The referendum held only just over a week ago, on the 18th September, as to whether Scotland should become an independent nation had many political observers clutching the edge of the sofa, watching intently as Huw Edwards informed us of the crucial result. Our country began to question itself, and fear for its future. The only poll during the whole campaign to put the Yes campaign in the lead sent shockwaves of fear through the British public as, for the first time since the referendum had been announced, many thought that perhaps the Yes campaign would be victorious.
The leaders of the main UK parties were ridiculed for their rushed, rear-guard action in which they pleaded with the Scottish voters to choose to maintain part of our great nation, while it did seem desperate it does not mean that those in the rest of the UK were smug and belittling the desires of the SNP, but simply sure in their belief in the Union and that it was worth maintaining.
The referendum has changed the landscape of British politics for the foreseeable future; with talks of extra powers for the Scottish Parliament being fast-tracked through Whitehall, citizens of the rest of the UK have suddenly noticed the totalitarian level of economic, political and social centralisation which London has been slowly amassing since the ‘highs’ of the
British Empire, and have begun to question it, as many have long feared they would. The sudden calls for additional regional devolution in Wales and Northern Ireland as well as the prospect of “English votes for English laws” demonstrate the inherent tendency of the British constitution to remain static, and the on-off love affair this country has with constitutional reform.
Is it, then, a genuine lack of interest in politics which is driving voters away from the polls? The Scots have shown, through the remarkably high 84.5% turnout rate, that
this is not the case; politics is, if anything, an increasingly important social driver. The disenfranchisement which has defined the last 20 years in British political history has been brought on by the way in which we have decided to partake in politics. Furthermore, this has fueled the increasingly apparent disconnection between Westminster and the country’s population, who have chosen to back parties such as UKIP, who, by their own admission, are seen as outside the ‘political establishment’. It is in the aftermath of the count which we have discovered that there is,
and not just in Scotland, serious public concern with where power lies within our country, and that too often it seems unaccountable. Politics has become too impersonal, too confrontational and too strategic, how can politicians claim to know how they can ‘help people’ when they only visit marginal seats in general elections? Democratic processes in this country have become too complex and layered despite major population centres outside of London, such as Birmingham, Leeds and Liverpool being left out in the cold as the mentality that “what is good for London, must be good for the country” now forms the backbone of national policy.
The No vote in Scotland was not a vote for the continuation of the status quo, as many decided it would be, but rather a vote for change; change to our politics and change to our country. It is the flexibility of our constitution which gives us this fantastic ability to question our political, social and economic arrangements and alter it to suit modern societal realities.
Although the Yes campaign failed in its aim to convince the Scottish public that Scotland was a viable independent nation held back by the shackles of Westminster, it did succeed in causing the British public to question their own relationship with London. If this is a ‘united kingdom’ then it is paramount that the cities and regions are given more say over the things which matter to them and their communities, for democracy to work, the people must have their say, and it is simply unsustainable to continue to deny them this.