Indyref 2: Aulder, Wiser, Kinder
Hou true is this o the independence referendum, eh? Just when ye think yer wound o auld has healed, some red-top rag or anither will dredge up the pyne o it aw over again, an ye’ll feel it, aw at yince, in a hale new wey. See, a majority o Yes Voters are different people nou than they were back then. Aulder. Wiser. An if we had oor time again, ah jalouse maist o us wad dae it a wee bit differently. No that ye’d ken frae the wey we’re makkit oot tae be. It seems ilka news ootlet has got an opinion on whit Yes Voters are thinkin nouadays. Whit we’re plottin. Hou we’re feelin. In a climate whaur radge speculation aboot the mind o a Yes voter is a staple diet o the media, houaniver, there’s wan thing we can aw agree on. Hou we felt when we foond oot Scotland had votit Naw. It wis like the hert hid drapt oot o us aw, yin bi yin, a dreidfu wrench o grief in the pit o oor bellies that left us depleted o aw joy – for a whilie, onygates.
Whaur were ye, when ye heard the news? It’s a haird questions to answer, is it no? It’s a question that’s been speired amang ma circle o freends a hunnert times, an answered a hunnert weys anaw. Ye willnae get telt whaur a person wis when they fund oot, wioot bein telt whit they felt, whit they did, whit they became, acause o whit had happened. It’s a Russian doll o a question, an it’s yin that e’en nou, is difficult tae answer wioot emotion – whether ye votit Aye or Naw.
Ah votit Aye, an for me, findin oot the result meant hidin unner a quilt, greetin, in the wee sma oors. We’d a YES saltire hingin ootside the windae that nicht. Ah heard a howl gaun oot in the dark street ootside oor hoose. Couldnae tell if it wis o joy or pyne. Luiked oot tae see. Saw the flag insteid. An burst oot greetin aw o’er again. Ah tried tae bring the flag back in. It flauchtered doon insteid, sailin like priceless silk loosed intae the mirkenin dark. Ah felt bereft. Ma husband ran oot tae fetch the flag in his smaw clathes. It wis ower much for me. We still hae it in the press. The badges anaw.
Ah bumped intae yin o ma freends in a hospital waitin room the ither day an had nae choice but tae speak tae her. Forced tae choose atween pretendin we didnae ken each ither, an givin in tae social niceties, we hid a wee blether aboot the referendum, which had been the last time we’d spoken at aw. She’d votit Naw, an we’d lost touch efter an awkward message exchange on Facebook aboot hou she wis votin. Sad but true. Like awbody, ah’d a hale wide rainbow o emotions durin the indyref. Emotions sae pure, sae intense, sae wired in tae ma nervous system, that ilka day in the run up tae the vote wis loadit wi chaunces tae be ragin, tae be elatit, tae be sad, tae be howpfu. It wis tirin, it wis empouerin, it wis mair genuine than awthin ah’d iver felt afore, an wi aw the emotions, wi aw the haird work, came a surefire conviction that ah MUST be richt, an that onybody that disagreed wi me MUST be wrang. She wis yin o the yins that had been wrang, and when we votit Naw, an she sent me an awmaist apologetic email tellin me it wis for the best, ah didnae hiv the stomach tae repone tae her. Ah’d a complete inability tae see things frae the ither side, back then. Ah wis richt, ye see. History wis on ma side. Anyone who thocht itherwise seemed awmaist an alien tae me. Ah had the moral hie-groond, an ah wis sharin it wi ma pals. Ah kent ah wis richt, an that was that.
The thing ah didnae realise at the time, is that the No voters felt exactly the same wey as me. They were people whase feelins an howps an lives were as valid as ma ain. Yet aw ah saw wis difference. Ah didnae unnerstaun hou dangerous that thinkin can be, an tae be honest, ah didnae care – because we were gonnae WIN.
Ah wis RICHT. Ma ootrage telt me sae. It wis the maist richt ah’d felt aboot ONYTHIN in ma puff. An that feelin gied credence tae a host o ithers, guid an bad. Pride at ma haird wark. Freendship wi ma fellae Yessers. An an unholy kind o fury, when ah saw something that ah didnae like. Ah didnae ken the meanin o the wird ‘RAGE’ until the referendum. The pure, unadulterated anger ah felt when ah first saw the “Eat yer cereal” advert wis a sicht tae behaud. Ah couldnae sit still in ma seat when it cam on. The snickerin actress, tryin tae mak oot that her weans’s lives were bein put on the line bi the likes o wasters sic as masel an her puir wee hubby. It wis cynical, it wis patronisin, it wis sexist an dismissive. An ah couldnae unnerstaun hou ma No Votin pal couldnae see throu it. The meenit yon puir unnerpeyed actress rolled her een has been emblazoned on ma mind as yin o the angriest moments o ma life, richt efter the time ma dear auld Da ramshed aw ma gluten free breid for nae reason when it tastit bowfin onywey an there wis a crusty loaf richt in front o him. Nut… EVEN WORSE! Ah couldnae settle masel until ah’d had a guid rant, got it oot ma system.
