Tom Peterkin: No lines drawn under independence

Though it politically engaged many, some were happy to see the back of a highly divisive issue. Picture: John Devlin
Though it politically engaged many, some were happy to see the back of a highly divisive issue. Picture: John Devlin
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THE No campaign may have won the battle but it has not apparently won the war, finds Tom Peterkin.

When the 95-year-old former Royal Navy test pilot Captain Eric “Winkle” Brown was the guest on Desert Island Discs’ 3,000th edition recently, the highly-decorated Scottish war hero made an observation about the referendum.


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Choosing an unmistakably Scottish record as one of his discs (Amazing Grace by the pipes and drums of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards), Capt Brown took care not to express his view on the constitutional question. But he did say: “We have had the referendum on the Scottish situation. I thought I would choose a record that would give a bit of celebration – not for the pros or the cons – but just for the fact that the whole process was over and done with, because I think it perturbed a lot of people and I think it is just nice to put it all to rest.”

As the Fleet Air Arm’s most-decorated pilot who had survived a German torpedo attack and fought the Luftwaffe, one imagines it would take a lot more than a democratic vote in his home land to perturb such as doughty character as Capt Brown. His words, however, articulated how many others viewed the political events of 2014.

There are those in this nation who find it difficult to agree with Nicola Sturgeon’s characterisation of the referendum in her New Year message. Reflecting on 18 September last year, Sturgeon said the referendum had been recognised around the world as “a shining example of democratic engagement – a referendum that, regardless of which way you voted, empowered all of us in this country like never before.”

Ironically, it is the defeated Yes side that talks about a sense of empowerment while the No’s appear perturbed. That divide was eloquently expressed yesterday in another Radio 4 programme called Faultline Scotland.

The No voters interviewed expressed concern at the divisive nature of the debate and irritation at the determination of “The 45” group to fight on. Their determination to avoid another referendum contrasted with the attitude of die-hard Yessers for whom a re-run could not come quick enough. For one or two there was irritation with their No-voting countrymen and women when they asked why No voters should sing Flower of Scotland when they clearly didn’t believe in the lyrics.

Encouragingly, the programme did find evidence of wounds being healed. Faultline Scotland did not amount to a gaping chasm, but its conclusion was that there are more battles to be fought on Scotland’s constitutional future.

It would seem that fine old warrior “Winkle” Brown, holder of the world record for flight deck landings and Britain’s first supersonic pilot, might have been a tad premature to suggest things are over and done with.


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