Saturday, 20 September 2014

Some reflections on the Scottish No vote

"There is little doubt that, had he wanted to, he could have led the SNP to a third victory in 2016"
Thus writes Martin Kettle regarding Alex Salmonds resignation some hours ago. I beg to differ. Surely Salmond had no other choice. If knives weren’t already being sharpened, then, in any case, if accountability is worth anything, he still had to resign. You can’t stay on as leader of a party whose core raison d'√™tre is independence, after losing decisively on that very matter.
In this context, tis interesting to see the split among SNP voters. Approximately 20% of SNP-voters ticked No. Which clearly indicates that SNP can’t take for granted that people voting SNP are pro-independence. Voters are more astute, they can differentiate between Scottish level (want SNP to govern) and union level (but still want to remain in the UK). The new SNP leader will hopefully acknowledge this.

Alex Salmond, SNP. Resigned as First minister and party leader

As for the general character of this two year campaign, I hope it was typified by how Jim Murphy and Rickie Ross interacted on BBC last night. One No and one Yes discussing in a civil, warm, intelligent manner. Respectful disagreement interspersed with good banter (they incidentally taught me a new word – "stramash").
Although vexing, it was apposite that UKIP's David Coburn then was let in. Like a nutter thrown into the works of sanity, serving as a stark contrast to – an enhancer of – the dignity and class displayed by Murphy and Ross.
Too bad some of the gloating No supporters didn’t follow Murphy’s lead – magnanimous in victory. And too bad some of the understandably gutted Yes supporters still didn’t follow Ross’ lead – magnanimous in defeat. Salmond was noble as well, urging:
"all of Scotland to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland"
Love or loathe him, but it's hard to deny that Salmond is a consummate politician, astute, abound with wit, oratory skills, all underpinned by a pragmatic toughness. And to boot, he wears a big progressive heart on his left-of-centre sleeve.
Yet, many from his campaign still harps on about how insurmountable their task was – opposed by that intangible ‘the man’, the establishments of the UK, Europe, the world, Milky way, etcetera. (They were naturally opposed by the Scottish establishment too; which just as naturally didn't include Salmond and SNP).
They would be wise – or at least honest – to remember that the basic election framework was undoubtedly to their advantage. Take the variables age, residency, semantics.
Age: 16-17 year olds were allowed to vote. And preliminary polls indicate that 71% of them voted Yes. Hence, a considerable amount in the nationalists favour.
Residency: Scots in the rest of the UK weren't allowed to vote. Hundreds of thousands of Scots thus had no vote on the potential breaking away of their community from the union they live in. There are 600 000+ Scots living in the rest of the UK, and it was expected that they would vote overwhelmingly pro-union.
Semantics: The question (“Should Scotland be an independent country”) was framed in the nationalists favour. They were given the positive Yes alternative. Which gave them ample opportunities to lambaste the inclination of the unionist side to say No. Alas, the negativity, the nationalists moaned – when will the No side ever stop saying No?
So these fundamental variables were in the nationalists favour. Yet, they lost. Resoundingly. Double digits. If the age limit had been the customary 18 y/o, the union side would’ve escaped those Yes votes from the under-18s. If Scots living in the rest of the UK could've voted, the union vote would’ve been boosted. If the question had been “Should Scotland remain part of the UK”, the union alternative would've been Yes, not No, and the basic semantics consequently in its favour.
And, yet, despite all of this, the union side won. Decisively. Of course Salmond had to resign.
Before resigning, he did however rightly demand that Westminster now give Scotland the devolution it was promised. If Westminster does, Alba nationalism might go the same way as Quebec's: still present and proud, but generally reconciled and/or content being inside a federation where its character and choices are not only acknowledged but enforced.
So here’s me hoping a new union will arise.
The union is dead, 

long live the union!

PS. I will never again call myself an Anglophile. It’s Britain I've always loved and I'm ashamed to have used, oblivious to the fact it was, an England centric term. From now on I’ll only use the comprehensive, complete – the correct – label to what I’ve always been: a Britophile.
A black Swedish Britophile to boot. Aye, not many of us, but we can still stir up quite a stramash.