Ultimately it wasn’t to be; our dream had fallen short by a measly 86 votes – 86!!!!
Inverclyde with a whopping turnout of 87.4% voted as follows: a total of 27,243 votes were cast for Yes and a total of 27,329 votes were cast for No.
After hundreds of Facebook conversations, after hundreds of doorstep debates, after having one of the most exciting and exhausting periods of my life, here is my referendum recap; my highs and my lows.
I promise I wont cry.
Where to begin? When did I actually get involved with Yes Inverclyde? Well for those of you who don’t know me, I have been an avid supporter of independence for as long as I could articulate political arguments for it. I guess it was always inevitable that I would get involved in the biggest political campaign of my lifetime. I don’t count social media as campaigning, so my starting point within Yes Inverclyde would take me to a YES event in the Greenock Town Hall.
The star of the bill was the charismatic Tommy Sheridan. Alongside Tommy there was Ian McDougall from Business for Scotland and Deborah Waters from Labour for Independence (LFI). Being completely honest, the reason I went was to get in touch with prominent local campaigners, and have a go at the LFI representative. The event itself was thoroughly entertaining, if not enlightening, as it merely confirmed most of what I had researched for myself. Once the speakers were finished, the exciting part of the evening began, the public Q and A. I never one to shy away from public speaking, decided that the hall should bask in my pearls of wisdom. What followed from my big mouth-to the audience-via the microphone, is now referred to as my “spice girl” speech – aptly named because I claimed Blair and Brown to be Maggie Thatcher’s ‘spice girls’. True to form for me, I never planned what I was going to say before I got the microphone – we all have our faults. Poor Mrs. Watters was subjected to my anger, not only towards New Labour but at the failures of LFI for not attacking New Labour enough in public. I know, I know, it’s not the normal etiquette to attack one on the same side as you. Yet, the central point of my rant was this, Labour voters were the key to the ultimate success of this campaign, especially in Inverclyde. Without a mass conversion to the YES cause from Labour voters, we may as well not even bother with a referendum.
That meeting was my first true experience at a YES event in Inverclyde, and it gave me the kick up the backside I needed to go out and campaign – where campaigns are lost or won – on the doorsteps of Inverclyde.
Now friends, I don’t care how confident a person is, or how much faith you have in your argument, going to knock on a random person’s door is quite daunting – I had my fair share of “fuck offs,” screamed at me. Yet canvassing, as it is called, is the lifeblood of any political campaign. The more people you have knocking doors, the more your message is spread, and hence the more likely you are to be successful with your campaign. I’m not going to use this blog to moan or complain about the challenges we faced. All I will say is this, with the media the way it was, canvassing took on an even more important role than your standard party political campaign.
What currency are we going to use? How long will oil last? Will we be in the EU? What will happen to my pension? How can we afford it? Question after question was launched at the faithful canvassers of Yes Inverclyde. Now I won’t bore you with the tedious details of my answers to these questions. Instead I’ll share with you some of my highlights on the doorsteps of Inverclyde.
I was knocking doors up Braeside, with my trusty sidekick Geraldine, when we encountered one very unpleasant gentleman. For a bit of context you should know when we knock a door and no-one answers, we put a card through the door reading ‘sorry we missed you.’ with our contact details on the back of that card. So Geraldine and I followed this procedure when we had knocked on a typical wooden door one mild evening down Braeside. As we made our way to the next household, we heard an almighty roar coming from the door we had just knocked. So I about-turned and proceeded to do that awkward half-run half-walk, – the walk usually reserved for crossing roads -, right up to the previous door. Stupidly what awaited Geraldine and I wasn’t an eager YES voter excited to tell us how excited he was to be voting YES. Instead, we had the pleasure of facing a retired British Marine, who just happened to have a vast sum of money placed on a NO vote – I think about 5 grand he said. He then proceeded to rip our card and literature we placed through his door to pieces, in our faces, and tell us mainly myself, how stupid we are and why we are wasting our time trying to convince people to leave his beloved Union. Needless to say, I wasn’t in the mood for a heated debate with an ex-Marine, we wished him well and went on our not so merry way – I may or may not have done my own washing that night.
Another particularly favourite exchange of mine took place with with a random punter a couple of streets away from my home up the Port. It was the day after the first televised TV debate with Salmond and Darling. Needless to say for anyone who watched that debate, our spirits weren’t the highest. Alex didn’t deliver the performance we all knew he was capable of. The first door I go to knock that night turns out to be a staunch no voter. In fact, I didn’t even get in his garden, the guy shouted on me: “here mate, what side are you with, Yes or No?” So I put on my game face on (beautiful I know) and go to give him my chat. “Stop right there wee man, your boy Salmond took a beating last night, what currency we going to use eh.” He says in the most condescending tone I have ever come across. Now this exchange in itself isn’t story worthy. What makes this episode special is what follows the Sunday after the second TV debate between Salmond and Darling, which of course Alex destroyed Darling.
