The result is in. An independent Scotland is a no go. Plans for Scotland to lift off from the rest of the UK have been terminated, at least for the short term. Some Scots are relieved with the result, some are frustrated and some just don’t know what to think. So what now? Well, that question really depends on the Scottish population. The politicians have made their pleas and promises but realistically no major change is coming to Scotland unless public pressure reaches breaking point. It’s up to us to decide whether we want everything to keep chugging along as usual or instead look back at the referendum for some inspiration on how to proceed.
If only one key message could be taken from the entire referendum process, it should be that more people will be active in the democratic process if they feel their voice matters. The referendum was different in that people felt they had a say in their future for once and as a result, there was energised debate and a soaring turnout. Usually in Scottish Parliament, European, general and council elections, your representative’s face changes, but little else does. When the issue is political alienation and not political apathy, we should start looking at possible alternatives available, which were hinted at during the campaign.
The Yes campaign mobilised a significant grassroots movement and produced organisations such as the Radical Independence Campaign, Women for Independence, Labour for Independence and Generation Yes. While all this wasn’t enough to win over the majority of voters, it set a good precedent in how to reach people who feel disengaged and alienated. This is especially true in Glasgow, where turnout is typically low for elections but rose to 75% for the referendum. Therefore I am suggesting, that if more community organisations are set up in these disenfranchised areas and local issues start to be addressed, we might witness the rise of an increasingly engaged electorate that is ready to participate nationally.
Also important to note was the residual reaction to the referendum result. SNP, Green and Scottish Socialist Party membership increased dramatically and a ‘We are the 45%’ online movement was created in the first few weeks after the referendum. These developments are significant but need further developing if they are to have an impact on the political scene. Popular mass movements don’t spring up from nowhere, which is why there are a growing amount of committed and organised activist groups working in solidarity with one another, trying to form a solid foundation of activism to build upon.
It is practically a truism now that the majority of the population are fed up with the current political system, irrespective of allegiances either to Scotland or the UK as a whole. However, the challenge is getting people (like myself) motivated to give up their time and effort to change these institutions they have become so estranged from. Participation in and out of Parliament, reformist and direct action, can all be effective if there is enough willpower behind it. So the question we really should be asking ourselves is, how committed are we to our own democratic ideals?