I posted last week from Northumberland on Thursday, election eve, unaware of what was going to happen the next day. By the time I left to drive home on Saturday morning, the political landscape in Scotland had changed beyond recognition.
It was raining when I got to the border on the A68, a lonely saddle in the hills with a St George’s Cross flapping damply on one side, a Saltire on the other. But as I crossed the invisible line, I felt my heart lifting. I was returning to a country that had cast its vote for kindness.
I believe what happened here last week was overwhelmingly about a wish for a fairer, more democratic, less divided society. It’s the same feeling that drove people to vote Yes in last year’s referendum: a mounting, and thankfully no longer impotent, fury against a rotten status quo.
I don’t believe for most people that it was then or is now about independence, per se; but rather that that option has seemed to so many like the only way to achieve the society they really wish for. And I fear that events in the last few post-election days may already, increasingly be proving that to be the case: Gove versus human rights, Whittingdale versus the BBC, and so on.
Despite the hateful torrent of bile and lies spewed out by The Mail and The Telegraph, despite the utterly disgraceful Tory poster campaign depicting Alex Salmond as a puppet-master and a thief, despite Boris Johnson’s ‘Ajockalypse’ jibe and the frothings of sundry political luminaries about the danger of the Scots to the civilised world, I don’t know any Scots who bear anything but goodwill to the people of England. The idea that we might wish to threaten them or steal from them would be utterly risible were it not so insulting.
In fact most Scots did laugh at it. They’d seen it before, last year, and they knew it was coming again. But imagine for a moment if the tables had been turned. Imagine if the Scottish press had begun to demonise the English people collectively. Imagine if the SNP had taken out 48-sheet posters in Edinburgh and Glasgow showing David Cameron as the Grim Reaper. You can hear the shrieking now.
It’s telling that while the term ‘Jock’ predominated in the Tory press, there is no derogatory word north of the border for the English, unless you include ‘sassenach’ which is an archaism mostly used in humour or mild affection. But for me the most telling observation of all came from a friend we saw at dinner on Monday. An Old Etonian who lives partly in France, partly in Scotland, he explained that he had voted SNP because ‘It’s basically about people being nicer to one another’. I would only add, regardless of which side of the border they live.
I’m going to Barcelona on Saturday and may not post next week. But watch this space for news from Catalonia.