Friday, September 19, 2014

A post-Referendum letter to the 45%

I'm writing this at the end of the kind of grey day I yesterday remembered from the '80s. It's hard for me to feel the optimism expressed by some communicators, and as I hear the news of Alex Salmond's stepping down from his leadership post I feel a deepening of the gloom even as I recognise that in his position I would do exactly the same.

But I'm writing now to the 45% who voted for a different Scotland. A little digging shows that what I sensed throughout the campaign was true: most of you are much younger than I am. So I'd like first to apologise for my generation, for our failure of nerve and of the imagination; for our fears about our pensions and our East Enders; for our unwillingness to listen and to read enough.

And then I'd like to charge you, all you of the 45% who are between the ages of 25 and 55, not to grow to be like the 73% of NO voters who are in my age group. Don't ever settle down inside your head, don't ever mentally don a white cardigan or a sensible skirt or a pair of tartan carpet slippers. Don't ever think that all life holds is a straitened existence in which you hold onto the past and condemn future generations to what they now find acceptable. Never allow yourselves to think that because you're no longer in daily, paid employment all you are fit for is to go for your morning paper or speak increasingly in pious platitudes and meaningless, safe clich├ęs. If you have a mind now, you will - death or Alzheimer's permitting - have a life then. You will have more time to inform yourself about the world than you ever enjoyed when you were running after kids or working in full-time employment. You are currently, I imagine, au fait with Facebook and other social media. By the time you are my age there will be other forms of engagement available - learn to use them. 

So once more, I say I'm sorry. Sorry that my co-aevals lacked your vision and paid no attention to what you wanted. Sorry that we are the selfish and blinkered generation we turned out to be. Sorry that we were fearful, sorry that we were ignorant, sorry that we claim proudly to have no truck with social media, sorry that we didn't engage with you. 

We are not all like that, and I am one of the 27% of over-65s who voted YES. I'm still up for a fight, and I can see one looming as the Westminster machine starts coming apart. But it will now be in your lifetimes, not mine, that we will see off the idea that it is better to spend on our children what we currently spend on nuclear weapons, better to shape our own destiny than be allowed scraps from the Westminster table. 

Don't lose heart. Don't shut down the vision. And don't ever grow old inside your heads.


  1. Thank you for this and the previous post.
    Back to the tent for me then.
    I would hate to be a no voter with all the wisdom of hindsight.

  2. Anonymous7:40 PM

    Wonderful post, Christine!

    I would just point out that it wasn't just an age thing. My low-income area of Aberdeen was full of 'Yes' signs. Passing through the more salubrious areas--guess what, it was mostly 'No thanks'. My own neighbours that I talked to, young and old, were all pro-Independence. Not so most of my comfortably-off acquaintances and especially fellow Epsicopal church-goers.

    I totally agree with you about the nuclear weapons issue. For me, welfare cuts were an equally important factor in voting yes. I appreciated (though I disagreed with) some people's argument that a fair society would be better achieved by staying together. What I found extremely disheartening in conversation with my 'No' acquaintances--in particular, sadly, the Christian ones-- was that they didn't seem to take nuclear weapons or social welfare into account in their decision. Indeed, they seemed remarkably unaware and if they were aware, quite dismissive of issues like bedroom tax which affect the poor and disabled..

    I am an older person, but feel gutted by the result. Right or wrong, I feel as if the comfortable classes have won.

  3. Thanks both for comments. At least my own priest didn't try to purvey bland acceptance on Sunday morning.