The vote for Scottish independence


Once again, John Oliver manages to give a tutorial that is both funny and informative on a serious topic. This time it is about the vote that is due to take place on Thursday in Scotland as to whether they will seek independence from the UK. The polls are predicting a close race though I suspect that the ‘no’ vote will ultimately prevail because of the last-minute pandering by the British government that even had the Queen getting into the act, and also because people tend to shy away from the unknown.

Oliver provides some surprising facts about the history and the current campaign and tries to help the ‘yes’ vote with his own shameless groveling.

Comments

  1. Nick Gotts says

    I suspect that the ‘no’ vote will ultimately prevail because of the last-minute pandering by the British government that even had the Queen getting into the act, and also because people tend to shy away from the unknown.

    I’d have agreed until about a week ago. But on the ground, there’s an energy and confidence about the “Yes” campaign that’s missing from the “No”. If you look at those who attend meetings, at badges, stickers, posters in windows… “Yes” is well ahead. The campaign has brought hundreds of thousands of people (mostly poorer people, who poll heavily pro-independence) onto the electoral register – registration is now estimated at 97% of those eligible. It’s got people talking about politics in a way that has no recent parallel here – and polls predict a turnout over 80%. I’m sure “Yes” have done a lot more canvassing, and will have a lot more volunteers to get the vote out on Thursday. The most knowledgeable of my comrades in RIC (Radical Independence Campaign) seem the most confident. Of course I, and they, may be fooling ourselves, but I think the chances of a “Yes” – even a clear “Yes” – are now quite high.

  2. hyphenman says

    Good evening Mano,

    Am I the only person who has noticed that the graphic used for most of the piece has The Republic of Ireland photoshopped out?

    Yes, yes, yes. I understand that the map is meant to represent the United Kingdom of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but when we publish maps of the United States we don’t replace Canada with open ocean.

    There is no ocean beach-front property in Idaho, Montana or North Dakota.

    Cheers,

    Jeff

  3. says

    I am beginning to worry about the “COMEDY GAP” that is appearing between some of the Old World European nations and the US. Should we invest more heavily in strategic comedy?

  4. says

    Where’s the outrage over violation of international law from president Obama?? After all, if Crimea couldn’t leave Ukraine and join Russia, why is it that Scotland can leave the UK and join Scotland?

  5. Brian E says

    Marcus Ranum, I think it might have something to do with this referendum being agreed to by all parties several years ago, without the threat of war. It would seem that Kiev didn’t agree to the Crimean referendum and there has been more than a few military skirmishes and collateral damage involved between Ukraine and Russia. Perhaps a distinction without a difference?

    On second reading, I think you’re taking the piss, or drunk, because Scotland doesn’t need to join Scotland does it?

    Well played sir.

  6. Dunc says

    I’m with Nick on this. Political polling in Scotland has a very poor history to begin with, and there are a number of specific reasons to believe that the polling on this issue is skewed towards the “No” side. The energy and enthusiasm on the ground for a “Yes” vote is like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

  7. says

    I’m of mixed feelings about it. I’m English-born, but my mum’s side are Aberdonians, so I’ve got half a dog in the race.

    As half a Scot, I feel like it’s well past time to get out from under the English and Tory heel of Westminster, and away from being ruled by effete arseholes (a shite state of affairs, i’ve heard said).

    But I’m also deeply worried about the currency issues, and the dangers of being part of a currency you don’t control the central bank of (euro or GBP, macht nicht). I’m also concerned about the diminishing returns from North Sea oil.

    Not sure how I’d vote if I were eligible, though in principle I’m all in favour of Scots independence. It’s the pesky details that worry me.

  8. Nick Gotts says

    the dangers of being part of a currency you don’t control the central bank of – CaitieCat

    A reasonable point – but that’s exactly the situation that Scotland is in now! The Bank of England regulates finance for the benefit of the City of London. To escape the worst effects of this domination, I favour a separate Scottish currency. And of course a nuclear-free, NATO-free, Scottish Republic.

    I’m also concerned about the diminishing returns from North Sea oil.

    An ambitious programme to develop Scotland’s excellent renewable energy potential (primarily wind, wave and tidal) is vital – irrespective of independence. And we need more research into better energy-storage and conversion technoloiges. Scotland’s intellectual capital is a far greater asset than oil.

  9. Dunc says

    But I’m also deeply worried about the currency issues, and the dangers of being part of a currency you don’t control the central bank of.

