Scotland, 2014. What a place. These weeks have been the most intense, exciting, difficult and optimistic times of my life. Pretty damn close to interesting. I believed, always have believed and always will believe that Scotland should be an independent country. We came so close.
I’d like to addresss three groups of people. Firstly, no voters. Dear, dear no voters. I cannot congratulate you on your victory. The institutional media and the established political leaders who led you to your vote will never get back on my Christmas card list, but you are my friends, my family and my neighbours. We have to move forward together, and are hopefully united on nuclear disarmament, social justice and public services. After six weeks of being the most overdrawn answerbank in town, I don’t think I’m alone amongst Yessers in asking can you please, now we’re here, tell us exactly why you did that? Because I never heard enough plausible benefits of continuing our relationship with the british state – if it really was the jam you voted for it better show this time. And you know the chances of that.
The second group of people I’d like to address is the people of England. In the run up to the referendum campaign, a lot of you didn’t see what all the fuss was about. I hope that some of you understand us a bit better. A lot of the rallies you’ve put on suggest there’s still a long way to go, but the #goforitscotland solidarity from English friends have been so welcome. The please stay stuff is touching too, but was never going to do it for me.
On a serious note though, one of the most compelling reasons for becoming independent was the imperviousness of influence the UK government in Westminster shows us. And I know she shows too many of you exactly the same thing. Don’t put up with it. Join us in the next stage and demand answers, campaign for change and live like in the early days of your own better nation. We have seen a true reignition of democracy in these isles – feel the heat and start fighting for whatever you believe to be right.
The last group of people I’d like to address are the people of Yes Scotland. Yessers, you are the best bunch of pals a human being will ever have. I’ve known many of you all my life – most of you I have never met. Throughout this campaign you have given, given and given. You who have so little and do so much. You have behaved with dignity, maturity and responsibility. You have been an explosion of creativity, positivity and progress which I genuinely believe is without parallel in recent history. You came so damn close. So, so, so damn close.
I always said I’d play to the whistle, and there I was on Sunday morning – reading, debating, liking and sharing, following, connecting, engaging, disagreeing, favouriting retweeting and replying like the vote was still to come.
Only it didn’t go our way. I have never felt as bad as I did on Friday morning, as beaten, as hopeless, as ashamed. I’d always assured myself that I wouldn’t get up on Friday morning and wish I’d done more. I don’t see how I possibly could have. What I hadn’t prepared myself for that not being enough.
How could what we did together, and how we did it, possibly not be enough? I know so many of you who gave more than I did, who turned up day in day out to keep the stalls open, get the information out there, to listen and respond enthusiastically.
The Glasgow I walked through on Thursday lunchtime, waiting to fulfill my democratic obligation on the way home, wasn’t a Glasgow who gave absolute sovereign power back. And we didn’t. We won Glasgow. Dundee – you fucking beauty. And North Lanarkshire, and West Dunbartonshire – but all over Scotland people had the Yes smile – you know, the big cheesy one people get when they realise it makes sense to be in control of their own decisions – surely it’s not just Yessers who’re going to miss Yes.
Except Yes isn’t going anywhere. We can’t unlearn this behaviour of connecting, can’t unmeet the likeminded people, can’t unread the essays and articles and reports and can’t unsing the songs.
Our strength as a movement is and was our diversity. The passions and competencies which made us unassailable ambassadors of Scottish independence for the last six weeks are still there, and they still need us. We are desperate to keep the momentum but we need to recover ourselves. There’s no pressure. When were you last able to say that.
And all the people who’ve been out every Saturday, who you were going to dance and sing and play and laugh and cry and love with after we all won together – they’re going to be back in town. I genuinely believe there is no way back for unionism.
In May 2015 we have a Westminster election, in 2016 we have Holyrood. Both these votes are opportunities to send a vote of no confidence in the British state. And also to progress on the issues which unite us. YES parties and Scottish CND continue the work they were doing before this cat leapt out of the bag. They gave a lot. They deserve a little back.
I always wrote the winner in all this would be democracy. I really didn’t see us bottling it, but we have. We can still continue to redefine democracy though – and still work as in the first days of a better nation. The political system has failed to have any relevance to everyday human beings for too long. We can, should and must stay all over them. We can still do this. We can still win.