On Thursday 18 September 2014 the people of Scotland were asked to voice our opinions on whether or not our nation should become an independent country. Regardless of the outcome, this day will be marked in history. A matter of great importance to the people was raised, debated, campaigned for and against and ultimately, decided on. While other parts of the world suffer in silence, or wage war about such matters, we were able to make our voices heard in a peaceful, democratic manner.
And now the votes have been cast, and we have said no. The majority of the country felt that we were better off remaining as part of the United Kingdom. Understandably, those who voted Yes are disappointed by this outcome. But what disappoints me more is the way that some of them have reacted to this, declaring that it was rigged, that people voted No out of fear, that they now feel ashamed to be Scottish. All of which I find insulting and absurd.
Obviously people will be upset when the outcome is not what they desired, but the decision was taken based on the opinion of the majority; that's just how democracy works. No one should judge other for their opinions, nor make assumptions about how those opinions are formed. Campaigning before a referendum makes sense, as people need to be informed about both sides of the argument. But to persist in doing so after the decision has been made suggests a level of pettiness and bitterness. I've seen people fight and fall out over this matter, which is of course an incredibly important one, but important enough to lose friends over? Hard as it may be, these people need to accept this outcome and learn to respect the opinions of others.
As for the declarations concerning our nationality and sense of pride, I think it's clear to the rest of the world that Scotland has a unique culture and heritage that we are fiercely proud of. We have a long and turbulent relationship with England throughout history, and it's true that other countries have a tendency to use Britain and England synonymously, when they are not the same thing, and Scots have long been irritated by such errors. However, choosing to remain united with them is not from lack of pride, but rather a decision taken for sensible and practical reasons. If the Yes and No defenders can reconcile their differences, we can again be a nation proud of who we are, regardless of the Union.
Change will have to come though. The referendum had a staggeringly high turn-out, and for years in advance people were discussing and defending sides in the debate. Also, while the No vote was in the majority, almost half the country said Yes. These are all reflections on how important this issue is to the country, and how many of us are crying for change of some kind. Many who voted No believe the United Kingdom is a better option than independence, but not that things are perfect as they are. It is still unclear as to what exactly needs to be done and what will come next, but it's clear that the country doesn't wish to go on exactly as we have.
Through this referendum the voices of the Scots were heard, and they need to continue to be heard just as loudly in future. The people who are still hung-up on the result need to be mature and respectful and move on from it; but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't continue to fight for change in other ways.