10 Oct 2014

What next for Scotland’s Yes voters?

They became the symbol of the yes campaign’s defeat, photographed in a deserted George Square the morning after the referendum. What happened next to Eva and Nina?

Eva O’Donovan is the kind of person politicians would kill to get on their side. Aged just 16, she is passionate about social justice, wants to get involved in shaping “a good future” and has spent the last year campaigning after school and at weekends.

Despite her best efforts, and the will of the majority of her home town of Glasgow, 55 per cent of Scots who took to the polls on 18 September voted to stay part of the United Kingdom.

“I was completely shocked and in utter disbelief,” said Eva, from Govan, when Channel 4 News caught up with her a few weeks later. “I just couldn’t believe it… It was so gutting.” She wanted a yes vote because she wants rid of a Conservative government, which she said is making “the rich, richer and the poor, poorer”.

Photo: Eva and Nina, pictured in October (left) and on the morning after the referendum (right)

Eva and her friend Nina Candido Charley, 17, became the symbol of the dashed hopes of the yes campaign when their faces, plastered with yes stickers and framed by the Scottish flag, were beamed on televisions and websites around the world the morning after the referendum results.

Watch Channel 4 News at 7pm to see Paul Mason's report on the aftermath of the independence referendum

The pair were among the few stragglers still left at Glasgow’s George Square – the exuberant base of the yes camp in the weeks leading up to the vote – after staying up all night. The mood had gone from “amazing” to “disheartened” in the space of an hour, said Eva. They were later heckled by commuters heading to work.

Video showing her pushing a forlorn-looking Nina around in a shopping trolley, with Yes leaflets strewn on the ground along with empty bottles of Buckfast, seemed to sum up the mood perfectly.

Another teenager involved in the yes campaign, Jordan Lindsay, told Channel 4 News at the time that he was “heartbroken” and felt like there had been a death in the family: “Coming in here this morning, there was such a grey, dark horrible feeling about the place, it was like coming to a wake of dead Scotland.”

What next?

A staggering 83 per cent of Scots voted in the referendum – compared to 65 per cent in the 2010 general election – and the campaign saw a huge engagement across the country, including from 16- and 17-year-olds given the vote for the first time. Post-referendum, the focus in Scotland has turned to maintaining that momentum and enthusiasm for politics.

“We’d never really talk about politics before, and this, it wasn’t like forced conversation to talk about the referendum. It was genuine” Nina told Channel 4 News. “Also, it’s fun hearing about rallies and events that are happening and being able to go to them.”

Across the wider yes camp, there has been a surprise surge in support and engagement. Despite not getting the backing of the majority of the Scottish people for its core policy, the SNP has seen its membership soar since the vote, making it the UK’s third biggest party – ahead of the Lib Dems. The campaign groups Radical Independence and Women for Independence are holding conferences in the coming months, backed by popular demand, about where next to pour their energy.

‘Change is no longer going to be radical… but I am excited’

As for Eva, who says her background is working class, she cannot vote in the next general election. She is currently working at TGI Fridays and has given up hope of change any time soon. Her main priority was safeguarding free university tuition and NHS budgets. But she is cautiously optimistic about the “last-minute promises” from Westminster and says her generation has definitely become more engaged – finding out their political representatives are for example, and thinking it is OK to chat politics.

“I know that change is no longer going to be radical. It took a long time even just to get that referendum,” she said. “Now I realise nothing’s going to happen straight away. We’ll just see if England comes through on its promisies… But I’m actually quite excited to see what the future holds for Scotland, especially with England making all these last minute changes to secure the no vote.”

Immediately after the results, Eva was more concerned about something much closer to home. She woke up from a nap on that Friday afternoon to a phone full of messges and missed calls from as far afield as Australia, after she was on the news and all over the web.

Eva’s first thought was her mum: her alibi of staying at a friend’s house for the referendum count had been very publicly disproven. But luckily she was forgiven, for being part of a “good cause”. Her mother had been a no voter, but changed her mind in the months leading up to the vote.

On Sunday, Eva is going to another rally at George Square, the first of several post-referendum. “I think people are just trying to say the yes thing is still alive,” she said. “I’m still kind of disappointed. But I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds.”