Stephen McGinty: Benefit of being a Scot & British

Release from anxiety was at the root of No supporters' happiness. Picture: Hemedia
Release from anxiety was at the root of No supporters' happiness. Picture: Hemedia
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STAYING together means we’ll soon have spanners to fix what doesn’t work, writes Stephen McGinty.

You can’t celebrate relief. The status quo rarely makes you want to punch the air with delight. There is a difference between getting something new and being told you can keep what you’ve got.

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This is why there will be no conga line of excitable No voters traipsing round George Square or the Walter Scott monument. The most demonstrable action will be the discreet pop of a champagne cork or the glug of a single malt in the privacy of one’s own living room. But the release from anxiety and the banishment of a creeping dread about watching one’s country untangle itself from three centuries of entwinement is no small thing – as more than 1.5 million of us will testify.

I’ve never been a nationalist. I did try, for a few weeks, to force myself out of my No-shaped cave and face the blinding vision of such a bright new tomorrow. But unlike the inhabitants of Plato’s cave, it wasn’t so much an inability to face change and to grow accustomed to the transition from darkness to light that kept me from moving on, as the realisation that, to my mind, I didn’t need to leave. My love of America meant that an independent Scotland was akin to a state suddenly seceding from the Union. I could be a Scot as well as a Briton, just as much as a Texan could be an American.

I didn’t feel oppressed, or starved of opportunity, and I was happy to see extra levers of government bequeathed to the Scottish Parliament within the over-arching framework of the United Kingdom. Like many people, I’ve had to think afresh about what it means to be a citizen of both Scotland and Britain and, like many, only when it seemed to be about to be taken away, did I realise how important I regarded it to be. It may seem sappy but I was touched by David Bowie saying “Scotland, please don’t go” and by the thousands of English people who gathered in Trafalgar Square to fly the saltire and state with affection how much we mean to them. Looking over it just now, that sentence sounds ridiculous, the very idea that in this cynical world I’d actually believe that people who don’t know me or my fellow five million citizens would still want us to stay close, and that their lives would be diminished by our exit. And yet I do. I now look forward to my next visit to London in the knowledge that I and the nation have chosen to stay together. Personal attitudes alter when a historical obligation transforms into a contemporary choice.

On Thursday we banished the Scots cringe and the notion that whatever happens, the English are to blame. Others will argue that, once again, we’re feart, but I think a sharp pin has been plunged into the heart of that inflatable chimera that has haunted us for centuries. We shall also soon have new powers for our parliament, new spanners with which to fix what doesn’t work, and improve what doesn’t work as well – and, at last, that piercing whining complaint that nothing can really be done until we shake off our bonds of servitude has now, and must now, be silenced or at least turned down to the lowest possible level for a minimum of 20 years.