The people of Scotland have spoken and said, “No thanks!”

Thus ends the latest Scottish rebellion at least for another generation.

And for one of the very few times in my life, the side I supported, albeit with some reluctance, has won an election. Pity I couldn’t actually vote.

And a first, one of my prophecies came true. In A Scottish View on Scottish Independence, I predicted that Scotland would vote “No” by a narrow margin. I thought it would be 5-7%, but it’s turned out to be nearer 10%.

So what does it all mean? A few reflections:

1. This has been a largely peaceful process. The days of Braveheart and Culloden are thankfully long past for Scotland. Ukraine, Iraq, and many other places are not so fortunate, as separatist (and unionist) movements continue to use to military means to advance their cause. There are no tanks or claymores on the streets of Edinburgh or Glasgow this morning.

2. This has been a surprising process. Surprising that the passionate Scottish nationalist movement came so close, but even more surprising perhaps was the passion and feeling stirred in the hearts of the Unionists. Many Scots were stunned at how much latent love for being British surfaced in our hearts. Scots who’d never waved a British flag in their lives found themselves wrapped in Union flags and singing “Land of Hope and Glory” and “Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves” with all the gusto of the English! We’ve shed surprising tears as we discovered deep strains of patriotism and came to value and treasure our shared and God-given history and heritage.

3. This has been a divisive process. With the whole referendum being about division, in some ways we should have expected polarization. But few expected such extreme polarization. Americans who have got so used to extreme partisan politics might be puzzled that this is a problem. “It’s politics, of course we hate the other side.” But that’s not the norm in the UK. Oh, sure the main party leaders feign hatred of each other, as here. But the general population usually just lets them get on with it, as they get on with their lives. Not this time. Families, neighbors, colleagues, Christians have turned against one another with a rarely seen enmity, that may take years to recover from.

4. This has been a heartbreaking process. The vote is over but hundreds of thousands of Scots are deeply depressed this morning with painful hearts that will take a long time to heal. The stunning 85% electoral participation was exceeded only by the unparalleled emotional investment that will be causing many emotional hangovers this morning. This was no ordinary election that people forget in a day or two; many staked their whole beings and many pounds and hours in this campaign. And today, as I look at photos and film of rain-soaked Scottish flags and Lion Rampants, and at the tear-stained faces of multitudes of heart-broken Yes-Scots, my eyes begin to water too. “Maybe they were right. Maybe we missed a golden opportunity.”

5. This has been an economic process. For all the passion and emotion of these weeks and months, the primary consideration has been money. Judging by most of the arguments, the vote really came down to which side would put a few more pounds in Scottish pockets. Spiritual considerations were ignored or belittled. Saddest of all, perhaps, was that neither side needed to take the church’s views or the Christian vote into account at all – too small, too insignificant. Thus Scotland’s headlong plunge into secularism, even intolerant persecuting secularism, continues apace, though probably slightly slower than if Scotland had voted for Independence.

6. This has been an entertaining process. There have been many moments of high-drama and many barn-storming speeches. Political reputations were made and destroyed. Some politicians rose to the occasion and others collapsed under the glare of TV lights and public scrutiny. Although election results usually disappoint me, I must say I just love watching the human drama play out as men and women strive to sway hearts and minds, as leaders are made and others are broken, as journalists skewer slippery interviewees, and as ordinary people rise up and speak. 

7. This is a continuing process. One of the factors that swung the vote in the last few days was the UK leaders’ panic-induced promises of far greater powers to the Scottish parliament. That may have saved their skins, and the Union, but it’s also guaranteed continued political, constitutional, and economic upheaval for years to come. In his concession statement, the nationalist leader, Alex Salmond, has already called for these promises to be honored.

UPDATE: Let me add an eighth thought. This has been a world-watching moment. Scotland is rarely in the news, but has fairly enjoyed the world’s media spotlight the past week or so, especially as the opinion polls narrowed and the break-up of the United Kingdom seemed imminent. Many European nations looked on with alarm as separatist movements in various European countries recognized the momentum a Scottish “yes” vote would produce. Americans, including the President, weighed in on the eve of the vote, horrified at the potential impact on our “special relationship,” NATO, and world stability. Although I’m no fan of Gordon Brown, I think he was right to say that the UK is a good example to an increasingly divided and unstable world of how different nations and peoples can unite and work together for the common good. But it’s also an example of flexibility in devolving more powers in response to the democratic process.

These are the thoughts that come tumbling out of my heart and head this morning. Whether we are rejoicing or mourning this morning, surely this prayer for the revival of religion in Scotland is something all Christians can unite around.

  • Ben Thorp

    If we’re talking about the economics, it should be noted that the regions that voted “Yes” were the poorest regions of Scotland. The BBC surmised that the No vote was strongest among areas with a high concentration of either a) rich, middle class, b) elderly or c) people not born in Scotland. Amongst our prayers for unity, devolution, etc we need to pray for those who have been hardest hit by the “austerity” measures, those that queue at the increasing number of foodbanks, those that have had necessary benefits withdrawn, who seemed to have mostly voted Yes, but could be the hardest hit by the No result.