Edinburgh was wrapped in a pillow of fog as we landed on the day Scotland had to make up its mind. The city seemed rather subdued and reserved, as if it couldn’t take anymore debate. Leaving the east coast for Galloway by train, the fog evaporated revealing Scotland in it`s morning glory, drenched in September sunshine. The first hint of election excitement appeared before Lockerbie where “No” and “Yes” banners started popping up on farmland. The “No” banners maybe had the edge, but grazing sheep seemed uninterested. Then drama on the train. An elderly lady engulfed by the vastness of the day, ordered a Chardonnay at 10:30 am to celebrate the election. When asked by the train staff serving coffee on where did she put her mark, a deathly hush descended in the carriage and eyebrows were raised. She refused to say and ordered another Chardonnay.
An hour later, standing in the beautiful Dalbeattie Cemetery, partly surrounded by woodland where hoards of rabbits where waiting to pounce on the fresh flowers laid respectfully, a stone mason was chipping away at a headstone. I went to over to him and our small talk developed into his deep and well founded concerns of the future of Scotland, if his nation was to leave the UK. Our conservation in this melancholic setting in some way moved me. I left him and he resumed tapping away.
Next stop, Kippford, on the banks of the Urr estuary, where the tide always seems to be out, this small village with the ever popular pub, The Anchor, here I was sure I would find a more vociferous support for either campaign. And indeed, I found the forthright and emphatic views of the landlady and I experienced a passionate plea for Scotland yet again to stay in the union. It was becoming clear that the arguments for independence were failing to impress in this region.
By the evening of this historic day, Scotland seemed to draw back, close it´s curtains and wait patiently for the results the following morning. Sitting with my family at a window table overlooking the Solway at The Steamboat Inn, used by local farmers, hunters, hikers and wayward tourists it has become haven, especially when a bitterly cold wind is whipped from the Irish Sea. Tucked neatly on the Solway, Carsethorne, was for thousands of Scots the last they saw of their birth land, before sailing to America and Australia 200 years ago. And on that September evening in 2014, the 4 nations of the United Kingdom held its breath.
I have been asked regularly by friends and colleagues on where do I stand on this sensitive issue. My observations and conservations over the last few days left me unresolved. The debate has maybe unwittingly brought up the issue of national identity and the uneasy relationship between the political powers and its citizens. Hopefully all Britons will debate as intelligently as the Scots have done over the last 2 years. Scots on both sides of the debate should be very proud.