This time last year the people of Scotland had their say on whether or not we wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom or to go it alone. The result was decisive and clearly demonstrated that the majority of Scots recognised the benefits the Union brings and the security that sharing and pooling our resources offers not just this generation but future generations.
Here in Dumfries and Galloway we saw one of the highest No votes in the country and I am proud of the role I played in helping ensure that outcome as a Better Together Local Leader. Having participated in numerous campaigns and elections locally, the referendum stands out in my memory like no other. The level engagement and excitement on the streets and the doorstep has never been seen before or since. Thousands of doors were knocked. Tens of thousands of conversations and debates took place. We saw unprecedented turnout and both sides did everything possible to convince those who remained undecided right up until the close of polling stations.
I spent the 18th of September with a team of volunteers in Lockerbie and Lochmaben and it was moving to see so many new and young faces getting involved. It felt like what we were doing really mattered and it was energising to be debating so many of the fundamental issues affecting our communities.
I remember after weeks, months and years of campaigning the exhaustion, excitement and tinge of fear I felt driving back over to the Easterbrook Hall in Dumfries to see the first ballot boxes opened and to watch the count get underway. I couldn’t help but wonder if the beautiful sunset over the Dumfriesshire hills might be the last as part of the United Kingdom.
I can still recall the euphoria and growing relief I felt as the evening turned into morning, and the results confirmed that the nationalists has failed to convince the majority of Scots of their plans for separation. It felt like the question which had been hanging over our nation and which I had seen painfully dividing our communities and families had been put to bed.
Sadly, one year on the same issues remain live and I for one do not believe that those on the Yes side have universally accepted the outcome. While I didn’t expect people to change their minds over night I was hopeful that everyone would be able to come together and work constructively for the better future we all wanted to see. I am continually drawn to the wisdom of Margo MacDonald, who said that the result must bring those divisions to an end and, that whatever the result it was imperative that we seek a unity of purpose.
I still believe our cross border interests, our local economy and our values as an outward looking nation are still best served at the heart and centre of our United Kingdom. I don’t want to see our communities trapped in the paralysis of endless constitutional wrangling. I want us to see us embrace a better way forward, not a step back to another referendum.
That’s the central message I will be campaigning on as I seek to become your next MSP.