    Given that Westminster has very limited control over monetary policy at the Bank of England (at least in theory) ever since Blair and Brown handed control over to the MPC, and also that there’s a great deal of reason to believe that neither Westminster nor the BoE give the least thought to anything outside the M25 when setting policy anyway, that’s pretty much the situation we have at present. It’s certainly not ideal, but I don’t see how it can be any worse under independence.

    As for the Euro, we’d need to have our own currency and have been in the ERM for at least 2 years already if we wanted to join (unless they were to ignore the rules, which is always a possibility).

  10. Nick Gotts says

    for the benefit of the City of London – me@8

    I should make clear that “the City of London” here refers to the concentration of financial corporations in and around the area of the historic City, and to that remarkable body , the City of London Corporation, whose electoral arrangements might surprise anyone under the mistaken impression that the United Kingdom is a democracy.

  11. says

    I don’t disagree with either of you in any way. I’m just worried, because I know and love a lot of Scots, and I don’t want the pitfalls to bring them to any harm, nor the country itself. Though I’m undeniably English, my earliest memories are of the Scots accents of the grandparents with whom I lived – Jock and Ina, a former Argyll career man and a lunch lady, stoutly devout Catholics and self-described as ‘Scots British’.

    I think there might be a difference between being de jure if not de facto part of the governance of the currency. In the former, at least, there is a certain social pressure to at least appear fair to the partner with little power.

    Independent, though, and even that is gone; the rump UK would be failing to uphold their oaths to consider Scotland’s concerns in any moves of the pound. And they may well not be willing to, say, offer bailout money to keep a bank solvent, the ‘lender of last resort’ function that has been so crucial in the euro difficulties. That’s the big worry I have, in combo: that the diminishing returns from NS oil push the Scots economy into a crisis that not having the currency’s central bank under control (even if only by tenuous moral obligation, as I agree it is now) makes into a serious, Argentina-like situation.

    Not saying it will; saying it’s my main worry over what will happen to a land and people I love, when the bastards at Westminster no longer have even the ‘oi, people are watching, mind yself ‘ level of compulsion to do anything to help. We already know they don’t give a monkey’s about what Scots think – only their English voters matter, and not all of those – but can anyone not see them having a port-and-cigar fest in glee if they got the chance to righteously stand up and say ‘sod off, you left, you deal with it!’?

    That’s all I’m saying. I want to be wrong and Scotland alone becomes a new honourary Nordic country (in the sociopolitical sense) with great economic prospects and a good attitude towards immigration, or at least immigrants.

    In the end, I don’t have a vote, so my opinion isn’t particularly important, but I’d probably be voting yes, if I were eligible. Doesn’t mean I can’t worry; as a trans woman I’ve leapt off higher cliffs myself, but I didn’t do it fearlessly. 🙂

  12. Dunc says

    I think there might be a difference between being de jure if not de facto part of the governance of the currency. In the former, at least, there is a certain social pressure to at least appear fair to the partner with little power.

    You’ll just have to imagine my hollow, bitter laughter here. 😉

    Actually, it’s not Scotland that worries me in a currency-sharing scenario, it’s the rUK. They’re a sinking ship, holed badly below the waterline, and I worry they might drag us down with them. I think our economic prospects are far brighter without them.

    We already know they don’t give a monkey’s about what Scots think – only their English voters matter, and not all of those – but can anyone not see them having a port-and-cigar fest in glee if they got the chance to righteously stand up and say ‘sod off, you left, you deal with it!’?

    The way the debate’s been perceived south of the border, they’re actually under quite a lot of pressure from the precise segment of the English electorate that matters to inflict a savage punishment beating if we stay. The poisoned chalice (in the form of a reduced block grant in “exchange” for control over the basic rate of income tax) is already prepared. If we stay, they will keep more of (most of) our revenues and stick the Scottish Government with the Hobson’s choice of raising the basic rate of income tax to crippling and massively unpopular levels, or making savage cuts to public services. And they’ll call it “enhanced devolution”.

  13. md says

    To escape the worst effects of this domination, I favour a separate Scottish currency. And of course a nuclear-free, NATO-free, Scottish Republic.

    Be still my beating heart. Today a free Scotland. Tomorrow, a free Catalan!

  14. Nick Gotts says

    Rob Grigjanis@15,

    More than in rUK, but still a minority. If there’s a “Yes” vote, most republicans will be pressing to minimise the role of the monarchy in the new constitution, rather than attempting the almost impossible task of getting rid of it altogether.

