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The view from a Scotland full of flags, few of them red

union-flag-melts-away-from-scotland-e1388694836550It has been an emotional few weeks in Scotland. Many of those on the No side are now hugely relieved after Friday morning’s result as, although you would not know it from the media, lots of ordinary people had been incredibly worried about the massive ramifications of a potential Yes vote. This was a forever vote with no going back.

As the debate intensified those making flag poles must have made a fortune. But as more and more saltires and union jacks unfurled in people’s gardens, none of the flags flying were red.

When canvassing we would often find people in the same households voting different ways. Labour comrades have pointed out to me repeatedly in the last few weeks that this referendum had achieved what Margaret Thatcher had failed to do – in dividing families, communities and indeed the Labour movement in Scotland. In the west coast of Scotland where I come from, the sectarianism of orange and green has been a disturbing feature.

Even on the left, it has been difficult to cut through making basic arguments
about solidarity, the pooling of resources and the need for social justice across these small islands on which will live, after decades of failing to talk about class.

When Labour did try to explain the dangers of a race to the bottom and why cross border tax competition was a bad thing people looked at us blankly. They did however nod in agreement when you pointed out it was always the poor who ended up paying the price if times were hard and there was less money around.

And there was little or no serious discussion about how an independent Scotland could take on European wide austerity, about the spending and other restrictions which would be placed on any currency union, pound or euro, the risks of an independent currency, the costs of borrowing for a newly independent nation or scrutiny about how we expand public services whilst refusing to tax the rich more. The only tax pledge was to cut corporation tax.

Yes supporters have been talking for weeks about how excited they have been feeling and now of course they are very disappointed. This issue has divided Scotland – and working class communities. And whilst, of course, most regular Labour voters voted No, many Labour voters did vote Yes and many SNP supporters voted No. Some said very clearly that whatever the outcome they would not be changing their voting patterns but a few said that this whole issue was making them rethink everything.

Many of those who supported the Yes side do not see themselves as nationalists. Repeatedly on the campaign trail they would explain to me that they felt that an independent Scotland was the only way to get social justice and to escape Tory rule. They said that they would usually be looking to Labour for leadership but the rightwards drift of UK politics meant that they no longer had faith that it was possible to deliver at a UK level. It is the politics of despair.

Yes this was for some a vote about identity but,for many in the communities we have historically represented this was more a vote cast in anger. Whether they were voting Yes or No there was a clear message on the doorstep that it cannot be business as usual.

The No vote is a vote for unity. It is a vote for cooperation, for sharing risk and maintaining our ties. But it is also a vote for change. On the campaign trail the leaderships of the main UK wide political parties promised both more devolution and greater social justice. Expectations have been massively raised in Scotland. Labour now has to deliver at a UK level.

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