My wife had a message from an old friend In Edinburgh on Saturday morning expressing her disappointment over the fact that too many Scots had been “feart” when they voted last Thursday. Well, that may, or may not, be so. What is certain is the fact that 84% of those eligible to vote actually did so with 55.3% voting for the continuation of the Union and 44.7% voting for independence. Now that 10.6% margin may seem like a great deal, especially in the light of the panic among the political parties in Westminster over the opinion polls during the preceding days. However, I would ask you to think again. What it actually means if that nearly half those who could vote, wanted their independence. If you add to that a statistic quoted by Alex Salmond that over 140 countries have attained their independence since 1945 and not one has ever asked to be taken back again, you start to get a different picture. What was ironic was hearing from heads of countries which either had fought for their independence, (the USA) or were leaders of political parties, most of whose MP’s want to break free from unions which they are currently part of (David Cameron), trying to persuade the Scots that they should not do so. Truly what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander.
I would like to add a few more facts to the exercise in painting pictures. Among these is the fact that Britain is a very rich country with the 6th largest economy in the world. Yet, according to an article in today’s Guardian, during the longest economic crisis since the 19th century, the wealth of the richest 1,000 people has more than doubled. Moreover, that increase, of about £261bn, is about two and a half times Britain’s annual deficit. Add up their wealth and you reach a sum of £519bn or approximately one third of the GDP of the whole country. This at a time when nearly one million people have had to resort to food banks to feed themselves and their families. And, for the first time since WW2, the Red Cross has distributed food packages to British families.
You can see why the Scots, who seem to have a more vibrant social democracy than we have, might actually think that they would be better off running their country in their own way. And who can blame them. Yet, the English have a proud history of social activism and democracy going back nearly 400 years. We just need to rekindle what Bill Bragg describes in his beautiful song, “Between the Wars” as “sweet moderation, heart of this nation”. It will take a long while but last Thursday’s result, as I explained to my wife’s friend, should be seen as the beginning and not the end. After all, it is not only people north of the border who feel passionate about the values that their culture represents to them. Many of us feel it too. We also feel that our own government and those who run our major institutions, despite their flag waving, feel none of it in the way that the rest of us do.