SNP members are making as much hay from today’s proceedings as they possibly can, while I’m sure David Cameron just wanted to sign the blinking thing and get away from the pomp and hyperbole as quickly as possible. Indeed, I’m sure the Prime Minister carefully considered whether he could send Michael Moore or Nick Clegg in his place and get away with it, but that would leave him open to charges of disrespect. So in he shall fly to Bute House, ballpoint at the ready, in a helicopter no less. More evidence against his supposed greenest Government ever…
So what does today mean? Well, Tom Devine is calling it the most historic day for Scotland’s constitution since 1707. One could argue that there isn’t much in the way of fierce competition for that accolade. Lofty words shall be spoken and neat soundbites delivered, but the bottom line is not what has been scrawled beneath these referendum rules but rather the absence of a decent debate for Scots to sink their teeth and minds into. Hopefully that will change in time but there is little of significance today, other than dotting the i’s and crossing the t on the inevitable.
I guess my sanguinity around today’s events stem from the impression that the only people truly enjoying them is the SNP and the party’s new found friends in the Yes Scotland alliance. Look to Catalonia and the one million people taking to the streets to demand their independence and compare it with today’s historic events that are passing by with merely a polite cough, shrugged shoulders and maybe, at best, a collective raised eyebrow from the public. The Nationalist call to arms is being met with a populace who just want to crawl back under the duvet.
It is important to remember that the SNP didn’t win this referendum through a groundswell of public desire for it, they won it by accident because Labour were a shambles and the SNP is competent at running devolved Scotland. There were more minds turned to the Council Tax freeze than independence at the ballot box last year, no matter how cutely those in the SNP may wish to argue the other way. The attempts to ‘big up’ this referendum process at each of the numerous checkpoints has always felt forced and at odds with a nation ready and willing to step up to being a fully fledged country. It is not difficult to imagine the quiet panicked voice at the back of Salmond’s mind – ‘this is too early, you never pictured it this way’, but on the dotted line he must sign and onwards he must march, like the charge of the light brigade, into seemingly inevitable defeat.
There’s no backup option now, the First Minister is as good as hurtling towards the earth with an obscured visor, hoping everything falls into place rather than making sure that it will.
There is, of course, 100 weeks to go. Arguments require to be made, doors require to be knocked and minds certainly require to be changed, but for Yes Scotland, today will only truly be historic when the people decide that they want it to be. We’re a long way from being at that moment so one can only hope that the Nationalist fireworks are kept in their boxes and the champagne on ice, particularly given that Salmond’s premature pride could, sooner or later, result in a very painful fall.
Amidst the slaps on the backs and the droves of column inches, all that has really been achieved today is a welcome closure over a process that pleasingly never descended into partisan trench warfare or childish name-calling.
All of that said, in a world where little girls can be shot because they talk of the importance of education and where bloodshed was the precursor to the Good Friday Agreement, let us at least be thankful that today’s Edinburgh Agreement has been delivered peacefully and skilfully from both sides of the debate.