It is unhealthy to shut down discussion on why Scotland’s Referendum was lost. That only frustrates understanding. It blocks debate on how to go about it next time. These truisms have engaged my thoughts these last days maining this is an exploratory essay.
The burden of history
The problem is hundreds of years of Scotland’s history sits heavily on our shoulders, almost impossible to throw off. Invasions, massacres, population clearances, colonial power and entrenchment, sustained economic strangulation, all contribute to a feeling of powerlessness in the face of Westminster control.
Fear and loathing manifests itself on the terraces of football fields as much as it does in the dining rooms of bourgeois Edinburgh.
Doubt about convincing areas where English have congregated and settled in large numbers, Edinburgh, the Borders, and Orkney three good examples, clouds judgment. (Each voted a resounding No!) The leader of the Orkney Yes campaign readily acknowledges her task was an impossible one.
If a transitory individual, planning to return to their homeland after their time of study, can vote having been here the minimum numbers of years to do so, it is hard to reconcile that right with the exclusion of expats who will have lived in Scotland decades and left Scotland only a few years or less. In the event it was agreed the vote went to anybody domiciled in Scotland, living and working.
Analysis published and reasons voiced for defeat of the Yes side, by only a few percentage points, range from, not enough people were convinced by the economics of the argument, to Nicola Sturgeon should have been in charge a few months before the vote, she is more affable than Salmond.
Too many English, sir!
Another reason proffered was too many English living in Scotland with allegiance to Westminster. To argue that puts a person on dangerous ground. For a start, participation in any SNP meeting enjoys the comradeship of English keen to see Scotland get a fresh start and greater democracy.
Post-referendum research points to Britishness as the culprit. ‘Britishness’ is an illusion, part of the propaganda of state control. English see the UK as ‘their’ country. It is a comforting illusion to believe the bigger the land mass the greater the safety.
Tackling the argument in four distinct ways.
- POLITICAL: In large measure a person’s politics is based on the place of their birth, as well as parental nurturing, adult experience, and state propaganda. It is quite legitimate to challenge all perceptions that arise from those sources. Ignore them and hone in on place of birth alone is perilous. It does not matter that the other side continually belittles Scotland’s history and its people, we should avoid responding in like mind. What we are fighting is an alien ideology and political orthodoxy imposed upon Scotland by a government that seeks only to enrich its own interests. Not sharing in the instruments of power and having real influence leaves Scots exasperated in the face of so many vested interests.
- CULTURAL: I meet lots of placemen in my work. Discussing anything with them can be soul destroying. In his seminal essay, ‘Why Scots Should Rule Scotland’, author-illustrator Alasdair Gray describes some residents as incomers, colonialists promoted to high office, put in charge of Scottish institutions, who have next to no knowledge of Scottish history or contemporary culture. They hold tight to their own cultural norms. The problem there is such people not only control the purse strings, but also promote those of a like mind. Add to them Scots happy to follow suit and report to Westminster or Whitehall, and you have effectively a nation controlled, unable to promote its own values and cultural outlook.
- ECONOMIC: Not being an economic expert should not dissuade anybody from arguing about fairness and justice. Food banks and hundreds of charity shops are not Scotland’s doing. They have been described by Westminster politicians as a sign of a caring society. That beggars belief – create poverty, throw scraps of food at it, and call it ‘caring’. Next we shall be told dead left in the street because of burial costs demonstrate a caring society that likes to feed urban foxes.
- VIVE LA DIFFERENCE!: The outcome of all this anodyne ‘British is Best’, and ‘we share the same humanity,’ is conformity, a blandness that reduces humans to numbers and categories. We are shuttled into an economic system, identified by our consumer likes and dislikes. Concern for a better society should impel us to find ways to cultivate human development in its richest diversity. A good place to start is with John Stuart Mill’s classic “On Liberty.” Its epigraph formulates the same clarion call as vive la difference – “The leading principle … unfolded in these pages directly converges: the absolute and essential importance of human development in its richest diversity.” [My emphasis.]
The common good
Humans are social beings, and the kind of creature that a person becomes depends crucially on the social, cultural and institutional circumstances of his life. A successful outcome to the Referendum hoped to address the social arrangements that are conducive to people’s rights and welfare, to help fulfill their just aspirations – in brief, what we call the common good.
It is for the common good of the people of Scotland we seek a better society, irrespective of where they were born. But the dichotomy is, we can not achieve it while a dominant nation rules over us and all we do, telling us how what we should think, and how we should act. Furthermore, that nation controls the outlets of expression and information.
