Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tomorrow's Scottish vote

It's been a noodle-baker to be sure.

I've gone from a clear 'no' to a clear 'yes' to fence-sitting, to leaning marginally one-way or the other, to thinking that there are really no good options in front of me.

In practical terms, I don't think either side has made the case, because they can't. It is impossible to know the final terms of independence at this time and anything said is propaganda. Whatever the politicians and campaigners say now is meaningless. There will be a negotatiation period in the event of a Yes win during which the issues around currency, resource revenues, and the other nuts and bolts issues of divorcing states of are sorted out. There is a risk that this could get very nasty and disadvantageous indeed if a sentiment of 'to hell with Scotland for wrecking Britain' set in. In the event of Yes, I would prefer a second vote on the final terms but I don't trust this sort of thing to happen. 

I'm too much of a realist to trust the emotional resonance alone, which is what much of the Yes camp seems to be about. It's appeal may be in that Yes is a much more confident term than No (could give a new weight to the term yes-man!). The vision of some kind of Celtic Scandanavia (Orcadians and Shetlanders exempted) is very, very appealing, but again this is a fantasy until the final terms are known.

The Yes side does not acknowledge the people in the UK inside and outwith Scotland who rely on a stable pound and economy for their day to day lives. Some people without a vote may be deeply harmed through no fault of their own and they will resent Scotland for it and support a punitive approach to negotiations. The lack of clarity on such critical items like EU membership is also a major problem, and the Scottish economy could stumble severely should countries like Spain block membership. Recovery could be difficult without access to key markets and not enough people are interested in rapid alternative economic experimentation at a national scale to pursue that option. Even I think it's too dangerous. We may be in for a shock regarding just how deeply the relationships go between Scotland the rest of the UK, EU and the world when these are threatened and made visible.

I'm also aware that political moods change with each generation. Give it ten or twenty years, and it's possible that the appeal of independence will have waned, as with Quebec. 

In the same theme, the polling is pretty much 50/50 right now, and the terms are only a simple majority for a decisive result. This is a grossly unfair criterion and it is recipe for pretty vicious conflict because it will effectively leave a country divided. Without a very strong majority win for either side, barely half the country may well determine the future for the other half. I can't support either outcome under those conditions because it is flagrantly irresponsible democracy.

For me, the existence of such a close race starkly emphasises the need for constitutional reform across the UK and I think a No win would be guaranteed if this were put on the table by Cameron et al.  Peripheral regions like Scotland and the north of England haven't done well since Thatcher and there's a serious question of representation in and relevance to NewLaboCon run Westminster.

Then there's climate change and the way the world is heading. I don't believe that creating new borders is ultimately adaptive. There will be migrations of people to and within Europe as some regions become inhospitable and borders simply reinforce us-and-them dynamics that facilitate wars and conflict instead of cooperative, or at least tolerant problem solving and accommodation. The rest of the UK and Scotland may need each other rather desperately under these conditions. [Nigel Farage would probably blame and invade an independent Scotland under these conditions.]

What do I want then? I want options that aren't presently on the table. In the event of a no, constitutional reform. In the event of a very clear majority Yes, second a vote on the final agreed terms or a series of options.


Alison said...


Well Boris you're there and I'm not but what surprises me from this side of the pond is that the projected vote is as close as it is, given the atrocious bias I see in the UK press, including the BBC just flat out lying. Have any promedia at all come out in even tentative support of Yes or is it all dour predictions of Scotland's imminent collapse, accompanied by photos of Hitler and comparisons with Robert Mubabe ?

While we complain about media being lapdogs to their corporate political masters, it also works the other way around with politicians serving as lapdogs to media's political masters.
Deep state quietly growls its disapproval of movements it does not ken, does not control.

Anonymous said...

Nice comment and truly one of the most accurate accounts of the conundrum facing Scotland. I fear however the damage is done and the divisions are already set. Salmond has managed to do something that the English never managed, destroy Scottish unity. And that is nationalist politics in a nutshell.
Go to Yorkshire and see the divisions that still remain because of the Miner's strike. Then you'll have some idea of the animosity and depth of hatred that will result from this effort at putting Salmond's name in the history books.
Then watch as a united RoUK elects a far right government and add their machinations into the pot. Political and materiel support for the loyalists, obstructing Scottish entry into Europe, setting up of border restrictions and who knows maybe even restrictions on Scots living in the RoUK. Nationalism begets nationalism in return and I, for one, am very worried at the fall out of this whole process regardless of the result of the vote.
Why can we not learn from history?

Boris said...

Alison and harbell,
There've been a number of thoughtful pieces Guardian pieces that have come out in favour. What's interesting about the BBC's creative editing in that example is that it probably did more to stoke the Yes than the No. It's that sort of perfidiousness that fuels anti-English sentiment here and can backfire. The deep state occassionally farts in the lift ;)

In any event, 97% eligible voter registration is phenomenal and the politics are relevant and alive.

I don't know the chances of a UKIP win, but if they take over the Tories like Reform/Alliance did in Canada, it could be an issue. If they'd stop giving Nigel so much press coverage (aka free advertising), he'd not be drawing so much support.

In the academic circles I move in, I've been shocked to find that some extremely well educated people have left their brains at home when it comes to support for one side or another. There's not a critical thought among them and they sound like their reading propaganda leaflets or have no idea just how serious a matter this is. It's weird.

Today though, I'm rather glad to see that this is being put to a mature, civilised vote and people are so far largely behaving themselves. Whatever the outcome, it'll be critical to get on with things with as little animosity as possible.