I've written about this on a few occasions before, and now that it's happened I thought I would break my (unintentional) silence to round it all up.
Yesterday, between seven in the morning and ten at night, the people of Scotland had the chance to vote on the future of their nation. It's a rare thing in these islands for such an obvious democratic event to happen at all. Yes, we have elections, and those elections are run in such a way that they never represent the actual will of the people. If a political party gets forty per cent of the vote they achieve a landslide victory. But that's another story.
Scotland had its moment in the sunshine - a rare thing in Scotland in my experience. I was there once at the beginning of July, contending with temperatures that didn't get above four degrees, and horizontal rain. If you see photos taken in Scotland, the chances are that someone has photoshopped in the blue sky and the shadows. Don't get me wrong, I love Scotland, I love Scottishness and I love that I have Scottish ancestry. Those things are very important to me, and that's why I took a keen interest in the independence referendum.
It all started a couple of years ago. There was an election and for the first time the Scottish parliament ended up being run by the Scottish Nationalist Party. One of their manifesto pledges was to have a referendum about independence. That set the ball rolling. It took a while, but a date was fixed, rules were drawn up and a question was drafted - 'Should Scotland be an independent country?' - a question requiring a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer. Six little words that would have a huge impact on the future of the UK, whatever the final answer.
Debates were waged, families and workplaces divided, and more Scots registered to vote than ever before. There was, of course, quite a bit of misinformation too - that always happens when politicians are involved. Some wonderful British icons were mauled in the arguments, the currency and who would have a right to use it, the NHS and the way it's funded, North Sea oil and who should benefit from the wealth it generates, the Queen and who she should reign over. Both sides had very different ideas about those things. Both sides made promises they stood no chance of keeping - again, that's politicians for you.
Anyway, the day, yesterday, finally came. The lies, conflation, exaggeration and rhetoric died away as people finally got their chance to put a cross on a slip of paper, stick it into a metal box and walk away in a democratic euphoria.
The polls closed at ten o'clock last night, and by five this morning the result was known. More people had voted than ever before in any form of Scottish election, and for the first time that included 16 and 17 year olds. Good.
As I said in my previous entries about this, I was torn for a long time on which way I would vote if I had the chance. Living in the south of England, of course, I didn't have a vote. Good. My Scottish genes wanted independence, my English ones didn't. All the others, well established genes from other parts of the British Isles, from Western Europe and beyond, didn't, I have to confess, get much of a say. It surprised me but my English genes won out. I decided that, personally, I didn't want Scotland to be independent, I didn't want the main link in the UK severed. And, I wouldn't have wanted the rest of us to suffer Conservative governments for ever more - that just isn't healthy.
So, listening to the radio this morning, I heaved a sort of sigh of relief when it was announced that the people of Scotland had voted to remain as part of the UK. I had thought it would be a close run thing, but the final margin was 55 per cent 'No' (to independence) and 45 per cent 'Yes'.
And happily, our national nature says that 'that's that'. We will continue to talk about it but not to question the decision. It's been made, now sit down, have a cup of tea, perhaps something stronger, and work out moving forward together. That's what I like about us. In other parts of the world, people are so frightened by the possible result that they choose not to have the debate, they resort to violence and a lack of consideration that we just can't contemplate here. How unbritish can you get?