What we have in Scotland currently is faux democracy, cousin to neoliberalism. It is not real democracy but we are told it is. And if we can get through each day reasonably fed and happy, we won’t question it. That is why so many felt comfortable voting No – they felt life was at worst tolerably good.
Making choices seems to some a kind of freedom, or free will exercised. Unfortunately, those choices are only the ones placed before us, not the ones we can create for ourselves. At the lower end of the income scale seventy percent of the populace have no influence on the policies that control those choices. It is not until you go up the social scale, way up, do people feel they can make a difference.
We should convince unbelievers in sharing the common good, the common weal, if you like. They should understand it follows that institutions that constrain such development are illegitimate, and that means England and all Westminster calls one-nation British.
If you are happy clap your hands
To finish on a hopeful note: a recent survey discovered that southern England (Devon and Cornwall – two areas of population without a love of Westminster) and most of Scotland had more emotionally stable populations than the rest of the United Kingdom, where people came over as more calm and relaxed.
Researchers put that down to the way the local population looked after each other. The survey concluded, “These traits might in some way be infectious, with emotional feelings spreading and taking hold in other communities.”
And if you meet somebody who is in agreement with all that you argue for self-governance yet still insists Westminster is best, you might just be talking to a fool.
Ah GB , we have to keep our fingers crossed and hope.
That’s what the YES movement thrived on . It’s still there. As regards the GE we need to get rid of Scotland’s shackles ( the Labour Party) The defeat of them at the GE and SE 2016 will signal we really are awake. I see them as the real enemy in Scotland.
The establishment won’t have an allies in Scotland so any attacks will come straight from WM and far too many are aware of the dirty tricks that bunch will try . I think it’s only a matter of time. But they are a sneaky bunch and we need to stick together.
It’s hard to change so many peoples way of thinking . The older ones are the toughest to crack. Since the REF things have gone from strength to strength. It gives me hope and with the underhand tactics already in play we can at least be greatfull for the Web and a young generation active in spoiling their tactics and calling out the lies withing hours.
If you had asked me what would happen after we lost the ref .. i would have expected apathy and boredom and slowly we would go about our days as usual . That hasn’t happened. In fact it’s the opposite . We’re going to win this GB. They have to win all the time . We just need to win once. It’s bound to happen when you see so many still in the fight and growing everyday too.
Many felt cheated last Sept. And we’ve learned . ;0
Like you, Yes Guy, a good many felt cheated last September, by the concerted efforts of all three political parties, and the media – all guilty of perverting the will of the Scottish people.
I’ve wanted to comment here before, though haven’t as I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea, and didn’t want to scupper your message. I think it would be rather rude of me not to comment on this post though. 😉
What is the purpose of society and democratic freedom? Is it to support a political and economic orthodoxy, or to encourage and enable the expression of humanity and individual freedoms?
Thanks for the post.
I am a long-time admirer of your strength of character in the face of Unionist abuse!
Under no circumstances should we consider having any future referendum under any other set of rules other than those of the last one, even if it could advance independence.
In particular, the electorate being those living here, regardless of where they came from. Even the ex-pat thing disturbs me.
English people living in Scotland are not all no voters, just as Scots living in London are not all homeless beggars.
We just need to convince more of the English here to see further than the end of their comfortable noses and to vote for change and social justice. Best way to do that? Get them to stop believing the BBC.
Yes the ex pat thing is a no gamer, my bro doesn’t vote here as he now lives in Australia, it would be silly if he voted here. My neighbours, all v well off, (we aren’t however) are mostly Scottish, majority voted no, I am from NE England, voted YES so did my sons. Well off neighbours now turn their noses up at us, our crime? Fighting for what is in the best interests of all, all no voters were selfish, no matter what reasons they spout. We have the flag up at the window, and yes posters, they all removed their no crap before the votes in the Indy ref had even been counted!
I think next time we have to be much more careful about how we construct a vote that allows non-permanent residents a say. When you have been colonised a long time it is foolhardy to assume you can overthrow 300 years of control in a day.
Reading the published excerpts of Salmond’s Referendum diary discovers he knew within an hour of the vote that it was going to be No, but a close finish. And I think he knew earlier than that from his street meetings. All the No’s needed to do was stay at home, then come out to vote.
I still meet folk who simply cannot believe a people would sell their country to another nation. Non-Scots in particular are astonished. I think that is what troubles Yes voters so much. I am sure there are many expats shaking their heads and saying, ‘I told you so.’
The unmentionable Iraq buster Blair is spouting on BBC right now about the near calamity caused by the Scottish referendum where almost half voted to split up the UK, ie., Britain – the dastards!
