Scenes from Highland life, part two – part eight: Jane-Sharon Regent

loch glencoulScenes from Highland life, part two

The sun is low over the horizon, and my friend, now in his late 60s, leans on the bonnet of the car he’s fixing up. I don’t see why we shouldn’t run our own country, he says, I don’t see why not. His daughter, he says, is ‘mad for it’. I can confirm this; she finds she can hardly speak to people who are going to vote no. That said, she can only number one amongst her friends. Her colleague was an unthinking no, until the other day, when she drew up in her car, ripped off her UKOK sticker and flung it in the gutter. All of the highlands is yes, he says. I can only tell you what I see. On the train journey to the town, a journey I made three days’ previously, I notice a whole new phalanx of Yes signs, on gable ends, garden fences, windows, walls. In Dingwall itself, a hairdressers’ has come out for Yes, a couple of old lassies off for a cuppa sport Yes badges as big as teaspoons, a dog in a blue neckerchief emblazoned with the three magic letters is the centre of attention. I’ve never, never, never seen anything like it.

Scenes from Highland life, part three

Someone phones the cops to tell them that their giant Yes sign has been vandalised. Well, there’s only one thing you can do, isn’t there?, says the officer. What’s that?, asks the caller. Put up a bigger sign, says the officer.

Scenes from Highland life, part four

The days are ticking by, four, three, two, one to go. We have, literally, leafletted every letterbox in the village and beyond, barring a few, distant crofts on the hill. For every giant No Thanks billboard, squatting boldly in a landowner’s field, there are a half-dozen wee Yes stickers in windows and on cars. And you know what? That big rich bastard’s vote is no bigger than that of the wee lady in the local authority maisonette down the road. Walking the children up to school on the eve of referendum, a yellow car draws up, with a saltire fluttering at each corner and a rash of Yes stickers emblazoned on the bonnet. This isn’t the Yes battlebus, just an ordinary family, with extraordinary hope. “Freedom!” says the TV repair man, looking on with glee.

Scenes from Highland life, part five

Last leaflet, to a house that’s been done up, and appears to be uninhabited. Told you we had the place covered! The builder has a Yes sticker on his van, so I approach. You don’t need to leaflet me, he says, I’m a Yes, all my family are Yes, and all my friends are Yes. I ask if he thinks we’ll get it. I think so, he says, but if we don’t, we’ll get it next time, and that’ll be soon. His son got a job in the states, he’s an animator, it’s a great job, job of a lifetime. But they wanted him to start this week. He said no, he had to stay to vote in the referendum. So he flies out Monday instead.

Scenes from Highland life, part six

Most of his work are no, because they are worried about their mortgages, one is worried he won’t sell his house, one trots out the old adage of too many unanswered questions. Dismal day. But as he’s leaving, someone says, listen, Malcolm, it’s not so much a No, just a Not Yet.

Scenes from Highland life, part four

 At 7am, there was a queue outside the polling station. This has never happened before. By 10am, it’s still busy, everyone and her granny is coming to vote. We’re allowed to stand on a corner of pavement, at the edge of the road, with our Yes leaflets. Today we hold Scotland’s future in our hands. It doesn’t feel like it at the moment, as a Land Rover edges past us, its No sticker almost threatening to be the last thing I’ll ever see in this world. The YES/NO vote is class war, played out in villages and inner cities all across this rising nation. Here, the No voters wear Pringle sweaters and tweed jackets, they sweep past us in their 4X4s into the polling station car park. They look at us askance, in a how-very-dare-you manner. Voting No here is about entitlement, the ancient ties of land-ownership and his lordship. Not all the Nos are well off; some are not, by any means. Some are voting in much the way they would if it was a show of hands and the master was watching. Others just fear change, even though change is what they’ll get, whatever happens. Still others, if they’d just had another week or two, would have gone the other way. But there are plenty of Yesses, old women voting, simply, for their grandchildren. Mums and dads proudly walking in, with their children, to register their historic vote. Some secondary schoolchildren, in their blazers, come grinning in. A first-time voter, 17 years old, has voted, and voted Yes. He’s alive with it, shakes all of our hands, and takes a handful of Bairns not Bombs stickers for his mates, who’ll definitely want them, he says. We get coffee in a flask, with mugs and milk separate, and slices of home-made cake. A young taxi-driver, his vehicle almost snowed under with Yes ephemera, his chest practically obliterated by the dinner plate-sized Yes badge, lingers to chat. The taxis are 60/40 Yes; no’ bad for taxi-drivers, he says wryly. Another, with his son on his shoulder, says his work is 80/20, even the boss and his wife, who’re loaded. We consult. Definitely, we’re not just kidding ourselves on here, the Yes votes are slightly ahead. By close of poll, I can hardly breathe.

Scenes from Highland life, part four

 It’s the morning of the 19th. This is not the day I had hoped it would be. A friend in Glasgow tore all his Yes stickers down. Ours are still up because our daughter, aged 9, says they should stay. My pal treats me to a tea at the cafe. She calls for me when it’s time to collect the kids from school. We’re looking after each other today, without even saying so.


Fiona Alderman blogging from rural France: The Referendum Result
Scenes from Highland life, part one: Jane-Sharon Regent

This section: Scenes from Highland Life, The Referendum and Scottish Politics

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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