Those of us following the Scottish referendum last week were richly rewarded by the political twists and turns as Scotland debated its future.
It was an exciting “down to the wire” finish as the country voted to retain its links to the United Kingdom by 55% to 45%.
Just as soon as it looked as if the nationalists were preparing for a historic victory, the unionists came in from behind to snatch the lead by a margin wider than had been thought.
The media, which had been ignoring the battle up to the last few weeks, finally, with just two weeks to go, were seized by the importance of the contest that suddenly looked as though the nationalist “Yes” vote might actually win.
Their leader, Alex Salmond of the Scottish National Party, proved a feisty opponent who took no prisoners.
He ran a tight campaign exploiting every opening that presented itself and beating the patriotic drum until the very end insisting Scotland’s future lay with its people and not the power-brokers in London.
The end came when he fell on his sword on Friday morning when the full scope of the results became known. But he was still unable to admit that he had lost.
In a TV broadcast on Sunday he claimed that a younger generation would pick up the baton and give Scotland a second chance to say yes.
But that would prove unlikely as the mood for most was one of reflection.
The Scots were exhausted. Former British Prime Minister — and a Scot — Gordon Brown had delivered what was arguably the speech of the campaign.
Many in his party wondered why he had not risen to the occasion so powerfully when he had fought the last general election!
It was a tour de force and just what was needed after Salmond’s scathing success in the TV debate with the “No” group’s Alistair Darling.
Novelist JK Rowling demanded a reality check saying: “People before flags, answers not slogans, reasons not ranting and unity, not enmity.”
David Cameron was also equal to the occasion and with his last-minute concessions to the “Yes” Campaign and a lively patriotic speech swung many to the “No” camp.
Cameron had taken a huge risk in allowing the referendum to go ahead. His reputation was on the line. Like most of the country, he could not conceive of losing.
Nor could Britain’s friends and allies.
The seat on the Security Council would probably go. So would the nuclear submarines at Faslane on the Clyde. And the two new aircraft carriers one of which bore the sovereign’s name.
Britain had always punched above its weight in the world and any decision by Scotland to divorce from England would see British power in the world diminished.
But what probably swung the vote towards the end of the battle was the series of newspaper articles warning of the consequences of Scotland going it alone.
Many people worried about their pensions. And then there were the statements from the banks that they would move their headquarters to London if the “Yes” vote won.
In the end, like most things, it was a variety of factors that came into play.
Certainly Salmond was right to portray the contest as generational.
Younger voters supported the SNP and wanted change. But at the same time Salmond proved an alienating figure.
In his column this week Barney Mthombothi referred to the complexity of celebrating our heritage given such diversity in the country.
He said: “Thabo Mbeki famously referred to South Africa as a country of two halves, one black and poor and the other rich and white.”
“That is true,” Mthombothi comments, “and it remains the over-riding challenge of our time.”
In fact Mbeki’s remarks mirrored those of Benjamin Disraeli, British novelist and politician who was speaking for one of his characters in The Two Nations (Sybil 1845). l See Short and Sweet for full text.
We were amused by a front-page picture in the Herald this week.
It showed some of our national luminaries being instructed on how to use a computer.
Defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi, Education minister Lazarus Dokora, Deputy Health and Child Welfare minister Paul Chimedza, and Airforce of Zimbabwe Commander Perrence Shiri were all shown being instructed by primary school children from Murongwe Primary School in Dande on Monday.
One thing not included in the story was where the electricity would come from to power the computers! But don’t worry it’s ZimAsset, government is well on course to realising its vision of creating over two million jobs by 2018.
“Buoyed by policies of the ruling Zanu PF,” the Herald proclaimed, “the government has also created vast employment opportunities in the agricultural sector where Zimbabwe is slowly and convincingly restoring its breadbasket status in southern Africa.”
“Slowly and convincingly”! Who is convinced here? Perhaps the kids at Murongwe school although we suspect they have a better grasp of realities than the Herald!
What for instance happened to all that agricultural equipment that was given away without any accounting for?
“Nation restoring breadbasket status,” the Herald slavishly declared this week without providing a scrap of evidence.
In fact, as we all know, Zimbabwe still has to import its food needs.
Outside Zanu PF’s headquarters in Harare, the hording urges us to “indigenise” and create employment.
Perhaps its propagandists should learn to spell indigenise properly first.