We said No

So, No won the day.

Believe it or not, despite the empty feeling in my stomach, I don’t see a No vote as all that much of a disappointment. We were living in the days of a No vote anyway, given that the Kingdom has been United for the entirety of my life. The consequences of a No were never something untested and hypothetical – they were something we were experiencing anyway.

Yes there’ll be new powers – though to a degree and at a timescale of which nobody can be certain (and that’s a whole other discussion). But they will be far short of statehood.

And it’s not the first time independence has lost. Independence has been rejected at the ballot box ever since there’s been an organised movement for it. Even when the SNP won its two parliamentary elections in Holyrood, one was wafer-thin and the landslide five years later still didn’t quite give them over 50% of the votes. And anyway, it’s long been shown that the SNP’s voters include many who don’t like independence.

For sure, those decades of parliamentary elections were only indirect votes against independence – they were votes instead mostly for parties who oppose it. And this referendum was something qualitatively different – the question was, despite every attempt to attach party politics to it, purely about an issue.

But still. It’s not independence’s first setback, and perhaps it won’t be its last. So nothing’s changed. We were living in a No world before, and we’ll live in it yet for the foreseeable future.

The question’s not going away though. For a start, this is a democracy. Just as defeated parties pick themselves up from an electoral bruising, reflect, reorganise and fight again a few years later, so the independence movement will do similar. No matter by how much it was rejected, the idea of independence has a moral and democratic right to continue to be explored and put forward.

And in any case, the movement for Yes – with a whopping 45% endorsement – cannot be put in a box now. Too many people have done too much work, conceived too many ideas, and persuaded too many others to simply disappear. A grassroots movement has been created beyond party politics that will not go away. Indeed those who believe in it will continue to do so with the same conviction, and the economic and social facts that underpin the case do not change with a No vote. Merely their acceptance has – for now – been rejected.

New research will be done. New arguments will be conceived. A new urgency may emerge. It may be some time before the question is put again, and yes it may never come to pass that a majority are ever persuaded at all. But this is a democracy. Minority views, even those defeated, are part of life.


Let me jump a moment through space, time and reality to the world created by Joss Whedon for his wonderful science fiction television series Firefly. If you’ve not watched Firefly, then close this webpage immediately, clear your diary for two days, buy the series and its follow-up film Serenity, stock the cupboards with easy food, switch on your DVD player, switch off your phone, then come back here when you’re done watching it all.

The scene: a huge space station. Our heroes, an assortment of former rebel fighters, mercenaries and fugitives, have briefly been caught up with by soldiers of the ruling Alliance. Their flight through space has always, thanks to their guile, cunning and a whole bagful of luck, kept them one or two steps ahead of the Alliance. Until now.

One by one, the motley band of shipmates are interviewed. Their leader, Captain Malcolm Reynolds, is not in a pleasant position when facing his interrogator. He is a former soldier with the Independents, an army who fought to keep the outer planets free from the rule of the Alliance-governed core planets. Unsuccessfully, as it turned out – Reynolds was one of the very few survivors of a failed last stand in the battle of Serenity Valley, which finally sounded the deathknell of the Independents’ dream and enabled the assertion of Alliance rule over the outer planets.

The interrogator taunts Reynolds by pointing out the irony that his ship, Serenity, was named after a battle where he wound up on the wrong side.

Without missing a beat, and with all the dignity he can muster, Reynolds responds calmly but defiantly with perhaps one of the greatest lines in the series.


Yes, the independence movement in Scotland may have faced its Serenity Valley this week. But that doesn’t convince me that the case for independence is the wrong one.

I’ve said before that there’ll be another referendum. The question won’t go away. I’m thinking we’ll rise again.

4 thoughts on “We said No

  1. Hi Simon, I haven’t seen you since university. Do you remember me? You gave me sound reasons for independence and I remained skeptical. I’ve come around to your way of thinking now, at least in regard to Scottish independence.

    In truth, I’m doing fine without Scottish independence, but people should consider what is best for their community too. I’m disappointed that in a democratic event, many Scottish people voted against a local representative government where all of Scotland’s future votes would make a difference. So yesterday, I threw my toys out the pram, furious that the mainstream media won the referendum, then I felt disappointed that in a democratic event, many Scottish people voted ‘No’ to the opportunity to improve their lives, and today I’ve been slowly adjusting to life without hope again…

    Then I stumbled upon this web-site and your post above has cheered me up a little. I’m glad to see that you’re doing well, that you’re still upbeat after the referendum and am impressed to see that you’ve written several books. I’ll have to read them some day, but I think I’ll watch Firefox first. I love the quote you put on this web-site about being on the ‘right side’. There’s something inspiring about that. The last time we discussed the issue, a 45% Yes vote would have seemed inconceivable. So I hope that Devo-Max is another stepping stone in the right direction and the 45% Yes vote is a growing movement which might yet turn out to win the day.

    Keep well Simon!

  2. Great post, but no mention of trying to keep alive the enthusiasm that has been kindled in 1.6 million Scottish hearts. There has to be some sort of way that you, and people like you, who have developed a large list of followers can organise and galvanise that enthusiasm towards making it all happen again soon. When the Westminster promises come to nothing as they will, the people of Scotland may be ready in larger numbers to speak out again. I don’t know how to do it, and at 71 I’m a bit too old anyway; but there has to be hope kept alive, somewhere, somehow!

  3. Very good post. I am interested to see what happens if there is another referendum in my lifetime (which I think there could be) as I know many disappointed No voters. I know some who are happy too but I know a fair few who are quite disillusioned now. I think it is interesting that the SNP are now the third largest party in the UK by membership, and that the Green party has doubled in size. Interesting times indeed.

  4. Apologies for the slow response, all. It’s been a busy time.

    Alister – thanks for your comment. Glad that you’ve come over to my way of thinking on independence! Email on way.

    Sydney – good points. I am sorry my post is somewhat downbeat. I am sure there is much that can be done to keep the movement going, and there’s certainly a need for it in terms of monitoring and holding to account the (possible, potential) new powers. What I can do, and what I feel I am able to do timewise or energywise, I’ve really no idea either. I think the independent organisations – as well as the booming political parties – can play a big part in continuing to campaign, research, lobby and inspire. Whether I get involved in any of them, I’m less sure.

    And Siobhan – never mind your lifetime, I’m sure there’ll be another within a decade. At the very least, I could imagine the SNP adopting devo max as an interim policy and pressing for a referendum on it whether in league with the Westminster government or not (and “not” is much more likely). And given they’re a shoe-in for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections, that makes for very interesting times indeed.

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