The referendum is over. 55% has voted for Scotland remained as part of the Union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland against 45% who voted for independence. So what can be learned?
1. Turnout shows interest in the referendum versus disinterest in mainstream party politics.
The very high turnout of around 90% indicates something important. Set against the much lower turnout at the last General Election (around 60%) one gets a genuine sense of how disconnected from the party political system within the UK. Throughout the campaign, Scotland’s First Minister Alec Salmond returned to the theme of the disconnect Westminster politicians have from the ordinary people of Scotland. This is echoed across the UK with politicians considered to be amongst the least trustworthy of all.
2. Will there be real change?
It is clear many people wanted real change and hope for their future – whilst others preferred ‘the devil’ they knew rather than any change.
However the theme of a political disconnect from Westminster is likely to recur as a theme as discussions about devolving more powers to Scotland and the English regions. It is something that emerged after the MPs expenses scadal, the Banking crisis and the broken promises of politicians after the last election.
In the last days of the campaign, the main UK political parties all promised more powers to Scotland in order to win support. This raised the question of ‘what about the people of England?’ There is likely to much horse trading and backtracking, as well as the ruling Conservative party looking for an opportunity to strengthen an electoral advantage for themselves in England over their main rival, the Labour Party.
All of this will most likely mean ‘politics as usual’ – i.e. the game of power with revolve around the political class, rather than addressing the real lives and concerns of people.
Indeed, it is hard to see that there is going to be any change for anyone in the UK.
3. Capitalism won!
The most obvious thing about the role of finance and business in this campaign was the unification of forces against independence that spoke out in the last week of the campaign.
The Bank of England, a host of leading businesses and banks, the corporate media – all came out blatantly against independence.
David Cameron, in a last ditch attempt to win support, visited Scotland to say that he cared about the people there.
This rang hollow for towns full of people who had been abandoned by successive governments for decades as Britain de-industrialised. They saw billions spent on wars in the Middle East instead of looking after their affairs.
It is a frightening thought that the life expectancy of people in some areas of the UK, in particular the south east of England is over 82 years of age, whereas the life expectancy of men born in Calton, Glasgow, is just 54 years!
It is hardly any wonder fault lines exist.
4. Britain has an identity crisis!
After 300 years the Union of England and Scotland, capitalism has failed to melt people together in a single nation state into one identity.
Identity not about geography, ancestry, tribe, skin colour or language. It is simply not about culture or a shared history. It is about beliefs and values.
UK riddled with unspoken fault lines – Scottish, English or Welsh? North versus South. Liberal metropolitan Britain versus conservative rural Britain. The growing ageing population against the younger generation (in Scotland the older population were worried about their pensions and the young seemed to be looking greater economic investment and some for hope for the future).
These are real issues and generally not addressed. Instead politicians usual unite people around temporary patriotic initiatives – like sports festivals – or trying to unite people around the fear immigration or a terrorist threat.
It is often said that Muslims aren’t integrated enough. But there is no clear identity for them to integrate into. Instead, it is demanded they sign up to being rabid secularists, who adopt liberal values, embrace capitalism and are unquestioning about UK Foreign Policy. These pressures aren’t about identity but about subservience – and it’s worth reminding people when these discussions emerge.
5. Food for thought
Muslims living within the UK and Europe are uniquely placed to raise honest questions for ordinary people.
We are blessed with distinct beliefs and values. We are able to point out some of the cruel and cutthroat features of capitalism. We are able to rise about the hypocrisy of party politics. We are able to talk about a politics as Islam defines it – looking after the affairs of people; according to the laws that don’t simply change every 5 years; according to a system where banks and business do not dictate to people how they should live.
Muslims who realize the above could be a valuable asset to intellectual debate within the UK, not simply becoming immersed into the same stale politics that so many people have become disenchanted with.