Scotland

The reverberations of the Scottish referendum will be heard for years.  Quakers in Scotland did not have a settled view, in case you’re interested.  Our meeting for worship on Winchmore Hill Triangle, roaring traffic and stillness in the mist of an autumn lunchtime, had three pieces of ministry, all about reconciliation after the vote.

One matter of interest is the very nature of a yes no vote on a nation’s future.  This drove a level of interest, registration to vote, and actual voting, that put the rest of the country to shame.  Would we could get this involvement in local and national elections.  However, in a referendum widely predicted to be tight, every vote, wherever you live counts.  under our current electoral system, elections are decided in at best 150 seats.  General elections are very important, but there’s another one along in five years.

The one thing all Quakers can say is, there needs to be reconciliation and there needs to be delivery on promises made during the campaign.  Quite how we balance the Scottish need for more independence (had additional devolution been on the ballot it would have won a landslide) with better government for the rest of the country is an urgent requirement.

It always feels odd to have London demonised as the enemy by Scotland and the North; the political and economic elite in London feels as alien to the people here on housing estates and in Jobcentres as it does to those in Scotland.  London, with seven of the twenty worst boroughs for child poverty in the UK. and substantial poverty and unemployment, needs its own powers to tackle issues of social justice.  One of my concerns about independence was – are the needs of an unemployed single mother in Newham and an unemployed single mother in Edinburgh radically different, even if the Londoner might be able to see the spires of Canary Wharf?  A vote for separation had its positives but it was also a vote to give up on the UK as a route to deliver a better future.

55: 45 is not the knife edge it has been called by some, but a clear result.  Nevertheless that is a large body opinion which wanted separation and which won’t be happy with much less.  That block is younger than the rest and also stronger in the poor inner cities of Scotland.  (18-24 year olds were just for the union, 16-17 years heavily for independence, and 25-34s quite strongly for independence too.)  The innovation of votes at 16 needs now to be considered for everything else, I am on a slow journey on that one, (and the volatility of their voting predictions was extraordinary, they started the least likely to support independence!  was this the SNP’s brilliant use of social media?)  Our political culture likes young frontmen and women but is dominated by the interests of those who have property and are close to or past retirement.  We may need to consider votes at 16 even if only as a counterweight.

Quakers don’t vote yes no in our decisions.  It’s often frustrating and often leads to decisions that neither side is wholly happy with.  But it brings everyone together on the journey.  I hope that all those of faith, whatever position they took on the vote, will work to bring that reconciliation.

On a personal note, relieved that a proud nation, that is also part of my country, remains in my country.  But also convinced, we must make new arrangements work or Scotland will be independent in my lifetime.

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