Last week the people of Scotland turned out in droves to vote for or against independence. For weeks and months before social media was buzzing with comments, threats, fears and hopes. Deliberately, I chose not to voice my opinion. Some of my little flock were expressing concerns about what the aftermath would be like and I figured that ministering to them would be easier if I was neutral. That didn’t mean that I didn’t feel strongly about the vote, however.
I was brought up in a fiercely Scottish household. By that, I don’t mean that we were all SNP voters. I just mean that we were really proud to be Scottish, we love our country and its contribution to the world stage. If asked for my nationality, I always put down Scottish rather than British if I could – and objected if I couldn’t! When I travel abroad to Englandshire or further afield there is always a surge of passion in my heart as I cross the border back home. I love my capital city of Edinburgh, and in small doses I adore the countryside which I think is uniquely beautiful. I am a socialist at heart and am troubled about the gap between rich and poor in my country and the world. Having been homeless and poor, I know what it feels like, and I care deeply that there are still people in my land who have to rely on handouts for their daily bread. I see on a daily basis what changes in benefits are doing to disabled people and my heart aches for them.
Having said all that, I am not a politically active person and I know I should probably do much more than I already do. In the campaign leading up to the Referendum I tried to follow the arguments for and against. My initial assumption was that I would vote Yes, but I was prepared to think it out more carefully. However, I have a deep distrust of politicians and the press and found it all horribly confusing. Who to believe? Experts contradicted each other on a daily basis and I really didn’t know who was telling the truth. I admit to being shocked by some of the things friends were saying on Facebook – on both sides of the debate – and also sympathised with others who obviously held passionate beliefs. In the last few days I actually felt ill with worry about how it was all going to pan out, and how we’d recover after. I didn’t sleep well and realised that this really did matter to me and my future.
In the end I made my vote with my heart. I voted Yes. I voted Yes in the hope of a better future for my children. It was a risk, perhaps, as all my questions weren’t answered about what that future might bring but it was a risk I was prepared to take. I didn’t believe everything I was told by either side but in the end thought that for those with nothing there was a better hope with the Yes crowd. Who knows if that was right or wrong, but my passionate Scottish heart wanted to believe that there was a better way forward for my country. And I really didn’t vote for myself because I don’t believe I had very much to lose. A couple of wee pensions and that’s it really but there are so many people who had far more to lose than me. And I’d happily pay more tax if I thought it was going to those who needed it most: the poor, the hungry, the marginalised, the homeless, the disabled.
On the 18th September I went to my polling station in the high flats near my rectory and cast my vote. There was a lovely feeling of excitement and anticipation and the whole station cheered a young 16 year old who was casting his first vote. I chatted to the Polling clerk who told me he was a Baptist and it was all in God’s hands now. I disagreed with him, but know he meant well! And I went home to wait. Would I stay up to hear the results or go to bed? I’ve never stayed up before at an election but this felt so much more important. In the end, I went to bed for a few hours sleep and then got up about 3.30am when the results started to come in. In a few hours it was all over and the majority of those who voted had elected to stay within Britain. What I didn’t expect was how upset I would feel. I hadn’t realised how many hopes and dreams had been making up my thoughts and prayers in the days leading up to it and now they were all to come to nothing. I heard a quote which kept going round my head: I feel as if my lover is leaving and there’s nothing I can do to make him stay. Interestingly, it could have been said by either side.
Then there was gloating and reasoning and riots and resignations and it felt out of control for a while. It was a horrible feeling and it still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. My church leaders plead for us to work for reconciliation and pray for healing. Lord knows I’m trying but its the feelings of social justice which really concern me now. These same concerns are real, I know, for those who voted No, many of whom are my friends. Because in the end we all wanted the best for Scotland.
Yesterday at church I looked at my little flock and wondered how they were feeling. I don’t know how many of them voted but I do know from conversations and social media that some of them were hurting too. I felt particularly close to them yesterday. But that doesn’t mean that I loved the others less. Today we all pray for a better future. Today I feel that I might have to become a little more pro-active in making that happen.