It’s been five years since Scotland went to the polls in the independence referendum. The poll might have produced a win for no, but the result merely signalled the beginning of the question about Scotland’s place in the world and not the end of it. Five years on and we’re still asking, and the voices calling for Scotland to retake its rightful place amongst the independent nations of the world are louder and more confident than ever. There is a better Scotland, and it is shimmering on the horizon, almost within our grasp. There is a dawn coming.
The Scotland of 2019, the Scotland of these past five years, is not the same Scotland that existed prior to the referendum. We awoke on that morning of bitterness five years ago. We wept. We cried. We railed at the injustice. We nursed our wounds. And then we stood up and said, no. We said that our dreams would not be crushed. We said that we would hold those triumphalist victors of the referendum to account. We said that we would never go back into the shortbread tin. We resolved that the Cringe was dead within us and that we would mock those who tell us that we are not good enough, that we are too small, too weak, to poor, too stupid. Because they are not talking about us, they’re talking about themselves. They’re talking about North Britain, not Scotland. They’re talking about their own inadequacies, not ours.
We stood and we still stand, because we had learned how to hope and that was a lesson that we were never going to forget. The campaign of 2014 taught a nation that it could define itself. That it could be open, accepting, that Scottishness has nothing to do with where you come from, or who your ancestors were. It taught us that Scottishness is a state of mind, a mind that has resolved to make this country a better place for all of us, for the marginalised, for the poor, for the disabled, for the old, for migrants and those who were born here alike. It taught us that if we want to achieve that better Scotland we need to do it for ourselves, because nae other bugger is going to do it for us. We learned that we had a voice, whether we live in Morningside or Easterhouse, our voices count the same. We learned how to stand up. We learned how to sing. We discovered that hope changes everything. That hope still animates us, still flows through our veins. It still burns brightly. And it will guide us to the Scotland of our dreams.
The unleashing of hope has made this a country increasingly at ease with itself, increasingly confident in itself, increasingly impatient with the contortions, confusion, and contempt that issue from that Parliament on the banks of the Thames. This is a country where the issue of independence has not merely been normalised, it has been brought right into the centre of Scottish political debate. It is now the question around which all of Scottish politics revolves.
We did that. You and I. The pensioner from Fife. The lobster fisherman from Skye. The disabled activist from Glasgow. The carer from Aberdeen. We changed Scotland. We changed Scotland with our canvassing, our conversations, our belief, our memes, our blog posts, our local groups, our self-organisation. We did it without the support of any traditional media outlet with the honourable exception of the Sunday Herald and later the National. We did it in the teeth of opposition from the entire broadcast media, the print media, the anti-independence parties and their pals in business, the combined weight of the British establishment. We did it all by ourselves. Because the little people together make a movement, and a people in movement cannot be stopped. We made Scotland a different country, a country no longer prepared to be silent and quiescent as decisions are made for us by politicians in a distant parliament far away, politicians who know little about Scotland and who care even less.
Those who oppose us are still arrogant, still contemptuous, still preaching that this land that their precious Westminster rules over is weak, poor, and incapable. They’re still blind to the truth that if what they themselves say is true then it is no argument for continuing Westminster rule, it’s an indictment of it. But their arrogance is hollow, their contempt a mask for their fear. They know that in 2014 the people of Scotland gave them one more chance, and they know that they have blown it. It’s not the Scottish independence movement which has destroyed confidence in the Westminster Parliament. The Westminster Parliament has done that all by itself. One by one, the British establishment has trashed all their own arguments against independence. Now all they have left are scare stories, fear, and threats.
They know, and we know, that all they can do is to stall the people of Scotland from having their say, because once we do have our say our verdict will condemn them. They can only pray that we will give up and go away, that we will get back into the shortbread tin and close the lid on ourselves. But that’s not going to happen. We have shown them over the course of the past five years that that is not going to happen. We are certainly not going to give up and go away when faced with a British state that has lied to us, deceived us, treated us with contempt, broken every promise it made to us. They can’t hold back the waters forever and we are the rising tide.
We have changed Scotland over the past five years, and we shall propel it yet further on its journey. All of us, on our mission to make this a better place. We hoped and we still hope. We believed and we still believe. We stood and we still stand. The dawn is coming.
My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.
You can order the book directly from the publisher. Ordering directly means that postage is free. You can order here –
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