Much to celebrate and many questions to answer
The die is cast and now the politicians must thrash out a deal with the EU
THE count was over. Dawn had risen. Two young Labour activists sat on benches in the gym in Grangemouth where it had just been announced that all 32 regions of Scotland had backed the EU.
“It’s independence,” said Braden Davy, grinning and playing with his phone as result after result shows English Leavers have just outvoted Scottish Remainers.
“Please don’t use that word,” Mr Davy’s party colleague Ian Rodgers replied, with a tired, sideways glance. “It implies that we are some kind of vassals of the EU and I don’t agree with that,” he went on, then stopped and added: “But maybe the country does.”
Mr Davy, 24, meant independence for Britain. Mr Rodgers, 27, was more worried about independence for Scotland.
“I wonder what our erstwhile allies the SNP will do,” he said. In this gym hall, in Grangemouth, its squeaky floor criss-crossed with the multi-coloured line markings of different sports, Scottish nationalists were muttering about independence too. But they were glum. “This is not what they wanted,” Mr Davy acknowledged.
Leavers had come to this counting centre, the collating point for results from across Scotland, neither in hope nor in expectation.
Mr Davy’s boss, Tom Harris, the former Glasgow Labour MP orchestrating the anti-EU campaign north of the Border, knew his team would be beaten in Scotland and suspected they would lose in Britain too.
And, sure enough, when the final Scottish result was declared, a victory by more than three votes to two, by 1.6 million to one million for Remain, they whooped like they had won.
Mr Davy again cheered: “Independence!” He had reason. Scotland was one colour on the electoral maps flashing on his phone and England was another; and England is bigger. As the cheers died down, Mr Harris was asked: “Is this our independence day?”
“Today IS our independence day,” he replied, with his first proper grin of the morning. Cue more cheers from Leavers.
“I never thought I would see this day,” the former MP said. “We now have all these fantastic Remain politicians who can get the best possible deal out of the EU.”
But what is the best possible deal? “I am not a politician,” he joked. “I am sure they will work that out. No, the best possible deal is trading with everybody, not just the EU.”
Does he really think Brexit is independence? “Why not?” Mr Harris replied. “Who’s going to be making the laws? Holyrood and Westminster?”
But what about actual independence for Scotland?
“I don’t think they can win a referendum,” he said. “If there had never been a referendum in the past and they had an overall majority in the past, I could see there would be a case.
“During that referendum the Yes campaign said that if you vote No you will be out of the EU because the Tories are committed to have a referendum. And the Scots listened to that warning, understood it and they voted No.”
Mr Harris and Mr Davy and their Leavers had started the count slouched in leather armchairs, flicking through Twitter thinking they had lost. But the UK-wide victory came with an added bonus. “I put £100 on us winning,” Mr Davy said, “because the odds were so good. I had already put money on the SNP not getting an overall majority in Holyrood and of Yes not getting more than 46 per cent.”
Mr Harris was on the money too: “I put £20 on at 7/2. I’ve won £70,” he said. “But then I lost the tenner I put on myself to win the General Election when I was 6/1.”
What about the fact that the money they have won is in sterling and sterling crashed overnight as the Leave camp seized victory?
Mr Davy laughed: “I know Remainers who never changed their holiday money because they were sure they would win and the pound would hold. I expect the markets will sort themselves out.”
On the benches in a council gym hall, his fellow Labour man Mr Rodgers was not so sure. He had predicted disaster for the economy if Leave won. He watched SNP leaders give television interviews in the distance, their voices carrying across the room as they described a clean sweep. “I do hope I am wrong,” he said.