Ah’ve seen that kind o rage in ithers, anaw. Ah mind a frail auld lady comin up tae me at the polling station, shakkin wi emotion an askin me hou ah slept at nicht. Ah kent her rage wis real, awricht, but it didnae seem as valid as mine. An so, ah weened, she wis fashin hersel ower nocht. Ah ignored the fear ah’d seen in her. Pit it doun tae her age.
Ah felt pyne durin the referendum anaw. Readin “The Vow” wis a muckle doolander tae the gut, for example. The pyne wis a real hing. As ah read the words, incredulous at the size o the lies on the page, a dart o pyne shot me straicht in the solar plexus, its poison spreidin oot its evil hauns until ma hale body wis a shakkin, quiverin hing ayont aw control. Hou could onythin that made me feel sae horrible, that felt like evil itsel tae me, be swallaed an acceptit bi ONYBODY? Well, it turns oot it could, and bi weel-trickit fowk as guid as masel. In fact, ma Naw-votin freend said she felt the same kind o physical pyne when she read aboot the bleak futur o her kintrae in the Daily Record. She believed The Vow. It made her feel things micht no be sae bad for Scotland efter aw. It gied her howp.
Wis it just me who felt physically sick when ah saw David Bowie askin Scotland tae ‘stay’ as if he wis a character on Coronation Street, beggin his lassie no tae lea him? Ah luved David Bowie. An ah felt betrayed bi him. It crumpled me up inside. As it turnt oot, ah wisnae alane in ma ability tae be seekent bi the words o a pouerfu person. Ma freend said she felt equally seek when she listened tae Nicola Sturgeon talkin on the telly. No acause she was a hateful sham o a human bein (she wisnae, as it turnt oot), but acause she wis shuir oor (then) Deputy First Meenister wis aw aboot wreckin her future. She. Wis. SHUIR. An her feelins were her ain. They wreaked havoc wi her heid. Kept her up at nicht. When she heard we’d votit naw, she wis relieved. Aw her fears meltit awa. An her anxiety at the thocht o gaun throu aw that again is risin up, e’en nou, whan she reads the papers. It disnae chynge ma desire for a second referendum, kennin this. But ah’m awaur o it. An this time, ah’m gonnae mind where ah gan. Think afore ah speak. Remember that we’re no sae different – baith, mair or less, pouerless.
It hurts ower much tae care aboot a hing ye cannae control, does it no? Especially when that hing is tae dae wi yer futur. It pynes ye in intricate ribbons. An it energises ye tae dae somehin aboot yon hurt – whether it’s canvassin, or spraffin tae ither fowk, or puttin up stickers, nae matter if they say Aye or Naw.
Aye or Naw? The maist divisive question ye can ask o a nation, is it no?
If there’s yin word ah could staun never tae hear again, it’d be the word “divisive”. Durin the referendum, it wis hauled oot as aft as a straw-stuffed guy at Halloween, an wis uised tae conjure up images o Bisto faimilies aw ower Scotland haein muckle food fechts insteid o eatin their cereal, clawin at each ither’s thrapples wi despair at the mention o currency. But, in hindsicht, ah dinnae think the referendum wis divisive at aw. Ilka person that bothert tae haul thersels oot the hoose, pit a cross on a slip an stick it in a box wis sayin, wi ane voice: “Ah want whit’s best fae Scotland”. Ah couldnae see that then, but ah see it nou. We wir aw in it for the same reason. An we wir aw equally convinced we were richt.
O coorse, ah still think ah’m richt. Ah think the case for independence nou is as strang as ever. Ah believe time has pruiven whit lies wir telt tae voters. An when the First Meenister annoonces a second referendum, ah ken whit ah’ll be up for again. Rage an howp, joy an pyne, feelins as raw an pouerfu as they ever wir. But it willnae be the same. No quite. As ah said afore, we’re aulder nou, we’re wiser. Lessons hae been learned in their hunners bi us. An we’re no as predictable as the papers micht say. Ah’ve re-added ma No voting pal on Facebook, for stairters, but the biggest lesson ah’ll take awa frae the referendum is never again tae see a Naw voter as bein sae different frae masel. Never tae believe ma feelins are mair valid than theirs. And never tae ask a person hou they’re ettlin tae vote. Ah hink the question we need tae be askin o yin anither in the run up to Indyref 2 isnae “Whit wey are ye gonnae vote”, but “Whit for?”. An the answer we’ll maist likely get will be: “Ah want whit’s best for Scotland”. If that’s no common grund, ah dinnae ken whit is. Hou we tak it frae there is up tae us, but ah’m no gonnae let ma feelins tak the lead on this ony mair. No wi the clock tickin the wey it is for Scotland. Tae quote Phillip Larkin again, whit ah’ve learned frae the stories ah’ve been telt from baith sides, is that in seekin independence for Scotland, we should be carefu of each ither. We should be kind. While there’s still time.