In the days leading up to the referendum on Scotland's independence referendum, I published this op-ed in the Huffington Post explaining why I hoped my ancestors would find peace in a free country on Friday morning. Although my hopes were dashed by the prevailing majority who voted against Scottish independence, there are tears of pride in my eyes as I tell you how utterly amazed and inspired I feel at what Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and the "yes" camp managed to achieve in such a short period of time.
When I was in Scotland a month ago, talk of independence was considered a pipe dream according to polls showing only 35 percent of Scottish voters supported it. By last Friday, an astounding 85 percent of Scottish voters turned up at the polls, and 45 percent of voters cast ballots to stand by a scrappy but mighty campaign army of "Yessers" who beat the odds and bravely stood toe to toe with Westminster's finest.
The Yessers had only two major backers, Business for Scotland group and Willie Walsh, the chief executive of International Airlines Group, which quickly found themselves under fire.
According to the Telegraph, PM Cameron and Westminster's finest had raised an army of 100 large businesses operating in Scotland (banks, oil companies, whiskey producers, media, etc.) to sign a letter pressuring businesses to oppose Scottish independence with them. The oil industry also issued misleading statements casting doubt on the future productivity of Scotland's North Sea oil reserves -- which later turned out to be entirely inaccurate.
According to the Guardian, the Yessers had one major media outlet behind them, Herald Scotland. By contrast, Loyalist business interests dominated the world media outlets, which had already declared referendum victory in the no camp before the votes were tallied.
In the days leading up to the election, the National Union of Journalists gave a statement telling supporters from both camps to stop intimidating and threatening the safety of journalists reporting on this bloodless revolution, and asking media outlets not to report on media bias complaints leveled against rival outlets.
On the other hand, the British media's fear mongering coverage of the "Yes" campaign was so blatantly absent, biased and inaccurate that the Scottish Police Federation felt compelled to issue the following press release:
As I have previously stated the referendum debate has been robust but overwhelmingly good natured.
It was inevitable that the closer we came to the 18th of September passions would increase but that does not justify the exaggerated rhetoric that is being deployed with increased frequency. Any neutral observer could be led to believe Scotland is on the verge of societal disintegration yet nothing could be further from the truth.
In all my life, I have never seen a finer example of political grassroots organizing than what the Yessers managed to pull off over the past month, when even the previously complacent Queen of England and Prime Minister David Cameron expressed concerns ever polls showing 51 percent of Scots favored independence. It was a sight to behold.
Although Prime Minister David Cameron declared victory and a decisive end to the debate over Scottish independence at 7:01 last Friday morning, his reaction showed the Yessers have Westminster on the run. With the whole world watching, Cameron as much as admitted that he intended to squash Scotland's power because the 53.5 million people currently living in England could not sustain themselves without the subsidies produced by the 8 percent of the UK citizens currently living on Scotland.
Not bad for an underfunded rag tag band of Scots proudly defending their own on just a wee bit of hill and glen! Yessers, don't you dare put your Saltires away -- you are the mighty 45 percent!
Since the referendum, there has been much scrutiny over the way UK leaders, Loyalists and the media conducted themselves during the referendum campaign. As a Democrat who worked on political campaigns prior to 2008, I know a thing or two about the heartbreak of questionable elections supposedly rigged in favor of some of the same business industries behind the "Better Together" campaign. My biggest fear is that the Yessers will get too caught up in mud slinging or referendum rigging conspiracy theories and miss this golden moment in the spotlight to win the hearts and minds of the public.
For now, Yessers seem to be on the right track and riding above the fray. When riots broke out in George Square last Friday, independence leaders told activists to stay home while violent Loyalist mobs took over George Square, saluted the Nazies, assaulted women and children and burned the Saltire while the police stood by and the "Better Together" camp and BBC said virtually nothing. Imagine how the Loyalists would have reacted to a loss!
Perhaps this time around Westminster enjoyed the best referendum money can buy, however, the difference between the value of a pound and a dollar is unlikely to amount to enough to purchase the votes of the Scottish people Westminster has already let down. Within hours of declaring referendum victory, Westminster proposed £4billion in cuts to the Scottish budget and slashed 50,000 Scottish jobs.
If England couldn't get unification right for Scotland after 307 years of trying, they won't get it right next year either. If nothing else, the 71 percent of inspired young voters who backed the independence campaign will surely outlive the 65 percent of elderly voters who voted no to keep the dream alive.
My advice to the Yessers is to hold your heads high, keep your message clear, stay positive and honest, become the party of the people and the people will follow. Build your media support now while all eyes are on you, network in your communities, because the word from Glasgow is that your day in the sun might not be as far off as Westminster hopes. I look forward to watching what happens when Northern Ireland follows suit with their independence and the Scots send the Orange Order homeward -- tae think again.
Alba gu bràth!