The Scottish referendum was a curious species of news story, different even to pre-General Election fever. Normally, acres of newspaper coverage means something has happened, and journalists are running around trying to find out just what did happen and to comment on it. But this time, the story was all about what might happen (if the Scots voted ‘Yes’). And in the end, of course, they didn’t vote ‘Yes’. True, the ‘No’ vote will still have its ramifications: but now the story is one of Devo Max and UK constitutional reform. London political journalists, who can be every bit as insular as Scottish Nationalists at times, would not have paid a great deal of attention to the issue of further Scottish devolution if it hadn’t popped up as a sidekick of the bigger Scottish independence question.
With luck, the ‘faultlines’ that commentators say have been opened up by the hard-fought campaigning will be bridged by fair-minded folk from both the Yes and No sides. I want Scotland to do well: I have plenty of Scottish blood in my veins and lived there for two years a decade ago. Remaining part of the UK is, I feel, in everyone’s best interests. I also found the nastiness of some of the nationalists a real turn-off. A chippiness a few Scots carry with them, normally compensated by humour and other celtic qualities, is less pleasant when stoked up into anti-Englishness. The parochial mindset of some sections of the community, ironic considering the contribution made by Scots to the wider planet in the last 250 years, morphs into a wish to see an invisible but still very real barrier replacing the crumbling Hadrian’s Wall.
Meanwhile, nationalism – especially for more recent bandwagon-jumpers – has less to do with affirming Scottish identity via independence than with delivering a left-wing agenda for disgruntled ‘old Labour’ heartlands.
And talking of agendas, especially tactical and cynical ones: letting 16 and 17 year-olds vote at elections as well as a one-off independence referendum? It suits the Scottish National Party, but not those of us who think a little bit of maturity and life experience are necessary when considering the political and social angles of the day.