It’s a year on from the big vote, and everything has changed and nothing has changed. Scotland has changed forever, Westminster hasn’t changed at all. Scotland buzzed with energy, with hope, and found a new self-confidence and inner strength. It wasn’t enough to win the vote, but it was enough to win independence of spirit and mind. Scotland is already independent in its imagination and in its dreams. This is not the same country that it was a few short years ago. Once the box of hope was opened, things could never go back to the way they were before.
The knowledge that that profound change is irreversible is why the Unionists remain angry and bitter, afraid and uncertain as they inch gingerly along, never knowing when the Union will plunge to its doom. They know that their old certainties are gone, they’re afraid of what might replace them, so they scream that everything is uncertain. But the only uncertainty is within them.
The Union won the vote at the cost of surrendering its foundations and setting sail on a tide of negativity and fear. Now it’s beached itself on public disgust and it’s only a matter of time before the shifted sands swallow it. Yet Westminster sails on, blythely disregarding the referendum vote, believing it was fought on Westminster’s winner takes it all rules. It wasn’t. This was a Scottish vote, fought on Scottish terms. The rules have changed forever now, and the Union sits on quicksand, trying to pretend it’s solid and unyielding. But it’s a charade, and the charade was exposed last year. The hollowness and weakness of the Union was on public display last year. We saw the emperor naked.
The result ought to have been a massive shock to a complacent parliament, a warning that it needed to change in order to prevent Scotland slipping out of its grasp once and for all. All over Scotland Yes voters made their own personal vows, that they would work unceasingly until the corrupt and unscrupulous Union was brought down. A state only retains its authority when its citizens believe in its power. Last year a half of Scotland stopped believing. Westminster ignored that message, and went back to pauchle as usual immediately afterwards. The Smith Commission became a game of deceit as the Unionist parties competed with one another to see how little they could get away with. Scotland looked on, sullenly.
We took revenge in May when we destroyed the Unionist parties in Scotland, leaving them with one MP each like the stuffed heads of an endangered species to decorate the wall. And still Westminster didn’t listen to the sound of the motor for change. That motor was driven by disgust at the corrupt antics of Westminster MPs, their unaccountability, the way in which they serve themselves first and foremost, and even when we vote them out of office they still gain rewards. Yet the very day before the anniversary of the biggest kick in the nads that the Westminster Parlaiment has received in a generation, Westminster demonstrated yet again how out of touch it was, and how it didn’t give a damn.
Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw have been cleared of any wrong doing by their pals in Parliament. The nation was devastated that two beloved politicians who’ve never been involved in any illegal war mongering at all, oh no, might have been involved in feathering their own nests on the back of the contacts they’ve made as Parliamentarians. But now they’ve been investigated and we discover it was all the fault of Channel 4 for trapping them in an ungentlemanly sting. It wasn’t that the rules were corrupt in the first place. The corrupt rules are just fine and it wasn’t within the remit of the Standards Committee to examine the standards of its rules.
After a proper investigation by men who wear ties, don’t have beards, and who sing all the words to the national anthem, we learn that being a grubby politician on the make isn’t against the rules after all. The integrity of grubby politicians on the make is restored as is our faith in British democracy. Huzza! That would be our faith that it is corrupt, venal, self-serving, and irredeemable.
Westminster has been skating on the thin ice of public opinion for quite some time. There’s the illegal wars, the child sex abuse cover ups, the cash for access, the utter failure to control the excesses of the banks, the rush to permausterity, the demonisation of the poor, the refusal to take responsibility for refugees, the peerages doled out to party donors and failed politicians, the expenses scandals, the dismissal of every single amendment to Scottish legislation put forward by Scottish MPs. And that litany of depression doesn’t even begin to detail the betrayals and disappointment. Yet Westminster doesn’t just fall through the thin ice, it smashes it with the explosives it’s selling to even more corrupt and anti-democratic regimes and it plunges in head first. And then it looks at us with a smug self-satisfied look and announces primly that it’s all within the rules.
The Union promised change, faster change, safer change, yet it’s not delivering. They won the referendum last year on the back of a big lie. The Westminster parliament won’t change. It can’t change. It doesn’t want to change. The Union enjoys the support of the dwindling numbers who are quite happy with things as they are, as more and more those who want change come to realise that change will only come about when Scotland takes power into its own hands and forces change. We know now that we don’t need the Westminster Parliament, we still have some work to do to convince a substantial majority that we don’t want it either. But we will do that work.
That’s the lesson that Scotland learned during the referendum campaign last year – if we want something done we need to do it ourselves. That’s what it means to be independent in the mind, and we’ve crossed that bridge already. The day that we do it ourselves is coming.
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