That Sunday we were all buzzing. The YES shop was jumpin, the polls were narrowing and momentum was well and truly on our side. We set an ambitious target to deliver 14,000 newspapers to the whole of Inverclyde. I volunteered to leaflet Devol, as it is my scheme, my area, my Sparta. As I set off to deliver my bundle of YES papers, a black car pulls up beside me, the window rolls down and a man says to me: “Don’t put a paper through my door.” Well, well, well, friends if it wasn’t the random punter himself. Of course I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, so I replied quick as a flash: “Your boy Darling took a beating last night, name three powers coming to Scotland?” I’ve always been an admirer of karma. Needless to say I delivered over 300 papers that day happy-as-Larry. More impressively we got our 14,000 papers through the letterboxes of Inverclyde.
I could literally give you dozens of canvassing stories but I’ll move onto what was undoubtedly the beating heart of the final two/three months of the Indy Campaign. The YES SHOP
The YES shop was priceless and without doubt my favourite part of the referendum. Not only was it effective as a place for us to meet and coordinate our campaign, it become a central point for the people that matter the most, the voters of Inverclyde. The sheer volume of car stickers; window posters; wristbands; leaflets; badges; etc, that went out to the public through that shop was amazing. Above all else though, it put us on the front foot for the first time in the campaign. If people had concerns the came to us instead of us going to them, something we struggled with on the doorsteps. And on a side note, if anyone is looking for career advice then trust me sell badges for election campaigns. If you’re brave enough make them for all sides of future debates.
Much like canvassing I could give you multiple stories from the YES shop. From our daily interactions with people from the Inverclyde center, to our heated debates with the BetterTogether spies, we have some fantastic memories and stories. We had our grand opening with Nicola Sturgeon; we had our fun day with bands and face painting; we had our day when we were overran by about 15 neds; we had our visits from ‘Strathclyde’s finest’; we had big Sandy from CND and Martin Compston drop by; we had ice bucket challenges; we had more fun than you should in politics. Yet one day sticks out more than most. That day was the 2nd of September.
What was special about that day? Well that day was the deadline day for registering to vote – a democratic version of deadline day for football transfers if you wish. I honestly don’t think for as long as I live I’ll ever forget that day. I went to the shop at around 10am as usual. Now us at the shop, we were good, we were pretty fluent when it came to customer service by this point. Still nothing could have prepared us for what was coming. For 12 whole hours we were non-stop, form after form after form was filled in our shop. If there was to be a day you would pick to bottle the hopes, aspirations, dreams and possibilities of the YES campaign, this was it. From 16year old first time voters, to OAP’s who hadn’t voted since the poll tax, the excitement was palpable. The sense of community in that shop is something that still makes me smile. There were people from all backgrounds, and all walks of life. Everyone was buzzing and alive with the excitement of the campaign. Now, I don’t intend to demean anyone on the NO side, however I genuinely do not think they would have experienced anything as moving or profound as what we experienced in our wee hub on the 2nd of Sept.
Are you still awake? Well done for not falling asleep, the end is nigh I promise. My recap wouldn’t be complete without addressing the moment YES Inverclyde heard the verdict read out aloud in the Waterfront.
The whole day of the 18th still feels like a blur, mainly due to my lack of sleep in the build up to it. The 18th started off in fantastic fashion for me. I got to Boglestone Community Centre at 6.55am. My friend’s father was already there, waiting in his kilt, to be the first person to vote YES on the day. I could have voted before him, but he had made an effort so I let him have it. Now here’s the good part, to keep me company from the NO side was a Tory councilor. Needless to say friends civilities lasted about 2 minutes before we had a heated argument. If I can offer another bit of advice friends, it would be this. If you are unsure on a course of action, or an idea you have, run it by a Tory. If they agree, do they complete opposite. And if they oppose it, you are on the right path. As for my disagreement with the Tory, I couldn’t imagine a better way to start the most important political day in our history. The rest of the day passed without major incident. Mainly it involved standing at polling stations and the occasional drive in the Ford van, giving out words of encouragement over the loudspeaker. All that was left was to attend the count and hear the verdict from the good people of Inverclyde.
And when that verdict was read out I literally felt sick to my stomach, not only because we had missed a YES in Inverclyde by a midges bawhair, but I knew across the country our valiant campaign hadn’t quite managed to make it across the finish line. Words will never be able to capture how I felt as the most amazing campaign in our lifetimes came to a close. I could get all sad and dramatic but honestly, I am just happy to have played a very, very small part in an historic event.
Now the dust has settled I feel nothing but pride and excitement for the future of Inverclyde and Scotland. I can confidently say from speaking to both YES and NO folk across Inverclyde, one thing is abundantly clear. No longer will politicians take our vote or our voice for granted. A microscope is well and truly judging every move our elected representatives make. And more importantly, we are the ones holding that microscope. You and I; our next door neighbours; our friends; our families, never again will Westminster or Holyrood forget that they work for us. Ultimately that is the common victory we can all share in, a future decided by the people for the people.
Finally, to everyone who made this period of my life so magical and to everyone I annoyed the hell out of, can I please say, Thank You from the bottom of my heart.
P.S. I’ll never stop campaigning for Scotland to be free of Westminster rule.
P.P.S I had to attend my best friends engagement party on the 19th. Needless to say, I wasn’t a barrel of laughs that night.