FUNNY thing our emotions. Friday morning was as busy as ever in the Wilson household. I readied for the day as my home bustled with three kids getting ready for school and three Polish men painting and fixing the place with a flair and work ethic I would love transmitted across all the country they have made their own.
Amidst the haste and noise, the BBC’s morning radio broadcast recalled the events of a year ago. It stopped me in my tracks. I have been thinking about them all year of course, but the deep emotion of that time has been locked away in the way we just do too often.
She is in a stronger position with greater authority than any SNP leader ever
Hearing the radio replay the returning officer announcements of the results recalled that eerily dank night when I felt so drained at the Yes campaign event in Edinburgh. It was clear from the first Clackmannanshire result that the outcome would be a close but clear No.
When my home county announced Yes, I shed a brief tear. It was pride in the people I come from and sadness for the memory of one of my best friends who grew up campaigning with me in Lanarkshire and who had died a year before in a desperate waste of talent, love and life, way too soon. How I wished he had been part of that campaign and all that has flowed since.
It is so often repeated that it has become a cliché to say that Scotland is defined by its internal duality: Jekyll/Hyde, Highland/Lowland, boast/cower, Scottish/British, Yes/No ... the list is without end.
It is undoubtedly true that for so many of us the whole experience was exciting, engaging and energising. For others it was all of that whilst also nerve-racking and divisive. And for others still, it just hurt.
To engage a country in constantly challenging its leaders and the way it is governed is undoubtedly a good thing. Docile populations beget indolent government. But to ask a people to reach deep into their being and choose between two fundamental paths or senses of self is something to be done sparingly and with respect to all of the realities that people feel.
Of course, the propositions put in a binary choice forced both sides to place a greater wedge between themselves than reality would ever bear out. Yes would always mean a continuation of so many ties that bind.
In turn No has undoubtedly meant a momentum towards greater responsibility for Scotland. But it is also true that there is a rear-guard action under way uniting Treasury centralism and the continuing reluctance of many senior Labour and Tory figures to embrace genuine Home Rule. Be in no doubt about that.
However, there is a continent of common ground where we can all get on with the business of reforming, improving and transforming the country and instilling in us all a sense of ambition for what is possible.
Which brings us to another duality in our condition. The First Minister knows that a decision to put the question again is more important next time for her cause than it was the first time. It is imperative that she must respect a result that is barely a year old and not deepen divisions she must bridge in all circumstances. Those who argue she is under pressure from her party and its new membership don’t understand the nature of the SNP or her leadership. She is in a stronger position with greater authority than any SNP leader ever. Her party will take her cue.
Her position to me seems both right and reasonable. The only thing that will lead to another referendum is a clear desire for one – and for a positive answer – to be clearly, consistently and broadly expressed.
Whatever events lead to such a position matter much less than the evidence required that we are ready to take the next step, in every sense. I find it hard to imagine how anyone could object to this, whatever their perspective.
What it makes clear is that the First Minister is in no mood for a gamble that risks killing her party’s cause and dividing her nation needlessly. She will wait to earn the right. Timing is everything.
Ironically the greatest factor in growing support in the country for a positive choice is the tone and decisions taken by the UK government rather than anything the SNP does.
Meantime the challenge for politics and policy in Scotland is two-fold; to make good the opportunity to strengthen the Scottish Parliament by keeping an eye on attempts to water down the process of devolution; and using its responsibilities – new and existing – imaginatively to better the country’s economy and society.
I have very high hopes for where this story ends. What we mustn’t do, any of us, is allow waiting to reach the destination to paralyse us in the moment. Too much work to be done.
And far better to recognise that the duality is within most of the people who live here rather than between them. More time understanding the alternative perspective rather than condemning it will be well spent. «