By: Tori Watson
The big day we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived. #IndyRef polling day! To mark this momentous event, I travelled to Edinburgh to fully gauge the vibe on the streets, and to see history in the making with my very own eyes.
Following our very own #QRIndyRef debate last night on The Scoop, I scooted home, packed a bag, and grabbed a few winks of sleep before my early flight to ‘the Burgh’ bright and early in the morning.
With so few zzz’s, I would like to publicly apologise to the lady who I was sitting beside for any snoring which may, or may not have occurred…. However on the plus side, I did feel a lot more refreshed by the time we touched down.
I gathered my bits and bobs and headed towards my accommodation. Thankfully I had google maps to guide me as I wouldn’t have had a notion of where I was going, especially considering I haven’t been in this neck of the woods in just over 9 years.
Although a little foggy, the sky didn’t look like it was going to break, so I decided to dander to my hotel and take in a little bit of the atmosphere around Edinburgh.
On my journey I witnessed a mixed bag of support for both the Yes and Better Together campaigns. The amount of windows in houses which I passed with posters in them was unbelievable and just showed how engaged everyone has become with the debate.
Once I dropped my bag off, I headed into the city centre to get a better sense of the general attitude in Edinburgh, and met up with NI artist Brian John Spencer, as well as bloggers Jason Ashford, Jason Murdoch and David McCann.
After a brief catch up and a spot of lunch we split up, and the hit the town. The streets were packed full of people; tourists, broadcasters, photographers, you name it, we saw it.
People say that when you are younger things always look bigger in scale to you than when you grow up. The opposite has been true for me in Edinburgh. The last time I was here I remember there being a lot of hustle and bustle, but nothing like this. And the atmosphere was entirely different as well. This time people were stopping and chatting to each other on the street about politics, with passion and conviction, and a little uncertainty about the final outcome. The majority of people on the streets conversed with those who were wearing yes or no badges on their lapels or t-shirts.
I travelled around the Royal Mile area with Brian, and I felt like we saw #yes campaigners wearing a yes t-shirt, or a yes emblem on basically every corner…on the other hand, I couldn’t say the same in relation to the number of No Thanks campaigners who were present on the ground. Perhaps it was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time which meant we didn’t spot more of them, but during the 7 or 8 hours we spent walking the main streets of Edinburgh, we managed to only spot about 5 or 6 No Thanks campaigners on the streets talking to the general public.
Regardless of the difference in numbers of on street presence, it has to be said that both sets of campaigners were more than willing to talk about their views and why the Scottish should vote in favour of their campaign.
Interestingly one of the yes campaigners we spoke to said that in his opinion, “if Devo Max had been on the table from the get-go, the people of Scotland would have been happy… but it wasn’t. I feel we need independence because we have been cheated in previous years and it’s time to take a stand.”
We also grabbed a word with a no campaigner who said that he felt the yes campaign have run a rather aggressive campaign, which he did not feel was productive in terms of the overall debate. He too said Devo Max is on the cards with a no vote, which in his view is the better and more stable option.
Outside one polling centre on the Royal Mile, there were also a lot of people who had wrapped themselves in Catalonian flags, as well as those who made a Catalonian flag on the ground out of coloured jam jars which they had filled with candles.
All in all it’s been a bit of a manic day, but one which I am ever so pleased to have experienced. I have learned a lot more about the entire event by watching campaigners interacting with the public and personally chatting with voters. From my own observations and understanding of the general vibe in the city, it was apparent that there was overwhelming support for the Yes campaign on the streets. Alternatively I sensed that those supporting the Better Together/No Thanks campaign were tarred with a more negative brush, and for some reason, it appears that for many, openly saying they favour NO, has become a dirty word on the street. How reflective that will be at the polls is yet to be established, however there were far fewer people in Edinburgh openly willing to tell us that they were supporting NO in comparison to those openly supporting Yes. Perhaps it is as Alex Kane said in a recent interview in our “Detail of Devo” series, “unionists lack confidence” and hence fail to sell the benefits of the union effectively to all districts within the UK – something which many have commented upon in recent weeks in relation to the last minute nature of the NO campaigns trip to Scotland.
In the end, time will only tell, and hopefully we will know the final result of the indyref at approximately 6 or 7am tomorrow morning.
Regardless of the outcome, I think it’s fair to say that the UK will never be the same again.
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