Referendum or Bust

Well, it’s been an amazing few weeks of stimulating debate, media buzz, cheers, tears and thrills. Devon has seen nothing like it since Exeter City reached the 6th round of the FA Cup back in 1931! Yes, the charming little seaside town of Marshport (so laterally hidden near Seaton as to be practically invisible) held its independence referendum last month on September 18th. As you may know, the town voted on that day to decide if Marshport should go it alone and split from the rest of the UK.

However, I admit it’s possible you knew nothing about it as it was completely eclipsed by a very similar event on a bigger scale in Scotland—same arguments and points of view and (unfortunately) held on exactly the same day! Bad planning by Marshport borough council secretary Brenda Blindfold and her boss Brian Bulldozer who insisted the Scottish date was merely a Westminster scam to obscure the all important Marshport vote. His stupidity led to resignation and they both now live in disguise at his anonymous villa in Spain. For all who justifiably want revenge, we can now disclose their current real address to be BB&BB, Casa Toro Dozer, Malaga, Espana. Please direct all your hate-mail to there—not to the Marshwood Vale magazine. Thankyou…

So, while the ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign had Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon swimming all over your telly, ‘Yes Marshport’ had local builders Hale and Harty erecting the new independent Marshport flag outside the village hall. Not exactly the same blaze of publicity I admit, but it’s a shame as the new flag (yellow and blue polka dots with a green mackerel motif) is very pretty and was designed and personally embroidered by local schoolteacher Wendy Whiteboard. Devolution from the UK was favoured by nearly half of the residents who had become increasingly disillusioned with central government and the threatened erection of a 500 foot high wind turbine just opposite the village stores. Local anger turned to fury when further plans to drill 2 miles down under the school playing field were revealed as part of a huge shale fracking development.

In reality, neither of these developments was ever likely to happen, but rumours flew and grew following a leaked typing error in the local newspaper, the Marshport Messenger. Public meetings were held in the town hall and also in the Old Rectory where one meeting got rather out of hand. Local police had to be called when the nice local vicar (Rev. Peter Pulpit), actually lost his temper for the first time ever and declared that Marshport would be better off if it ran its own affairs. A devolution committee then met every Wednesday in the bar of The Crown stridently chaired by local activist Sally Forth. Press releases were written, a date for a public referendum organised (unfortunately, as you read above) and a new independent website set up ( This  was later downplayed when it was realised that a website address with ‘dot co dot uk’ made no sense if you were going to leave the UK! However, it’s still there as proof of local commitment. Go online and look now…

Although most of the world’s referendum minded media were focussed on Scotland, Marshport’s bid for independence did attract some confused global attention. A somewhat bemused TV crew from Latvia turned up at the Marshport Recycling Plant and asked why nobody in the town was wearing a kilt. And at the same time at Edinburgh railway station, a journalist from Japan was heard to ask for directions to the Jurassic Coast.

The opposing ‘Better Together’ campaign (slogan ‘Just Say Nay—Stay in UK’) was fronted by retired Colonel Stephen ‘Stomper’ Stormcloud from the battlements of his small country castle near Lyme Regis. Although not living within Marshport itself, he was welcomed by the ‘No Marshport’ campaigners since he had lots of cash and drove his 1930 Bentley draped with patriotic Union Jacks around the harbour to publicise the ‘No’ campaign.

Arguments flared and tempers raged as the debate hotted up and the voting day drew nearer. The ‘Yes Marshport’ committee decided to ditch the Pound and the Euro and adopt the Mackerel as local currency. They also asked local nurse Cathy Coffing if she could set up a local health service with funding perhaps from the Middle East. She rather surprisingly received a letter from a certain Gulf State agreeing to this proposal provided that a small mosque was built behind the beach esplanade. Ms Coffing had no problems with this request, but the Rev Pulpit (see above) raised objections and the idea was dropped. As regards security, the committee sent many emails to NATO asking if they could purchase defence paid monthly subscriptions but unfortunately there was no response. The local post office issued Marshport stamps: photo of fishing boat with rampant mackerel (1st class) and a Jurassic polka dot dinosaur (2nd class).

And then, with local polls suggesting that the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns were running neck and neck, the great voting day came. The result? Exactly the same as north of the border—a win by the ‘No’ campaign by about 55 to 45 percent. So, after all the ballyhoo and (admittedly slight) media frenzy, there is no change on the south coast. Marshport remains a part of the United Kingdom. After such a lot of fuss, it’s really a bit of an anti-climax…

But that’s not the end of it. This has been a very public demonstration of true democracy and nothing in our country will ever be quite the same again. As I write, all the talk in the UK’s press and media is about forthcoming changes to Britain’s constitution such as a possible English parliament and English rights? What about devolution for the South West of England? All of us owe a huge debt to the good people of Marshport for raising awareness and helping to launch a huge national debate for months to come. Nothing to do with Scotland. This is about us.