The awakening

Hope Over Fear rally
Hope Over Fear rally

It has been a year since Scotland voted to stay in the United Kingdom with the majority of voters opting to reject independence.

But what has been the effect on Scots in the wake of this decision? Has it made people more politically aware and is there a new sense of pride among Scottish people?

“The referendum was a political awakening for many across Scotland,” says Holyrood’s devolution committee convener Bruce Crawford.

“It was great to see people from all walks of life who had never been in politics before become so passionate about the future of our country.

“The referendum campaign engaged with people at a grassroots level. There were countless public meetings, stalls on most street corners and it would have been difficult to find a house that hadn’t been leafleted by either of the two main campaign groups,” the SNP MSP explained.

“On both sides of the debate people genuinely cared about the future of Scotland, whether that be in the UK or as an independent nation.”

Many agree that one of the major positive effects of the campaign was how it involved young people in the political process.

The UK voting age, usually 18, was lowered to allow younger people to take part in the referendum.

A survey carried out by the Scottish Parliament at the start of this year revealed 25 per cent of 16 and 17-year-olds were inspired to join a political party in the wake of the result.

And a further 25 per cent became involved in political campaigning following the vote on September 18.

Most of the 1200 first-time voters who took part also said they wanted a say in all future elections.

Mr Crawford said: “During and since the referendum I believe we became more aware about how our country is run. Some fabulous young people in particular really engaged with the process, having the vote for the first time. They weren’t afraid to ask difficult questions and to challenge those in power at both Westminster and Holyrood. This can only be a good thing for the coming decade in Scottish politics.”

This view was echoed by Shirley-Ann Somerville, the SNP candidate for Dunfermline. She said: “One of the most inspiring aspects of the referendum campaign was the way young people in particular grasped the opportunity to get involved in politics with both hands. With the Scottish Parliament extending the right to vote to 16 and 17-year-olds in next year’s election, I’m very confident that the new spirit of democratic engagement amongst our young people will continue.”

Mhairi Black, the UK’s youngest MP since the 17th century, believes right now Scotland has one of the most politically engaged electorates in Europe.

The 20-year-old SNP member for Paisley and Renfrewshire South said: “The referendum forced people to really think about our society and what they believe it should look like.

“It allowed people to decipher the political spin lines we have been fed for years and it enabled people to articulately scrutinise policy and the records of politicians effectively. I wouldn’t say there has been a rise in Scottishness or nationalism, I think what we are witnessing is a rise in confidence of the people in Scotland.

“There is now a feeling among ordinary people that they deserve better than what some politicians are offering – this can only be a good thing.” She added: “What we have witnessed is the voice of Scotland being heard louder than ever before within the chamber of Westminster and I do firmly believe we are in a better place than we were a year ago, even if I don’t believe it is the best.”

Last week, a new poll suggested the majority of Scots would now vote in favour of independence if a second referendum was held tomorrow. The survey, conducted by Ipsos Mori, revealed that 53 per cent of people in Scotland would vote yes, 44 per cent would say no and just three per cent are undecided.

But despite this, there are some who believe the 2014 referendum result was decisive and that the best way to move forward now is by securing Scotland’s place within the United Kingdom.

This is the view of Scotland in Union, a non-party movement which believes staying together is in the interests of the Scottish people.

Alastair Cameron, one of the campaign’s founders, said: “We speak with a lot of people who voted No and even some who voted Yes but don’t want a re-run.

“The consistent message from No voters is that they remain happy to be part of the UK. Many people feel deeply disconcerted by what feels like a continuation of the referendum campaign. There was a genuine sense of relief and wanting to get on with life from September 19, 2014, and people feel let down because the ‘once in a generation’ or ‘once in a lifetime’ event might now come round again.” He added: “People are still glad they voted no. Our supporters are still happy to be in the UK, but just want to get back to normality when politics is about matters such as health and education, not about separation and difference.”