Yesterday, Scotland answered the biggest constitutional question asked of it in over 300 years and did so resoundingly. 84.59% of the electorate turned out. At the end of the day though, Scotland rejected independence with the ‘No’ campaign winning with 55.3% of the vote and by 10.6%. Of the 32 councils that declared their results only four voted in favour of independence. What tonight provided though was something that since the campaign started Scotland has not had and that is certainty. Even if it is not total certainty in terms of future devolution arrangements, we at least now know that Scotland will remain part of the the United Kingdom and the over 300 year old union will continue.
Above anything else, last night’s referendum it was certainty that was needed. It needed to be clear, definitive and without controversy and that is what happened with the exception of ten allegations of electoral fraud. I am aware of a video circulating on social media of votes being moved from one pile to another. Firstly, I do not want to comment on that video – aside from anything else, I have no context of the footage. I have no location for it or a time. For those reasons alone, I will not speculate on the footage. What I will say however is this. When electoral fraud was suspected in Glasgow, it was acted on immediately. The suspect ballots were removed, sealed as evidence and at the end of the count handed over to the police. As this has the potential to be a live criminal investigation, I do not wish to comment further on that. The other, arguably larger point will be relatively obvious to anybody who watched the coverage of the vote count last night and that is as follows. There were monitors/observers from both campaigns observing every vote count across Scotland. It was even noted by Sky last night how organised the Yes campaign were in ensuring that their observers were in place on time. If there was a clear attempt to rig the vote, surely observers on the ground would have raised concerns and would not have let the problem lie. For those reasons combined, with the exception of those 10 suspected ballots, I do not believe there was any electoral fraud or vote rigging of any description during the referendum. To be honest, it saddens me that I am even having to address this matter after the referendum.
Last night Scotland made its voice heard loud and clear. However, it is now for Westminster to make good on its promises it made during the referendum. This though should not be a one way process. Now Scotland needs to come together to move forward and progress with those voices firmly in their ears and work together to provide enhanced devolution in the coming months. In the coming days and weeks though, Scotland also needs to ask itself another question. Does it want the transfer of powers to come quickly or instead fully and thoroughly. The pledges have already been made and for Westminster not to make good on them would be catastrophic for the future of the UK and would (quite rightly) anger many in Scotland. The major party leaders are under no illusion of this either. However in my opinion, I would favour the powers taking longer to transfer but it being done thoroughly rather than being rushed to meet deadlines. Let’s not forget that 18 months was the most optimistic timeframe being worked to for the transition to independence and that some were estimating it would take longer. My message in this respect is simple. Get it right first time round. Make good on the promises and work with Scotland to transfer the powers as thoroughly and efficiently as possible.
Overall, though the questioned has been answered and the referendum is over, it still doesn’t feel over. With continuing analysis Scotland is still in the spotlight of the world. Neither campaign can forget that in the way they react. Some reactions I have seen in the past 18 hours have though been disappointing. I can understand genuine disappointment, concern and sadness on the part of the Yes campaign but this need not translate into anger towards No supporters or into comments saying how Scotland will end or “how we’ll come to regret it when we come across X.” The worst example of this I came across actually related to a matter that was already devolved… I know that the majority of Yes supporters are not like this and most certainly the Yes supporter that I had the pleasure of chatting with through the night is not like this at all and neither are a couple of my other friends who are Yes supporters. The same also goes for No supporters who behave in a similar manner as well. The scenes in George Square tonight were deplorable. Nothing but sadness filled my heart when I saw police officers having to separate people just because they had different views. This is not the type of country I want to live in united or independent. There was always a danger of this happening when such a divisive question was asked. Now, more than ever, Scotland needs to unite to progress through this divide and to prosper in the future. It is not often I agree with Alex Salmond, but I agree with one sentiment he expressed when announcing his resignation today. With such a turnout, it will not be the politicians at either Westminster or Holyrood that will drive Scotland’s politics from here on out. Rather it will be the people, for it is the people that make a country what it is. How the people of Scotland respond to this result will play a large role in dictating the future of the country. After the turbulence and the circus surrounding the referendum has calmed down, the people of Scotland should work together to ensure the best for Scotland as part of a union. I’m not saying to Yes supporters to give up in what you believe in. Nobody can and nobody should ever try and take away that sincere belief in independence away from you. It makes you individual but also part of a strong voice that is passionate about Scotland, Scottish politics and the future of a country. This passion can only be a good thing and is something that shouldn’t be lost. What I’m saying is that it is in Scotland’s interests for people from all sides of the debate to come together to ensure the strongest and most prosperous future for Scotland within the framework that the people of Scotland have chosen.