% voted for the SNP in 2011, one would expect Yes Scotland were quietly surprised by their result there.

Other areas such as the Scottish Borders, Shetland, Edinburgh, Dumfries and Galloway, East Renfrewshire, and a couple more also gave Yes a share of the vote in the thirties.

A very prominent point in the night’s events was the Dundee result. Despite being halted three times due to a fire alarm, the result was announced even before my position in Falkirk was. Despite being called “Yes City”, some were speculating that the result would be much closer than it was. The final result was 57.25% in favour of independence, 42.65% against.

Another big point for the Yes side was the announcement of Glasgow voting in favour of independence, with Yes picking up over 25,400 more votes than their opposition.

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 10.07.52

In Falkirk, the mood was extremely tense. Better Together campaigners described themselves as “being very optimistic”, and Yes supporters simply saying “it isn’t over till the fat lady sings”.

No-one could speculate the result in Falkirk. Journalists and campaigners nosied up to the counting tables, attempting to weigh each pile with their eyes.

At approximately 03:00 we were told that the adjudication process was to begin, which would last another hour. Of all the ‘Doubtful’ ballots that were siphoned through, 107 were rejected.

Prior to the audience and the media being told the official result, the agents of both sides were invited to a corner of the Grangemouth Sports Complex Hall to be told the provisional result. After a five-minute huddle, they separated, with Better Together campaigners beaming, and rubbing their hands, while Yes Scotland’s bunch looked a very sorry lot.

When the result was announced, it was met with a roar that broke the ice previously gripping the air in the counting hall, as it was declared that No had claimed 58,030 votes to 50,489.

Driving home at 04:20 in the morning, I reflected on the result.

Despite being a Yes supporter, I was not totally disappointed with the result.

THE COUNT: Counting began nation-wide when polls closed at 10pm

THE COUNT: Counting began nation-wide when polls closed at 10pm

Yes Scotland, and the SNP, can take a number of positives from last night.

Firstly, they have broken the silence in Westminster politics. Since 1999, we have seen the issue of devolution step down from the main stage in Scotland. Now it is the only thing anyone is talking about. More powers to Scotland, more powers to Wales, greater autonomy for English councils, the #indyref debate has opened up questions regarding all of these issues.

Secondly, no matter what you think of Alex Salmond and the SNP, they have achieved something quite incredible. They brought a democratic, fair and transparent ballot to the people of Scotland, asking if they wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom. In the past decade, the SNP’s growth has been unrelenting.

The SNP has had undulating success since its inception in the 1930s. For many, many years, nationalism was not given any attention. The first notable success for the SNP was the 1970 General Election, which saw them pick up their first seat in Westminster. In 1974, they peaked, claiming 11 seats, and triggering the 1979 independence referendum. Then they slumped, and began growing again before the creation of the Scottish parliament.

In 1999, they became the second-largest party in the new parliament, and served two terms in opposition. In 2007, they won a majority of just 1 MSP, and formed a minority government; until 2011, where they won a surprising landslide victory in the Scottish parliamentary elections.

With this in mind, it is incredible that we came to where we are today. Actually holding a vote on whether to break with a union that has lasted over 300 years is an incredible feet. And to do it in a fair and democratic way is fantastic.

Thirdly, Yes can at least take away that they won the campaign. People who voted against independence voted for just that; they did not vote for Better Together. BT has had a shambolic campaign. If they had performed well, they would have won by miles. Instead, they alienated voters with their perceived “negative” message; they were seen as being led simply by Westminster-linked politicians who were afraid to lose their jobs; they threatened Scotland with a big fat “No” to a currency union, that backfired horribly, and were seen as being too interested in getting voted for in next May’s General Election.

If this referendum had been a proper election, and Yes Scotland and Better Together were parties, Yes would have walked away with it.

Instead, Scotland voted to remain with the United Kingdom.

ADJUDICATION: "Doubtful" ballots are sorted in Falkirk.

ADJUDICATION: “Doubtful” ballots are sorted in Falkirk.

Finally, this campaign has got people more engaged in politics than they have ever been. I loved the words Andrew Marr used in one of his latest shows, that Scotland was probably “the most politically-educated countries in the world right now”. It is so true. The result was not finalised by politicians as much as it was battled out in the home. To have such an incredible turnout is testimony to the level of engagement this debate has encouraged.

Unlike most General Elections, this vote was not decided by mainstream media, either; it was social media which paved the way. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube videos all played an enormous role in engaging young people, and bringing the debate straight in to people’s homes. Last night, the highest trending topics were #indyref and #voteyes. This is incredible, and something we have only really seen in the USA, with Obama’s superior online campaigns in ’08 and ’12.

Never – except for events such as Eurovision, the FIFA World Cup Final, or the Brits – has my Facebook and Twitter feeds been so monothematic. Everyone, regardless of age, sex, or race has talked about it. It has encouraged organisation on a scale we could never have seen in a General Election, or Scottish election. People starting Facebook pages for different areas, organising canvassing and leafleting, and letting people know about stalls and events going on. Scotland should be proud of itself.

Despite the odd insult, the campaign has been well-mannered. People say they are worried of divisions, and friendships being broken – I do not agree with that. Scots are good natured people; they will accept the result, to a lesser or greater extent, and move on.

Perhaps Scotland is not ready “yet”, as Mr Salmond said. However, regardless of if we voted for or against independence, change is afoot. If the three Westminster parties do not deliver the extra powers they promised, I predict Scotland will hold another referendum within the next ten years, and there would be a unanimous “yes”. I have heard that from both sides of the campaign, and undecideds, which shows that we were not far away from a Yes vote this time round.

I am proud of what Scotland has done over the past year or so in the lead up to this referendum. I never thought I would be sitting here, writing a blog, having slept for just 2 hours, reflecting on a once in a lifetime event. People should not be “ashamed” by Scotland, and look on the negative side of this campaign. We must look at the incredible gains we have made with this vote; we are mature, confident, determined, intelligent people. Many have invested enough time researching the pros and cons of this vote to achieve a strong pass in a Politics test.

This referendum has pushed Scots into two camps, but also brought us together as one. In the end, we were fighting for the same goal: to give Scotland the best future possible. We simply had a different view on how to get there.

There is nothing to be ashamed of. Scotland has broken the silence, and created a ripple for change in the United Kingdom. We have broken the silence that many had when confronted with politics; so many people voted who never have before, and that is an achievement in itself. I respect the democratic verdict of my fellow countrymen, and I hope you do, too.

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