The party’s over as time is called on notions of nationhood

HE burst out onto Edinburgh’s Royal Mile from a side street after the results swung against separation, and channelling the words of that little-known unionist Amy Winehouse, loudly sang: "They tried to make me leave the UK, I said: No! No! No!"

How different from a few hours previously when the throng in front of the parliament building at the foot of the Mile was all-but ready to declare independence on the spot.

Barely a No voter could be seen, indeed walking up the wonderfully gothic and imposing thoroughfare, homeless people far outnumbered supporters of the union.

About halfway along the largely deserted street, a cluster of Yes campaigners burst into a spontaneous rendition of “Take The High Road”. Was this the ugly face of nationalism the No side had been warning of?

Whatever the truth, clearly the Royal Mile was not yet the place to be, so after a quick Google search for the eight pubs in the Scottish capital allowed to open late until 3am so revellers could watch the results in comfort, we soon found ourselves at The Phoenix on Broughton St, which was jammed, and easily 99% Yes.

The other 1% was the myriad of foreign TV crews, and the first self- declared No voter I had found on the night — who just happened to be Brazilian.

Emilson Andrade’s friends treated him with fond bemusement as they set out the case for separation, and giggled about the “No party” a next-door neighbour was throwing.

“Imagine going to a No Party? No you can’t have another drink. No you can’t have any freedom. No — know your place Scotland!” the group laughed.

“They’ve got union jacks inside the house and a tiny little ‘No’ sticker in the window. It’s a secret No party — they’re embarrassed,” concluded Doreen Reid.

In the heady twilight zone between ballot boxes being opened and results being announced, rumour fed upon rumour and when news filtered through that the YouGov polling firm was calling it for the No camp, the atmosphere among the Indies began to shift from frivolity to a feeling of fear.

Time to get back to the centre of power, and luckily the pub across the road from the parliament, the Kilderkin, had also somehow swung a late licence. “It’s where Scottish political correspondents go to booze and punch each other,” the taxi driver gleefully informed me (how very different from our own dear Dáil bar) — and again it was solidly nationalist territory.

There was a hushed silence for the first result, and when it was realised Clackmannanshire had swung strongly for the union, the whole pub erupted in a loud anti-BBC chant of: “Don’t believe the bastards! Don’t believe the bastards!”

Well, all apart from unionist Andy Davies, who mused: “That’s the problem with the Yes side — they are so vulgar. Always in your face, blaring car horns, shouting. We didn’t need to do any of that, we just got on with it and now we’re winning.”

Across the pub an English voice which could only be described as penetrating could be heard. When the Irish Examiner inquired if he was Yes or No, the man pointed at his friends and declared: “I dunno mate, I just came up from Nottingham with these two for the laugh. We thought this is gonna be party town tonight — could be a foreign country tomorrow. Let’s cross the border mate! You know what I mean?”

As the results rolled and flowed to the No side, the last orders bell sounded from the bar — and the Indies knew time was also being called on their hopes of nationhood.

But despite the tide swinging decisively against independence, a gaggle of Yes supporters braved the damp early morning air at the old brewery-turned -parliament building at the bottom of the hill.

This time Amy Winehouse exuberance was replaced by a Susan Boyle lament as pro- independence Clare Alexander despaired: “I dreamed a dream — a dream that died....”

Winners and losers

Who won and who lost in Scotland’s independence referendum?

WINNER: Gordon Brown. The former prime minister broke out of what seemed to be a long sulk since losing the 2010 election, and delivered a barnstorming defence of the UK which gave the No campaign some badly needed energy.

WINNER: David Cameron. Stood to be in trouble if the vote had gone the other way. LOSERS: Chris and Colin Weir, who gave £1m million to the Yes campaign, leaving them with just £160m from their Euromillions win.

WINNER: Democracy: Nearly 85% of eligible voters participated.

LOSER and WINNER: Alex Salmond. Went down fighting for what he called a once-in-a-lifetime chance to win back the nation’s independence. Led a campaign that energised all of Scotland. And in losing, he gained promises from UK of important new power for the Scottish government.

By  Robert Barr

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