We should not underestimate the significance of last week’s referendum, it was an historic day, not just for Scotland but for the entire United Kingdom.
I am certainly pleased with the result. But I am also relieved. I am relieved that the Scottish electorate did not press the self-destruct button on the United Kingdom and avoided the uncertainty that such a result would have brought about.
I’ve been knocking on thousands of doors each week for several months. And while I’ve been to enough homes in the Borders to know the reaction of some is of indifference, for this campaign, things very clearly different. Almost everyone wanted to speak about the referendum. Everyone had a view. Everyone had a question.
Similarly, it was amazing to speak at the debates and hustings with large audiences that, in many cases, had considerable numbers of undecided voters. This was particularly true of the school debates. I was hugely impressed by the level of engagement and understanding that our young people demonstrated. We should be very proud of them.
When referendum day finally dawned, it was clear that the electorate had a determination to have their say. As I cast my vote at the Rodger Hall in Coldstream shortly after 7am, it was already busy with other voters. I have consistently said this vote was the most important vote that I would ever have to cast in my life. It certainly felt that as I marked my cross on the ballot paper.
I have several lasting memories from polling day. I will never forget seeing the queues of people as they quietly and patiently waiting to have their say and cast their vote; being told by a policeman that by mid-afternoon almost 100% of voters in some of the rural polling stations had already voted; the excitement of the school kids coming to vote after school and asking for No Thanks stickers after voting for the first time!
After the polls had closed and the ballot boxes started to arrive at Springwood Hall near Kelso, the security seals were broken and the votes started to spill onto the counting tables. The verdict of the voters in the Borders was now becoming clear. My emotional roller coaster moved to relief as it became apparent that the Borders had rejected separation in overwhelming numbers.
However, I was very conscious that whilst I was very pleased with the result, others at the count and in the wider country were bitterly disappointed. Whilst I did not agree with them, I knew that the Yes campaigners had fought just has passionately as I had for what they believed. I’ve been on the wrong side of election results before. I knew how they felt.
We’ve had the debate, we’ve had the vote; now it is time to move on.