Analysis: Why Scotland may well say Aye! to Independence
NB The following article is an extract from a series of essays I am in the process of writing about UK politics, please check back to this blog for links to the publication of the eBook in a few weeks.
by J.W. Mitchell
Revolutions are rare in these isles (Ireland excluded!). Napoleon passed us by, Hitler got a bloody nose, the KGB thwarted. The last civil war was four centuries ago and about the most radical thing we have ever done is take on the Protestant faith as our national religion. The United Kingdom is synonymous with tradition, stability and Dickensian poverty.
With not a shot fired, a barricade manned, the issue of Scottish Independence has created one of the most fascinating political landscapes for centuries. Many south of the border – including many Scots who have settled in England – almost view Alex Salmond as some kind of traitor. Those unruly Scots don’t know their place and are being, well, unruly again – is a common attitude. Others, like jilted lovers, say to hell with them.
Few though, as is perhaps a background national characteristic, see the positive things that are emerging from the efforts of nationalist Scots to win the referendum which decides if they become an independent state in September 2014. Which is a shame. Royalists and unionists have been very busy denouncing the idea. Pushing the ‘No!’ accentuating the negative. Scotland, they say, will face dire peril if it splits, the economy will be ruined, Scots will be worse off, etc, etc. These are of course, sadly, the politics of fear.
Endless opinion polls appear to indicate that a ‘no’ vote is likely. Though when you look more closely, it seems the opinion polls are wide of the truth.
The biggest reason that Scots are likely to vote ‘yes’ is not what comes out of the Scottish nationalist politician’s mouths, but rather the quagmire that is the UK political scene – i.e. Westminster is the reason why a ‘yes’ vote seems likely. New Labour are desperately backing the ‘no’ campaign with it’s cheesy ‘better together’ campaign, led by Alasdair Darling, which is often to be heard issuing dire forecasts about the post-apocalyptic world of an independent Scotland. The main reason for this is Westminster. New Labour don’t really give a hoot about the issue or Scotland, rather the post-independence layout of seats in the Houses of Parliament in Westminster. An independent Scotland makes a majority at Westminster very difficult. If New Labour had the political equivalent of a kitchen sink – which they do not – then they would doubtless hurl it at the ‘yes’ camp. Thus far, the only kitchen sink that Ed Milliband has pulled out of the shed is the oft-repeated Millibandism of ‘one nation’. Though it may force the New Labour mob to actually think up some policy if – as appears likely – they have to scuttle back to English redoubts.
In addition, the arguments put forward by the pro-union camp smack of desperation. None of them really stands up to serious analysis and are not likely to convince many Scots. The dewy-eyed nostalgic types who cling to the present system are mostly those who confuse it with their greater patriotism to the United Kingdom. This camp has dwindled somewhat is was never all that large in the first place. And when there is little evidence to suggest, that with Queen Elizabeth II staying on as head of state, that an independent Scotland would be any different in that regard, save perhaps getting involved in badly-planned invasions of countries in the Middle East and seemingly aimless wars in places like Afghanistan.
Interestingly, the Tories are in something of an embarrassing position. While David Cameron has unconvincingly stated his pro-union position, this has little or no effect on Scotland, where Scottish Conservatives are something of a protected species. This comes across to many in Scotland as that some millionaires are unhappy about independence. Behind the scenes, as Larry the Chief Mouser may tell you, the situation is somewhat more complex. Conservative strategists doubtless are jumping with joy about a ‘yes’ – as it damages New Labour. On the other hand, stick on the national anthem and they all go dewy-eyed. Really, it is a shame no one listens to them in their more radical guise, as from the Conservative party’s point of view – while Mr Cameron has been open-minded on the issue, it is better perhaps for them to back it, as it looks like a given anyway…In other words, they are flogging a dead horse by backing the ‘better together’ unionist camp.
Such a position may prevent the extinction of the Scottish Conservative Party, which while unlikely to win the next few elections, may be a necessary counter balance in this new democracy.
Amusingly, perhaps the biggest force upon undecided Scots, who appear to be increasingly warming to Scotland becoming an independent state, is the true disaster zone which is Westminster politics. Nothing perhaps strikes fear through the glens like the outbursts of UKIP, Milliband’s fuzzy policies or the callous ideologues of the post-Thatcher Tory party and the fairly clueless Cameron administration or the sheer political fluff which constitutes Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.
But imagine that come the autumn of 2014 it is a ‘yes’ and Scotland becomes once more (as it was pre-1707) an independent country. Aside from the obvious benefactors, the side-effect of this earthquake in UK politics is that English, Northern Irish and Welsh politicians may well have to formulate policies which are not wholly for the benefit of a narrow, moneyed social strata.
Chatting with people over the issue in Edinburgh in 2011, I was told how the chattering classes there always said there would never be a Scottish Parliament, that the Scottish National Party would never win a majority if there was a Scottish Parliament and now, lo, that independence will never happen. -ends- © 2013 Jonathan William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.