When I awoke around 6:30am on Friday the 19th of September I knew without checking that we had lost. Traffic passed by – no more than usual – an occasional voice echoed along the streets, birds whistled on the roof above the flat. No singing, no shouting, laughing or chanting.
It took another 20 minutes before I could look at my phone for confirmation, a simple message from a friend that said, ‘Colin, wtf?!’
By 9am I was on my way out of Glasgow and heading for the west coast for the weekend. Given the events that took place in the city later on that day, I’m glad I stuck to my no vote contingency plan.
We can’t dwell on what we’ve lost or what could have been, we have to consider what we are left with, what the United Kingdom is and what that means to us.
The joy and exuberance witnessed in George Square in the days before the vote had been usurped by a violent British nationalism. This was no celebration of unity, rather it was a nasty, hate filled exhibition of triumphalism and intolerance dressed in red, white and blue, more akin to the football violence of the eighties than the conclusion of a referendum vote. Nazi salutes, taunts and assaults were the order of the day for a gathering organised on Facebook, advertised by Britain First and somehow completely missed by the security services who, we were told, will keep us safe if we stay together.
The Union Jack is a flag of convenience for these people; it is their team colours and our national flag is the opposition, even to those who were born and bred in Scotland. Tearing a saltire from a young girl was not a political statement, it was reminiscent of a mindless soccer casual stripping another supporter of their scarf; to attribute a deeper sense of loyalty and belief in nation to such behaviour is insulting. They have no real allegiance to the idea of countries united under one flag but that same union made them what they are.
It’s doubtful even in Thatchers most fevered dreams would she imagine a Britain that has lurched so far to the right. To achieve wealth and position through nefarious, unethical or immoral actions is acceptable, to be poor, disadvantaged or vulnerable is tantamount to criminality; the state and the media complicit in fostering the lie. No attempt is made to address divisions in our society because as individuals or small groups we cannot force change. Xenophobia is now a reasonable and supported political ideology, corporate collusion with government raises no eyebrows in the press and fear is the currency of control.
It is fear that defines the nature of the United Kingdom today. Fear won the no campaigns victory over independence; fear of loss of earnings, fear of isolation, fear of attack, fear of change and perversely, fear of poverty.
Fear of those who seek to do us harm enables successive governments to impose restrictions on ordinary citizens, to change laws and to embark on expensive and ill conceived military ventures. Fear of extremism begets it’s own reactionary extremism; bomb the ragheads, send them back to their own country, vote UKIP.
Anger and hatred are the ultimate consequence of a perpetual state of fear. Anger at those we perceive to unjustly have more than us, hatred of minorities and those the press choose to demonise. It leaves a fractured and disparate nation while those at the top reap the benefit of an unfocused population.
I want no part of it.
Almost half of Scotland rejected this philosophy of fear in favour of a future where hope and ambition can flourish. The pain felt by many on the 19th has transformed into a desire to continue the journey. It is a chaotic ensemble of individuals and groups seeking to define their direction and purpose post referendum and hopefully will, in time, become a network of coordinated actions and activists. Many have joined political parties for the first time in their lives, others have committed to seeking change through local groups and organisations. A result that so easily could have killed the renewed vigour and passion of our country has instead galvanised us into action. It is a wonderful thing to behold.
We may still be part of the United Kingdom but that does not mean we cannot behave as though we are already independent. We can show the world that we are different, that we do not fear change, that we embrace diversity and reject hatred, that we will elect politicians who share our ideals.
We can show the world that we are not the United Kingdom, we are Scotland and we are not the same.