The results are in, and despite the Yes campaign winning in my own council North Lanarkshire, 55% of the Scottish people voted against the proposed offer of independence. With democracy being one of the core principles being promoted by the Yes campaign, we must now accept and reflect on this majority decision.
I’m so incredibly proud to have been part of a political campaign that put forward a positive vision for social justice, economic growth and moral responsibility on a global stage. Scotland has travelled a long way in the last 2 years and there are more people aware of the political issues that we face than ever before. Maintaining perspective is always important, and while the vote for Scottish independence has not been passed on this occasion – more people understand the purpose of this movement than ever before, setting strong foundations should there ever be another vote on independence for Scotland. It is important for anyone who would like to see that happen to remain positive in their outlook, to continue to dispel myths about the independence movement and work constructively to make the best of the democratic system that we have.
I too have grown: learned that an inclusive discourse is more likely to engage with those who hold an opinion different to my own, or perhaps more accurately, I have learned how to put that process into action – even when the views expressed are wildly different from my own. It has been extremely heartening through the process how many journeyed to Yes, even from the most staunch of opposition at the outset. I’ve learned about my community and the love of my family and friends has been strengthened as we journeyed through this incredible democratic process.
Of course, that process has not been brought to a conclusion – regardless of the referendum outcome there will always be work to be done to shape a better future. We cannot accept that 1 in 4 Scots live in poverty, there are issues on housing and health that have to be addressed here and of course we must work to address the blight of poverty around the world. We must continue to do everything that we can to prevent the UK’s next-generation nuclear weapons programme going ahead – the 2015 elections are now crucial to get that message represented. We have to recognise how reliant we are on the finite resources of Oil & Gas for both jobs and energy and do what we can to utilise that local resource to distribute wealth throughout our communities while ensuring our renewable energy potential is harnessed. We have to recognise that our transport infrastructure has been stagnant relative to many other nations who we ultimately compete with for global business – we have to address that to stay competitive. We do have a national debt of £1,323,000,000,000 – that is ~90% of the UK GDP and we are still running a deficit! Those campaigning for the status quo over the last couple of years have somehow managed to do so without addressing these challenges but now this has to change.
There are clear challenges in terms of democratic representation and accountability that have been highlighted during the campaign, both in terms of political and media representation. All parties seemed to acknowledge that the Scottish Government must be given more responsibility to raise their budget, rather than only spend an allocated budget – I’m sure Scotland will watch on with interest to see how this develops.
Finally, I want to say thanks to my wife Sarah-Jane for her understanding while I gave my energy to try and influence positive change and to my dad, my mum and my older brother for being a constant inspiration to me and others in the campaign (I’m extremely proud of the Darlings for Yes). I wish that we could have celebrated together today but in time I believe it will be evident that we have enabled positive change – our efforts in shaping that will never be complete.
Stuart M. Darling