You can’t put out all our candles.
If I had any regrets throughout this campaign, it’s that I was too openly optimistic. I do not regret believing that Yes would win, not for a single second – any second spent worrying about a No vote was a second wasted in misery and despair. So I put it out of my mind. But I do regret that I thought everybody had this exact same mindset. I truly believed that once galvanised with the belief in independence, every single Yes voters would be like me, and all the people I’ve come to truly love at Yes Inverclyde. I truly believed that it would be a Yes vote, because I couldn’t understand anyone who came into the shop not being willing to stand on their feet for close on 20 hours. I shouldn’t have simply trusted in that. At the end of the day, we needed boots on the ground. We simply didn’t have enough of them – if we had even a hundred of us at Yes Inverclyde, we could’ve soared.
I’m so sorry to all who’ve lost hope. But all I have to say is to look to Inverclyde. We are 1.5% of Scotland, which is amazingly close to the 1% Scotland is compared to the European Union – makes you feel a bit like Scotland in miniature. In our area, the 16-29 year old demographic is 16.6% of our population – 18.3% is the average for Scotland. The significance of this is a smaller amount of potential young voters who seem to have been more likely to vote Yes – and the Lord Ashdown post-referendum poll bears that out. Sadly, at the other end of the scale, the 60+ demographic are 25.6% of our population, while the rest of Scotland’s is 23.7% – and again, the Lord Ashdown post-referendum poll shows that the 60+ are much more likely to vote No. You’re looking at almost 5% of the vote. Or, in real terms, there are 20,000 60+ voters within the Inverclyde electorate, but we are lacking 3,000 16-29 within the electorate. So, we have about 2,000 extra older people compared to the Scottish average.
With these demographics, we were predicted to get 20% Yes. We have a higher than average elderly population, and lower than average young population. We were all told we weren’t going to take Inverclyde – we just had to do the best we could, get as many Yes voters as we could for the overall count. We’d have to steel ourselves with the reality that we’d lose the battle, but hope to win the war.
Final results? It was so close only 86 people decided the count. Out of 54,572, we got 27,243 – statistically a dead heat, to the point where we needed two recounts. Far from the “resounding” victory our soon-to-be-ex MPs and MSPs assert, Inverclyde’s No majority was a wafer-thin 0.2%. If we canvassed Kilmacolm and Quarriers’ Village (which were not included in our region, it was given to Renfrew – for some reason canvassing was done by Holyrood regions but the polling by Westminster, or maybe the reverse, I still haven’t slept much), I can practically guarantee Yes would’ve taken a substantial proportion of the No votes they returned. If you consider only the areas Yes Inverclyde did canvass, then Yes Inverclyde did win.
Yes Inverclyde tanned No’s hide, bloodied its nose, blackened its eyes, rattled its bones, fought to the absolute finish. We went the 15 rounds. They came into this fight expecting to crush us, to sail to a comfortable 70% or 80%. They had the might of Westminster, every single daily newspaper in Scotland (including the Greenock Telegraph despite its protestations of “impartiality”), the entire British media, the wealth of billionaires, a campaign of despicable lies, and the substantial support of the Orange Order on their side. We had about 20 regular campaigners and another 30 grassroots, and a wee shop on Cathcart Street for the last few months. When all was said and done, Inverclyde went from a “2 out of 10” in expectations for a Yes vote, into the 6th best percentage for the whole of Scotland. They could only scrape by with a mere 86 votes out of 54,572. 0.16%.
My heart goes out to all who’ve lost hope, whose candle of hope has been snuffed out, but mine hasn’t. Nor has the hope of any of my friends at Yes Inverclyde. But we’re not going to win based on the good intentions of sympathetic Yes voters, or moral support from outside observers. That is the lesson of the referendum for me, a variation on something Elbert Hubbard once said: “Those who say it cannot be done should stop interrupting those who are getting it done.” Far too many were interrupting us, and not nearly enough of us were getting it done. Let us learn from this lesson.
“As long as a hundred of us remain alive…”
There are a hell of a lot more than a hundred of us yet.