He recalls how he almost laughed when we puny wee Scots tried to aspire to the economic stability of Norway – a country he reveals that has lost almost 30% of its currency’s value and how we would be in the very direst of predicaments with the plummeting price of oil, which in his esteemed view was to be the bedrock of our economy – fortunately, providence and the black-arts and vote rigging all came to the rescue to prevent us from achieving self-annihilation and almost incalculable devastation to our dearest neighbour and union partner. Collateral damage averted, Tony?
No mention, that the UK is in hock to the tune of £1.6 TRILLION caused by our self-same dearest neighbour and union partner. That we are pushed into deficit in this tiny wee and stooopid country by the UK/British allocated proportion of this humongous debt’s servicing and interest payment. That the austerity cuts aimed to reduce such an obscene overspend on grandeur and world-stage-manship are crippling the very poorest, whilst millionaires such as the self-same Blair and Brown strut around untouched by it all.
These guys are socialist? Don’t make me and virtually the whole Scottish nation laugh in scorn.
The oil revenues were never part of the ‘bedrock’ of the economy, it was to be a separate reserve fund. The price up or down didn’t matter, whatever revenues accrued became our savings, same principle as Norway. The cheap gibes Labour and Tories keep making about bankruptcy is a bare-faced lie, and it’s also insulting. Trouble is, they mean the insult.
If I may I would like to attempt an answer to your questions; in part, if not in full!
Society is what we make it. Collectively, we dictate what society is. In my eyes, society should support each individual in their endeavour for a happy, healthy and prosperous existence, which, I believe, deep down all people aspire for. In such a society people would need to respect the rights of others as they would expect others to respect them. To achieve such a utopia we would need to radically change the very fabric of our current system which is designed and maintained to keep people in the loop of fear! I am sure you are aware of the means by which this is achieved!
Currently, as such a system stands, democratic freedom is non existent. However, under the right conditions, I believe democracy can benefit society as it those within that society that govern it for the good of all, not a select few! Iceland being a prime example. Greed and ego have no place in a democratic system and I don’t believe they are traits of human nature; they are simply programmed into us in order to keep the current system alive! In short, we are capable of much better when we undertake our own destiny instead of allowing others to dictate how the things will be!
We must fashion a society where the worst of human nature is deflected, the best encouraged and rewarded.
The Pyrrhic victory of the referendum is now exposed and honest decent people around the globe are reminded that they do have a voice that will be heard once they shut their ears to the propaganda machine of the abusers.
Its not just Oil that the establishment fears loosing control of, its the people most of all. Because when the people wake up there are so many empowering alternative ways to live off the grid, energy self sufficient. Free of the oil/coal companies energy monopoly the special interest groups will find it harder to maintain their stranglehold. They already are in fact.
The point about south west England is well taken. The rebirth of genuine community values and mutual support. The people need to refute the mortgage holders and break the money lending racket once and for all. Debt is an illusion. Energy is the true measure of currency. Energy to grow, harvest, build and share. That’s where the value lies. Not in those enslaving indentures called mortgages.
The Banking system MUST DIE . It must be replaced with a just system that values life, not enslaves it.
Thank you for tolerating my persistent presence here right now GB but I am a great believer in the role of warrior poets . I consider you a true voice and thank you for your incisive words . May they continue to inspire and warm peoples hearts with hope.
Good words. Thank you.
Its a pleasure . Times are when I have despaired and given up hope. Really worried that people are not seeing what they need to see. But the establishment has betrayed its true agenda by its arrogance and the Scottish people have seen through it . My hat goes off to them and I cheer for them. I want to see them strolling on to their land and taking it back from the parasites . Take back the woods and glens and rebuild what was lost and stolen by the enclosures . What man/woman can live amongst such grandeur and be deprived of its joys without heartache ? The establishment stole Scotland and turned it in to their happy hunting grounds . Same in England ,same everywhere really . Corporate feudalism . I hope the city gents are quaking in their Hunter wellies .They should be.
They must be nervous.
Scotland began its march to genuine autonomy when we got devolution. England did not hurt. Why they think independence regained will be catastrophic is a mystery, they do not even know why they keep advocating ‘be British.’
It can be said that we are gaining independence incrementally, but when you think about it, we are practicing it now.
Feel free to forward my essays to anybody you think will share ideas and hopes.
Power hungry people like to think they have the provinces happily squirming beneath their benevolent heel . Grateful, compliant, uncomplaining and submissive. That way they can con themselves in to believing their presence is justified, right and ‘civilized’.
Its the thin end of the wedge though , because once they loose this province , who’s next ?
The natives must be subdued . Police state’s arise when the greedy start to loose control.