Scotland. Oh Dear. Where to start? There was such promise offered by the referendum – the chance for a new nation to blaze a trail and radically deviate from the Westminster status quo. Perhaps it is optimistic, but an independent Scotland could have been a positive example for the rest of the UK – as a nation that removed its ties to nuclear weapons and Trident, a nation that protected its citizens’ health by preserving the integrity of the NHS, a nation that invested heavily in renewable energy instead of relying on destructive fossil fuels. An independent Scotland would have been terrible news for England – especially in the coming decades as energy becomes less secure due to geopolitical wrangling and diminishing fossil fuel reserves – because Scotland has access to North Sea oil and gas, as well as vast natural energy resources, as anyone who has ever been to the windy highlands can probably understand. However, it would have demonstrated that energy autonomy can work.
Now of course, none of that will happen, and unionists everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief that nothing will dramatically dent the way of things. Things will not be the same though – the referendum has drastically increased voter engagement and involved a huge proportion of the population in politics. Allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to vote boosted the number of young people interested in these issues, which cannot be a bad thing. Yet the referendum has polarised and divided opinion – pushing many people further to the fringes of politics. The success of the No campaign saw worrying displays of far-right nationalist zeal, as gangs of skinheads and unionist thugs wielding Union Jacks descended on the streets of Glasgow, and twitter users reported pro-Union supporters seig heiling. The other end of the spectrum has also seen increases, but the left (as usual) seemed divided on its approach to Scottish independence. While many on the left promoted the idea of an independent Scotland in light of what it could demonstrate to the rest of the country, others rejected the idea – on the basis that creating more borders and divisions between people is the polar opposite of what an internationalist approach should aim for.
Left-wing comparisons with anti- imperialist struggles are also somewhat misplaced – although Scotland is governed by a distant Parliament with little concern for Scottish issues, it is hardly as subjugated as the ex-colonies. Indeed, Scotland played a key part in British imperialism and the oppression of people in countries like India and Jamaica.
Once again, a divided left response to critical issues has been its downfall – and represents a missed opportunity. The issues are unlikely to go away, however, and the face of Scottish politics has been altered irreversibly: something acknowledged by Alex Salmond’s resignation.