  15. jimmyfromchicago says

    @19 Lady Scientist
    My understanding is that Salmond wants to retain the monarchy, so that Elizabeth II would be “Queen of Scotland,” like she is “Queen of Canada.” Presumably she would be able to keep Balmoral if this happened.

    From this side of the pond, it looks like the “Better Together” side is doing everything wrong. Alternating between threats of “this is it, if you vote yes,” and then promises of further devolution of powers if Scotland stays in the UK. I doubt the Scots have forgotten that Cameron fought (successfully) to keep the option of further devolution off the ballot when the terms of the referendum were being negotiated.

  16. Nick Gotts says

    Lady Scientist@19,

    I think you’re joking, but for general information, Balmoral is Elizabeth Windsor’s personal property – so the vote is no immediate threat to her enjoyment of her country cottage, nor would the declaration of a republic be one. Of course, once we’ve passed legislation to tax the rich properly to invest in health, education and welfare, the property and inheritance taxes on the estate might be considerable!

  17. Nick Gotts says

    CaitieCat@11,

    Undoubtedly, voting for independence has serious risks – but so does voting to stay in the UK. The UK itself may leave the EU in 2017. (For that matter, the EU may disintegrate in 2017, if Marine Le Pen wins the French Presidential election.) UK political culture may lurch even further to the right if the rise of UKIP continues. The UK government may (in fact, I’d say, will) look for ways to force the Scottish NHS to follow that in England in its fragmentation and increasing privatisation. We may be dragged into another Middle East war.

    jimmyfromchicago@20

    Alternating between threats of “this is it, if you vote yes,” and then promises of further devolution of powers if Scotland stays in the UK.

    If there’s a “No” vote, I expect an exhibition of Olympic-standard backpedalling from the unionist party leaders!

    I doubt the Scots have forgotten that Cameron fought (successfully) to keep the option of further devolution off the ballot when the terms of the referendum were being negotiated.

    I’m not sure how many will remember this, but it was certainly a gross strategic error on Cameron’s part. Presumably he expected an easy “No” victory, banishing the issue for decades at least. But the consequences for him and his party will be severe if there’s a “Yes” vote. Preservation of the United Kingdom is central to the Conservative Party’s ideology; in Scotland it was formerly known as the Unionist Party. If it’s “Yes”, then to many Conservatives, Cameron will be the man responsible for its destruction. He would be under no legal obligation to resign, but whether he’d have the political capital to stay on is doubtful. If he goes, a bitter leadership battle looks inevitable – focused on the threat from UKIP and the issue of the EU as well as on how to punish the rebellious Scots.

  18. Lady Scientist says

    @ Nick: Why would anyone want to keep the Queen as ruler of their land? Isn’t monarchy overrated at this point? All they do anymore is pose for the camera.

    After I wrote that comment yesterday, I read up a bit about Balmoral. Apparently, it is private, family property and not owned by the state, so I suppose that either way, the Queen gets to keep her castle. No worries for the Queen, afterall! Let us all emit a collective sigh of relief on behalf of the Queen.

  19. Mano Singham says

    Even if Balmoral castle is the queen’s ‘private’ property (i.e. property former kings/queens stole from the people), wouldn’t Scotland becoming independent still cause problems for her? Even to pop up there for a weekend would mean a state visit, like when she goes to other countries, no? Is it possible for the Queen to sometimes visit other countries quietly with no fuss?

  20. Nick Gotts says

    Lady Scientist@23,

    Why would anyone want to keep the Queen as ruler of their land?

    Well obviously, because, er, um, well you see, er…
    “Tradition” is the traditional answer. I recommend The Invention of Tradition edited by Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger. It covers the 19th century invention of the “ancient ceremonies” of the British monarchy, as well as that of the kilt* (invented by an English Quaker manufacturer in the late 18th century – his Highland workers’ plaids** kept getting caught in the machinery), and the “clan tartans”, specific checked patterns whose connections to particular clans were invented by a couple of English con artists calling themselves the Sobieski Stuarts.

    Is it possible for the Queen to sometimes visit other countries quietly with no fuss?

    I believe so, but I don’t know any details. Certainly other royals frequently do so. Maybe they’d smuggle her across the border in a diplomatic bag?

    *Of the kind you see at weddings, on tins of shortbread, etc. – there were similar garments.
    **The plaid (pronounced “plad”) was just a long strip of cloth, often tartan, wound round the body, with one end draped over the shoulder.

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