Those 6 election results:
1992 (Clune Brae): 855 (47.4%). Elected (pre-STV system).
1999 (Inverclyde Six): 885 (56.3%). Elected (pre-STV system).
2003 (Inverclyde Six): 661 (51.3%). Elected (pre-STV system).
2007 (Inverclyde East): 2,122 (30.1%). Elected 1st round. 1st seat.
2012 (Inverclyde East): 1,607 (28.7%). Elected 1st round. 1st seat.
2017 (Inverclyde East): 953 (21.56%). Elected 2nd round. 3rd seat.
I try to be magnanimous. Really, I do. But there are times I wonder: do the people who campaigned for Scotland to stay in the UK truly have any conception of what we independence campaigners felt this time three years ago?
I’m sure some simply view it as another electoral victory, just like an election. Others may have an understanding, but don’t care: as long as they won, it’s ok. There are probably others who know all too well, and actually enjoy the fact 1.7 million Scots were utterly, completely heartbroken on the 19th of September 2017. Thus, even when they went from 53 pro-UK MPs to 3 less than a year later, the SNP have resoundingly & convincingly won the largest percentage of the vote in every election since 2014, they insist on reminding us: don’t forget, you’re still British.
Yet what of the people who truly made that possible – those ordinary Scots who voted against independence?
To those who enjoyed our pain, who effortlessly & unflinchingly lied to pensioners & EU citizens and everyone who the UK government had no interest in protecting, who clapped sarcastically at the count, who cheered with those who are supposed to be your ideological opposites, who toasted “the death” of those dreadful Nats – to you, I have little to say. I hope you change your mind, but if you don’t, all I can do is sigh.
But to those who voted No for honest reasons – for love of Britain, for fear of change, for belief in union – I ask, beg, for understanding.
Many of you felt pride on the 19th of September 2014. You truly believed that this was a battle against the bad kind of nationalism – indeed, that nationalism can only be bad: the sort that brings oppression, censure, cruelty, hatred. You thought you were saving the UK, that you were saving a special, precious, 300-year-old partnership unlike any other in the world. You thought you were saving Scotland from ruin: financial, political, cultural. But 1.7 million Scots didn’t see it that way.
This was no election, something that we’ve grown used to every few years since universal suffrage. This was the first time the people of Scotland have been asked whether they consent to being part of the United Kingdom, free from the politics associated with any one political party. This meant the world to us. It transcended politics, economics, finance, culture, everything that elections are normally about. This was existential. It was a question of who we are, and were we are going.
Every single “well done us,” “thank God we didn’t vote Yes,” “we were right,” and all the other self-congratulations are like sgian dubhs twisting in our ribs, & it’s precious little comfort when so many of the things we feared would happen with a No vote have indeed come to pass. We feared another Tory government. We feared an EU Referendum that would take us out of the EU even if every Scottish constituency voted Remain. We feared the possibility of powers being taken away from our hard-fought-for Scottish Parliament. It seems like there’s little for independence supporters to be thankful for, save a pro-independence majority at the Scottish Parliament, and a pro-independence majority of MPs. But there is one thing which will be vital for the future: empathy.
When the next Scottish Independence Referendum comes around, there is a very real possibility it will be for Yes. Demographics, voting trends, & current events regularly put support for independence higher than almost the entirety of the first referendum’s long campaign. That means it’s possible that there will be hundreds of thousands of Scots who will lose that referendum – many of them being those who won last time around. You will feel then what we independence supporters felt this time three years ago: devastated, broken hearted, lost in your loss. Concurrently, we will experience what you felt then: joy, relief, triumph, vindication. No more Tory governments; the freedom to be part of the EU on our own terms; a Scottish Parliament only accountable to the people of Scotland.
But unlike 2014, the winning side in such a referendum will remember what it felt like when they lost – and in this referendum, the losers would understand how the previous referendum’s losers felt. You will experience what we did, and understand. We will experience what you did, and reflect. Both sides of the question will have experienced the agony and the ecstasy. That’s the lesson we must all take from 2014: the humility & compassion not to gloat, but to empathise – to say “I know your pain; I understand what you’re thinking; I know exactly how you feel.”
All things arise in unison.
Thereby we see their return.
All things flourish,
And each returns to its source.
Returning to the source is stillness.
It is returning to one’s fate.
Returning to one’s fate is eternal.
Knowledge of the eternal is realization.
Not knowing of the eternal leads to unfortunate errors.
Knowledge of the eternal is all-embracing.
To be all-embracing leads to righteousness,
Which is majestic.
To be majestic leads to the Heavenly.
To be Heavenly leads to the Way.
The Way is eternal.
Until your last day, you are free from peril.
– Lao Tzu, Chapter 16, Tao Te Ching