A guest post by Bibbit Blair
I was a YES polling agent on 18th September, in Kilmory Hall, Arran. I was there at 6.45 to witness the (empty) ballot box put in situ. I was there at 10.05 pm when it was sealed. Another YES person and I took turns being at the polling station all day. We decided to do our own very unofficial exit poll, between us. We reached our tallies based on: people volunteering info, seeing badges, people taking our leaflets, people not taking our leaflets (including people glaring as if we were trying to hand them a dead rat), one woman shouting that I was breaking the law, as I could not ‘electioneer’. When I explained that my presence had been checked at 6.45 that morning by Council officials, and offered to show her my polling agent card she went off grumbling. Her husband simply looked embarrassed. Shrill Home County (that’ll be a NO then). By the way there was no ‘NO’ polling agent at our polling station.
I asked the council officials number of voters and they advised that, barring postal votes, a maximum of 340 voters could turn up to vote. We counted 300ish voters. The overall vote we reached in our very imperfect way was 67% YES 33% NO. So we were feeling confident YES were going to win for many reasons, as our wee demographic should have been a strong NO area, ie. the vast majority of our voters seen were over 55, with a good number over 65. (Of course the 16-17 year olds would have been away at college by then and voting postally or by proxy but very few 16-17s sighted). We are in a rural area, traditionally Tory farming types and finally, a very high proportion of non ‘Scots-born’ reside on Arran. So we were pretty stunned at what we were tallying up. Before tea-time it was the NOs ahead by about 52-48. but there was a big surge of voters between 5-7 pm which turned it round for YES. We reckoned the non-Scots, very surprisingly, voted by a very narrow margin in favour of YES. The farmers also surprised us, as their vote was also split 50-50. The story seemed to be repeated across the island and people at the count on the mainland advised us that again unofficially (as Arran is in a ward with Ardrossan) that the ballot boxes from Arran were a YES win by about 55% YES to 45% NO, the opposite of the Scotland-wide result...
So why did we buck the trends with our older population (hundreds retire to Arran, very few young families can afford to stay here), non-native Scots population? Well it was probably offset by a very high proportion of artists/creative types who predominately vote YES, a very well organised Arran for YES group, but I think the clincher was simply that the Arran population educated itself online rather than relying on papers. You see we often can’t buy papers, so as an island we have slipped into a habit of not doing so. Ferry service in winter months means papers don’t get put in shop shelves until 1 o’clock, so people go online for news, far more than other demographics who can buy papers anytime, all day. We also had a star studded cast of Yes celebrities coming to Arran all through the campaign and the public really engaged with that process in halls, etc. (Dr Whitford, John Swinney, Kenny Gibson, Patrick Harvie, Lesley Riddoch, the two boys who did the Scotland Yet documentary, among others.) All the 16-17s were for YES. As I said most of their Tory/Labour grannies were NOs.
So no doubt about it when the truth is sought the people vote YES. We really need a Scots news channel on Freeview and also a paper even if the latter is just for a short period before an election or referendum.