Well I’ve waited half the morning to write this post and I’m still unsure of what to say. The feeling of sadness is genuinely overwhelming if only because I have so many Scottish friends and correspondents whose emotional investment in seeing true self-governance and sovereignty for their ancient nation has consumed so much of the last two years (and in some cases their whole lives). However the final results of the referendum on independence for Scotland cannot be escaped: the Scots have voted by 55% to 45% to remain under British and London rule. A once in a life-time opportunity for many has been rejected. The British nationalist and unionist media are crowing victory. The Westminster lobby of Greater England smells blood in the air. Was this a win for Britishness and unionism? I think not. It was not “Better Together” that won the referendum campaign: it was “Project Fear”.
While many, many people in Ireland share the sense of disappointment brought about by the final polling results in our northern Gaelic neighbour there is also a sense of puzzlement. Why would the majority of Scots not want their own nation-state? Why the lack of courage or determination to take, what seems to us, the obvious next step? Perhaps the Scottish historical experience is not our own despite our many other similarities? Invasion, occupation, colonisation and annexation by an alien power and people was not theirs (at least not in the same way). Those centuries of bloodshed and tyranny seemingly make all the difference. Ethnocide, physical or cultural, leaves marks that cannot be erased. Just ask the people of Israel. Or Palestine. However above that there is the most obvious point of all: the island nation of Ireland is not the island nations of Britain. We are Irish. They, if only geographically, are British.
Will there be fundamental changes in the constitutional, legislative and political structure of the so-called United Kingdom? Or will there be some tinkering around the edges and tokenistic scraps thrown to appease the demands for more? I suspect the latter. The British do not do magnanimity in victory. They do vindictiveness. The exaggerated claims of an era of “neverendums” will almost certainly prove false. Never again will a British government or parliament willingly – if reluctantly – grant a territorial unit of the UK the right to vote on secession. If comprehensive changes are made it will be on that issue.
In the words of Brennus before the gates of Rome: “Vae victis!”