Claire Black: Scotland must maintain change desire

Woman shows signs of fatigue as she counts ballot cards. Picture: Getty
Woman shows signs of fatigue as she counts ballot cards. Picture: Getty
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AT THE moment when it was clear the No vote had won it, I was occupied with a more pressing matter. A massive thunder storm had just broken and woken the entire household, sending the dog into a panic. She ran from her bed across our bed – or more accurately across our heads, stepping on R’s face as she went.

At first there was no sound other than the dog’s whimpering. Then quietly: “I think the dog has broken my nose.” I was at that very moment checking Twitter, so may have been somewhat lacking in sympathy. I only got the “O...” of my “och” out, as in “och, I’m sure it’s not actually broken” when the response fired back. “No, seriously, I think it’s broken.”

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And so it was through a haze of stubbed toes and hushed swearing that I registered Scotland had rejected independence. Two things nearly broken that were going to require some healing. And in the cold light of day, the full impact of what’s happened is becoming ever clearer.

Salmond is gone. Union flag waving mobs have faced up against the polis in George Square. The Westminster machine has sputtered into life, ready with old grudges and new complaints. Some things are similar but everything is different. At least I hope it is.

I couldn’t find the word to capture my mood on Friday. It wasn’t joyous. Pleased? Vindicated? Relieved? None is quite right. How could anyone feel pleased when their vote allowed, “Business as usual” to be spoken with such complacent smugness?

And the closer I looked, the worse it got. Women no voters “saved David Cameron’s job”. Scotland’s youth has been betrayed. A once in a lifetime chance has been missed. Even if you don’t buy any of those arguments – and I don’t – they don’t half take the shine off.

“How are you feeling?” my sister texted. A bit weird I replied. She wasn’t surprised. On her early morning dog walk she’d expected to be assailed by fellow walkers eager to discuss the outcome. Not a peep. Eyes were averted she said, as though one side having lost, the result was too embarrassing to be mentioned. “Abashed” was the word she used to define the mood.

And yet there are reasons to be positive. The turnout of 84.6 per cent is the highest in the UK since 1951. Issues of social justice have been boosted up the agenda to the place where many of us have longed to see them. There is the chance, still, to make things more as we want them to be, whether it was the Yes or No box that was crossed.

I’m not denying that there are worrying signs: talk of traitors and betrayal, the despondency that sets in from losing a hard-fought fight and the discomfort that comes from knowing that the four councils which voted Yes are the areas of the country in which there is the most poverty.

I felt nervous on Thursday as votes were being cast, but on Friday, among everything else, I felt frightened, scared by the thought that somehow, after all this, things really might just go back to business as usual.

The biggest threat Scotland faces, whatever side you were on, is to allow the usual suspects to move in and suffocate the appetite for change. I can’t believe many voted for that.

Teeing up a different course

Another vote which took place on Thursday (I don’t know who decided the timing, but I hope someone bought him a pint in the 19th hole) deserves a mention.

The members of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews voted to admit women members. The turnout wasn’t as good – around three-quarters of the 2,400 male members participated – but the result was emphatic, with 85 per cent voting to allow women to become members. The R&A is the spiritual home of golf, runs the Open and adjudicates the game’s rules. This is not only about symbolism, but the message it sends out is important. And it wasn’t that long ago, just a year, that the R&A’s chief executive said: “I totally believe in equality, but I do also believe that there are times when men need to socialise with men and women need to socialise with women.” Well, me too, but when there are no Open-standard women-only courses, that’s a moot point. Let’s hope the members of Muirfield, Royal St George’s and Royal Troon – three of the nine clubs allowed to host the Open which remain men only – can feel the winds of change ruffling their slacks.

Scientific dog’s dinner?

I don’t mean to quibble with scientific methodology but I’ve got concerns about a new study from Sydney University. An experiment was designed to sort the canine optimists from the pessimists. Dogs were taught to associate sounds with rewards – one tone indicated they’d get milk, another water. Once they’d learned this, “ambiguous” tones were played. The dogs who responded – thinking they might get milk – were labelled the optimists. Where did they find these dogs? If you’ve ever seen your dog eat a pile of vomit (sorry, but it’s true) you might recognise that food isn’t the right way to prove canine optimism.