The winner is democracy.

Love or loath the independence campaign the most positive thing to have come out of it so far has been the number of people getting involved and particularly the number of people who are now registered to vote. Turnout is expected to be somewhere around 80% and it’s all too rare to see such a level of political engagement in Britain.
The Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) have been vital in this and have worked tirelessly, particularly in the last few weeks, making sure that usually disenfranchised and non-political people have registered to vote. They have been out at football grounds as well as bringing out voter registration forms while canvassing and running street stalls. In the last few weeks they have helped thousands of people to register to vote and this can only be a good thing for democracy.
It got to such a stage on September 2nd , the last day you could register, where there were queues at electoral registration offices as people from all walks of life made sure they could have their say whether that will be yes or no. AS one young RIC activist, Liam McLaughlin, tweeted: “Never thought I’d see people in Easterhouse queuing to register to vote”. A councillor said how a queue he saw at the City Chambers was still there at midnight. Some put the number of people registering to vote in the final week as high as 9,000 in Glasgow alone.
Many people for too long have felt that politics is nothing to do with them, that their vote doesn’t count and nothing changes anyway so why bother voting. These people are now realising that it does matter, that this time their vote can make a real change and have found their political voice. Politicians on both sides are having far less influence than they had hoped. Most people don’t really trust politicians and are more likely to listen to friends, family colleagues and neighbours than politicians and the mainstream media.
The problem will be making sure that this level of involvement continues whichever way the vote goes. We will have a Westminster election in May of next year. Turnout for the Westminster election in 2010 was 65% which was up on the 61% in 2005 but is still nowhere near high enough. It will be interesting to see if we get a higher turnout in Scotland for this election next year as a result of the independence referendum. If there is a yes vote then it will be important for all sections of Scotland to have a say in how this newly independent country will be run. There is talk of a written Scottish constitution and this must mirror the hopes and values of the Scottish people by allowing us to be consulted and hearing our views on what we want in it. In short on the 18th September the people of Scotland are truly sovereign and we can’t just hand all the power back to politicians.
Jimmy Reid in his speech accepting the position of Rector of Glasgow University spoke of the alienation from politics and society of some of the working class: “It is the cry of men who feel themselves the victims of blind economic forces beyond their control. It’s the frustration of ordinary people excluded from the processes of decision making. The feeling of despair and hopelessness that pervades people who feel with justification that they have no real say in shaping or determining their own destinies.” The people who have registered to vote for the first time have felt this frustration but this time they feel something is different and they can have a say in their own destiny. It’s unlikely they will be voting for the system that alienated them in the first place.

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