Nicola Sturgeon appeared on Sky News’ Murnaghan this morning. Asked about how the country would come together after a divisive referendum campaign, she simply said that after a Yes vote, we’d all celebrate on Friday.
She clearly doesn’t understand how strongly people feel. Or maybe she does and just dismisses the concerns of half the population as irrelevant as long as she gets what she wants.
This isn’t about accepting the result of the ballot. Whatever it is, we’ll have to. That’s how democracy works. But the country is so deeply divided that half the people are going to be bitterly disappointed. Half the country isn’t going to feel like celebrating either result. Although, in reality, I won’t celebrate a No vote. Relief will be as good as it gets.
If there’s a Yes vote, I’ll be grieving and so will many others. I know I will be absolutely devastated at my country being broken up. If there’s a No vote, I will seriously feel for all my friends who have worked so hard for a Yes vote and I’ll want to give them all a hug. They will probably not want to be within a million miles of me for a while, but the sentiment is there.
How would Nicola feel at being told she’d be expected to celebrate a No vote? Her approach is not inclusive because if you are going to be genuinely inclusive you have to understand where people are coming from.
If you don’t feel like celebrating the scary new world after a Yes vote, what will happen to you? Are you just to be told to grow up and get on with it? I would suggest that that isn’t the most sensible way to deal with the tensions. The Government will need to tackle people’s concerns in a way that they have resolutely failed to do so far. They will also have to understand how people who have been on the receiving end of constant abuse from Yes campaigners are going to feel. Jim Sillars’ comments about a Day of Reckoning to businesses who have opposed independence may well be interpreted by some of the more excitable nationalists as encouragement to take reprisals against individuals who did so.
I’m sick of hearing from Yes people what a positive campaign this has been. It has been no such thing. Yes people of course, are unlikely to say things that rile the bullies. It’s a different story if you’re supporting No.
One of the saddest things I’ve seen in this referendum campaign happened on Friday night. We had a very good night’s campaigning in Bathgate. As we were heading back to the cars, we were chased down the street by a little boy, who can’t have been more than 5, shouting “No are rubbish, No are rubbish.” I would never have allowed a child of mine to behave like that. In the last couple of weeks, a friend of mine has had lemonade poured him by a Yes voter while out canvassing, a Yes supporter has advocated genocide of No voters and there have been numerous incidents of nastiness that, frankly, predominantly go one way.
The intolerant talk has come from the top down. From Salmond’s Team Scotland narrative to SNP Councillors making pronouncements on who they consider to be Scottish, they have stoked the fires. And then you get Jim Sillars talking about vengeful reckoning on banks and businesses who have made statements about independence. It really doesn’t inspire confidence.
And then you have the First Minister openly and personally having a go at journalists he doesn’t like during press conferences. Journalists are meant to be annoying, especially to authority figures. They are not supposed to blithely trot out the government line of the day.
What sort of Scotland do these people think they are creating? One where there is no respect for opposition? This goes way beyond normal election time tensions. I’ve never seen anything like it in over 30 years. The hostility from some Yes people is actually worse than the Chesterfield Labour Party in the 90s and that is saying something. A lot of work will need to be done by the very many good and tolerant people on both sides to heal the deep divisions this campaign has exposed whatever happens next week. I am increasingly worried about what a Yes vote will mean for the sort of liberal society I want to see, though.
On the other hand, if there’s a No vote, those who voted Yes will have to be reassured that the things they care about, most prominently social justice, will be addressed.
Whichever side wins will have to be very sensitive to the feelings and worries of the other and do everything they can to reassure and comfort. Listening to Nicola this morning, I don’t think she gets it.