It has been almost a month since the Scottish independence referendum and the legacy it leaves is an impressive one.
That although scary for the potential future of the union, may in fact be a good thing. That people are actually talking about politics again. The referendum turnout was a massive 84.59% of eligible Scots going to the polls to vote.
This political engagement is something that those of us who are interested in this have been crying out for. Politics affects everything and yet voter turnout has been decreasingly steadily for years. An ill informed electorate, who simply don’t care for politicians spinning lines which do not truly mean anything, have become complacent and jaded by yet more policy which they do not care about. Yet now they care again.
This was different. Scottish independence was an issue which everyone was talking about and everyone had an opinion on. Not just because an independent Scotland made for good headlines, but people were actually talking about policy. About what Scotland leaving the union would mean to the rest of the UK. How the oil revenue lost would affect the UK, how moving nuclear weapons would affect the world, how the proposed changes to the NHS would affect everyone.
This is what every debate in this country should aspire to be like. Not everyone will be interested that is a fact; the discussion is what is important. Young voter turnout for the referendum was monstrous with 100,000 young voters made their way to the polls in the first vote they would ever take part in. Let us keep these young voters engaged. This may be one of the ways to galvanise an entire voting block which traditionally shies away from politics.
The “disengaged youth” did not exist in this debate. They were all highly engaged, cared about the politics and about the future of the nation. Outgoing first minister Alex Salmond even said “I suspect no one will ever again dispute their ability to participate fully and responsibly in democratic elections.”
This referendum may well have failed to grant Scotland independence. What it has done is engage an entire generation in politics. That engagement may yet disappear as Salmond rides off into the sunset and the excitement of independence ebbs away, but maybe they will stick around. Follow the issues that will affect their future and follow them much more closely than they would previously have done. Maybe we will usher in a new era of voter knowledge, an era where people care about what Westminster does again. I certainly hope that is what is coming.