On this day two years ago, the people of Scotland exercised their sovereign will to vote No in the independence referendum which was held on the previous day. In doing so, they preserved the United Kingdom and over 300 years of shared history, culture, heritage, solidarity, and prosperity with the peoples of the rest of the realm.
The day of the vote was remarkable for the fact there was overwhelming civic participation in form of nearly 85% turnout among registered voters, including many who had lived through life having ever voted for anything, as well as 16 and 17 year olds, to whom the voting franchise was temporarily extended for this occasion – the outcome of which would decide their future longer than anyone else.
As it was, when the question was put to them: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”, the outcome was a decisive vote in favor the keeping the UK together, with 55.3% of those who turned out voting No and 44.7% voting Yes and for separation.
It was a great day for Scotland and for the United Kingdom as a whole, and it was a day that I shall never forget. As a person who takes a great interest in the UK and has adopted it as my second home, it was just brilliant to see unity triumphing over division, and the people affirming their commitment to be part of the same country as England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, with all of the benefits – social, cultural, and economic – which come with it.
For the people who wished to see the Union continue, it was a moment of relief after an emotionally draining campaign that had consumed their lives for the better part of three years ever since the SNP won a majority at Holyrood in 2011 on a manifesto which included a vote on independence. Through it all, they soldiered through – day in and day out – going up against the well-oiled and well-funded campaign machine that was Yes Scotland and the SNP. They came from vastly different political, social, and economic backgrounds, but had a confident sense of having Scotland as a proud and strong part of the United Kingdom, and they did their bit – in countless ways – to keep the Union together and succeeded.
There were pitfalls and setbacks to be sure, and more than a few falling outs as different political ideologies clashed, but they found a way to overcome their differences and work in the interest of the greater good for the people of Scotland and of the rest of the UK as a whole.
The latter point is important because these good and decent people did not wish to break the bonds that they share with their fellow Britons. They knew that the UK was an imperfect country that has its faults – as all countries do – but believed robustly and confidently that keeping Britain together was the right thing for everyone, including themselves and their families – not just in Scotland, but in other parts of the UK.
And while the supporters of separation made lots of noise and held dozens of marches with Saltire’s – some emblazoned with the “Yes” logo – they were ultimately no match for the quiet and silent majority who turned out to vote and voted No. With little or no celebration, most of them cast their votes, watched the results with much relief, and moved on with their lives. Some of them may have celebrated in private, among family and friends, as well as online among like-minded people on Facebook and Twitter. But for the most part, they were just glad for it to be over.
Now two years later, they have no regrets on their vote, and would do it again if necessary. They have had to deal with the noise of the separatists, who have been as loud as ever with their numbers at Westminster and Holyrood, as well as the fall-out from the Brexit vote. Still, they lost their Holyrood majority in May and the post-Brexit bounce as so far yet to materialize. In fact, there are some signs that the SNP may be sliding back, with polls showing less enthusiasm for a second referendum, support for separation relatively unchanged and most people in favor of the Union, and even Nicola Sturgeon's popularity has fallen against a rising Ruth Davidson.
Still, the separatists aren't going anywhere soon, and those who wish to maintain the Union must be ready for anything. For today however, those supporters of the Union have mostly limited their celebration to expressing their thoughts feelings on social media and with each other. They don’t need to go out to city squares and bolster about their support for proudly remaining part of the UK. They know who they are and what they stand for, and they cherish their quiet victory. Many will spend a quiet day at home remembering the solemn, yet inspiring victory two years ago, as well as having the hope of not having to vote again on this issue so soon.
However, if need be, they will, and hope that it will be another reaffirmation of Scotland’s proud and honored place in the United Kingdom.