I walked down the stairs in our close this morning feeling flat, empty and disbelieving. Less than ten hours beforehand, I’d sprinted up them, draped in a too-large Yes T-shirt, having spent the evening knocking on the doors of excited Yes voters to check they had been to the polls. What had then seemed possible had now slipped from our grasp and there was nothing for it but to go to work in the bleak grey of the morning.
I can’t feel positive. I know we’re supposed to stay focused, keep our heads held high, not let our spirits be crushed and so on, but I can’t. Right now, I do feel crushed. I feel beaten. I feel like we have deliberately thrown away the greatest chance that any of us will ever be given to do something amazing, and I just can’t work up any positivity about that.
I’ve heard many people say that we can’t lose the amazing energy and optimism that the campaign generated, and I understand that, but it’s a false hope. The point is, people were enthusiastic about independence. You can’t just transfer that to some other cause – people were hopeful because there was something to hope for, and now there is not.
I cannot, either work up any enthusiasm about our consolation prize of further devolution. In fact, the speed with which politicians have begun to focus on this just demonstrates that none of them really understand what this was about. In all the conversations I had with fellow Yes voters, I never heard a single person say, “You know, the thing I’m really fighting for here is for Holyrood to have greater tax-raising powers”.
It was about building a different country, a better country. A country where the circumstances of your birth did not define your destiny. A country focused on what it could give to its poorest citizens, not what it could take from them. A country that welcomed new citizens, rather than looking for reasons to throw them out. A country that understood that its neighbours across Europe were its friends, not its enemies. And a country where our children did not go to sleep with Europe’s biggest arsenal of nuclear weapons resting mere miles from their beds.
In truth, I couldn’t care less whether or not David Cameron devolves housing benefit or not. If we were truly to get anything transformative out of this sorrowful situation, here’s what I’d want.
1. Trident gone. I think the ability to rid ourselves of weapons of mass destruction was a big motivating factor for a lot of Yes voters, so why has not a single politician mentioned it today?
2. A decent Scottish media. Every newspaper bar the Sunday Herald was against independence and the TV and radio news too often presented things from a London standpoint. How can we properly form opinions about events in our land when our news consistently comes from people who, through no fault of their own, do not have any of the context? We need an impartial, Scottish-owned and produced media which is devoted to presenting and investigating the facts, not telling us how we should vote.
3. An acknowledgement from the political parties that they can no longer sew things up between themselves. One of the most positive things about this campaign was the genuine grassroots involvement and emergence of autonomous groups working together for change. Jeane Freeman of the most active of these, Women for Independence, made the excellent point in the small hours of this morning, as hopes for Yes were fading, that the politicians should not assume that the next steps were theirs to define. I’d love to see council and parliamentary candidates loosely affiliated with Women for Independence or any other grassroots campaign standing in the next elections. There are so many more voices out there than our narrowly-constructed political parties have managed to represent.
So there you go. I guess I’ve managed to find some things to hope for. How we bring them about, I don’t know. I do know that I will miss so many things about this campaign. I’ll miss hearing the passionate debates among my friends, previously disinclined to talk about politics. I’ll miss the friendly Yes Cathcart shop, where I met amazing, dedicated, fabulous people. And I think most of all I’ll miss the windows. What a joy it has been over the last few months to gradually watch the deep blue posters blossoming all around me, each one a bright raucous shout of hope.
I haven’t taken mine down yet. I feel like that will be the final admission that it’s all over, and I’m not ready for that. But soon I will have to face up to the fact that my generation has had its chance of independence and we have chosen to say no.
This has been a wonderful, exhilarating, dramatic few months. But it’s over, and Scotland’s brief summer has come to an end.