SCCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: We need to unite and hold Westminster to account, writes Stephen Jardine
Just before 6am on 12 September 1997 I stood on Calton Hill in Edinburgh and prepared to present GMTV live from Edinburgh. Our top story was the news that Scotland had just delivered a resounding vote in favour of devolution.
As the seconds ticked down to going on air, a black cab rattled up the hill and stopped near us. I thought it was a guest for the programme but instead a man jumped out, ran to the side facing Leith and screamed at the top of his voice “Freedom”.
If his enthusiasm was dampened by the reality of what followed, I can’t begin to imagine how he is feeling today.
Along with nearly half the nation, I’m sure he will be downcast and bitterly disappointed. No-one likes to come second, especially when so much is at stake.
I’ve voted in every election since I received the vote but sometimes it has been a depressing experience. At the last European elections, the staff at my polling station had to break off reading paperbacks to give me a ballot paper. With a turnout of just 33 per cent, I’m not surprised they were as bored as the electorate.
In contrast, Thursday delivered a whopping 84.59 per cent turnout. That is the most encouraging aspect of the referendum.
The engagement showed Russell Brand’s rant about apathy, and not voting, to be the trite nonsense it was. People haven’t given up on politics. Politics just needs to matter to them and the big challenge facing politicians is to carry that forward to future elections.
Alex Salmond has been statesman-like in defeat as he was throughout this campaign. He recognises a silent majority simply didn’t share his vision or his belief. His supporters can blame that on big business, media scare tactics and even Nick Robinson but that is to denigrate voters just because they don’t share your view.
None of us will live our lives always getting the political outcome from elections we want, but that is the nature of democracy and the measure of our maturity as a nation is how we cope with an outcome we don’t want, and deal with our neighbours who wanted something different.
One of the saddest things I’ve heard in the last 24 hours was an 18-year-old Yes supporter who was interviewed in the early hours of Friday morning. In tears, she said she was devastated and would never vote again as a result.
Bringing her back to the ballot box depends on Scotland uniting in the days and weeks ahead, and London-based politicians delivering on the promises they have made.
No change is not an option. Where deprivation is at its worst in Scotland, the calls for something different were loudest.
We need the levers to deal with that while respecting the united wish of the majority.
Politicians need to deliver but it’s also down to every single one of us to show Scotland isn’t just for polling day, it’s for life.