The final result was a disappointment. There is though, no need to get too despondent. The opposite is indeed the case. We on the Yes side have much to be proud of and though we failed in our objective this time, there are many encouraging signs to be found in the campaign and the vote.
A great triumph for democracy and voter participation
Not everyone gets the chance to vote for independence. Just ask the Catalans! The referendum campaign inspired hundreds of thousands of Scots to get active, get involved and get better informed. This was shown in the voter registration and the high turnout. The Yes side contributed massively to this achievement.
Historic high for Independence
With 45% of the electorate on a very high turnout of 84% this is a massive step up for the pro independence movement. Considering where we started from, in the mid to high 30s this is great progress. The other gain is that many of these voters will remain activists in future campaigns.
Most age groups voted for independence
This is some more excellent news for the future. Only two age groups, the 18-24 year olds and the over 65s voted No. Unfortunately the 65+ group is both a very large group and a group that tends to get out and vote. This time 73% of them voted No. However not to put too fine a point on it, this group is not the future of Scotland. I am part of this age group and only too aware of this. If we can keep the other age groups on the Yes side the momentum is towards a majority for independence.
No significant gender gap
This was one of the major themes throughout the campaign – women were much less likely to vote Yes than men. Much was made of this, but when push came to shove there was only a tiny difference – around 3%. Perhaps in the future we can put this one to bed.
Working class areas boosted the Yes vote
This is one of the stand out features of the results. The four council ares that return a majority for Yes are all predominantly working class areas – Glasgow, North Lanarkshire, West Dunbartonshire and my own Dundee. Well done to the fabulous four! However many other councils with large working class populations came very close to delivering a Yes majority. In Inverclyde for example the Yes vote was 49.92%, while North Ayrshire recorded 49% for Yes. Other councils where the Yes vote was above the 45% overall score included South Lanarkshire, Renfrew, Clackmannan, East Ayrshire, Falkirk, Highland and the Western Isles. Apart from the last two, all the others are predominantly working class areas.
A good night for RIC
Much of the credit for the higher than average Yes votes in these councils must go to the work of RIC. Regular canvassing paid off in Yes votes. Though RIC initiated and pushed this part of the campaign, the success was not due just to RIC. The Greens, Socialist party, unattached individuals and let us not forget many members of the SNP, including MPs and MSPs also played their part.
Very bad night for Labour
Difficult for Labour to try and deny this, the results in the councils mentioned above were a disaster for Labour. Large swathes of Labour voters have decided in favour of independence. They no longer trust Labour on many key issues, and the party will struggle to win these voters back. This is a constituency that the pro independence side must retain. Which can only be done with a clear left wing alternative.
Not too good for the SNP
While the overall result is good and a new high for independence, the high Yes votes were not in the traditional SNP areas, with the exception of Dundee. Areas where the SNP have done well in Holyrood and local elections all voted No, often by quite large majorities. This will cause some consternation in the party. The SNP still seems to be most voters’ first choice as the government of a devolved parliament in large parts of the country, the North East for particular. However there is little sign that this success is translating into votes for independence. If we are to win independence the other non SNP voices will need to play a more prominent role.
Lots still to do
The last minute panicking by the Unionist parties has opened a veritable can of worms for the UK. Making solemn vows to the people of Scotland will soon come to be seen as the easy bit. Delivering anything worthwhile may prove not just difficult, but almost impossible, to quote the not much missed Senhor Barosso. With English MPs likely to say No to everything and the Welsh and Northern Irish governments wanting more, Unionists may come to regret winning the referendum. We on the other hand must keep holding them to account and exposing the contradictions at the heart of their vows. As the Catalan activist Maiol Sanaüja commented, either the UK becomes a real federation or it implodes. Let’s help it implode!
Life is full of disappointments, so we must let this one hold us back. I hope most, if not all the wonderful pro independence campaigning groups keep going in one way or another. A fairer and better Scotland is still to be won.