• Saved

    Author - Mr Melvyn Stride
    26 September 2014

    On Thursday I sacrificed a night’s sleep to listen to the Scottish referendum results as they blew through the airwaves and my radio set. It was a surreal experience to sit propped up, in the half-light, on caffeine and adrenaline listening with a terrible fascination to the outcome of ballots in halls, in towns and cities of which I knew but little – knowing that within those early intonations, those dismembered voices, lay the runes of our future – whether come morning I would still be part of the family or cast off far out into another land. I became increasingly emotional, tearful in fact, as voice after voice reassured me that a, hitherto silent majority, had come out to say they wanted to stay. That we meant something to them after all – just as, I believe, they mean much to us. That what we achieved over 307 years is not of little consequence and what we can build together now is greater, far greater, than could ever be eked out of a loveless divorce. Early that following morning I was on the train trying to be patched through to a meeting in Downing Street to discuss what had been an extraordinary 24 hours. A meeting that was, in the end, entirely devoid of my modest input as the signal kept cutting out as we ploughed through cuttings and tunnels. At 7 that morning the PM had made a statement outside Number 10 – after a long night of his own – he welcomed Scotland’s decision, re-confirmed the commitment of all the major party leaders to honour the vows for further devolution but also, critically, he fired the starting gun on delivering a constitutional settlement for England providing English votes for English laws. If Scotland is to now gain powers over personal taxation, welfare and more, in addition to those she already enjoys in areas like Health and Education it is surely no longer tenable that Scottish MPs should be permitted to vote on these issues within Parliament when they only relate to England. Such constitutional change will be profound – might it see an English Parliament or Parliament sit on certain days with English-only MPs or should we continue to sit together with Scottish MPs unable to vote on English-only matters? Whatever the answers there is a bumpy journey ahead to find agreement. My train arrived. I went off to address 150 people in Okehampton rightly concerned about protecting our countryside, then to present an award to the wonderful children of Doddiscombsleigh Primary, a couple of surgeries, a meeting with local Bovey Councillor Avril Kerswell, a radio interview, a visit to Ide Post Office to discuss funding all rounded off with a speech at a village hall dinner in Coldridge. I got to bed gone midnight – tired but desperately relieved that the union had prevailed. And, as Churchill had once suggested, after a similar moment of national crisis had passed, ‘to sleep the sleep of the thankful and the saved.’