Scotland’s Independence referendum has made Scotland politically interesting in a way it hasn’t been since Industry collapsed.
45 % of the population voted for Independence – 55% want to stay in the Union.
Yessers believe we’ll be Rich and Socially Just in an independent Scotland – Unionists think the Union brings us more advantages and they feel (sort-of) as British as they do Scottish.
Yes parties are the Scottish National Party, The Scottish Green Party, and The Scottish Socialist Party…. No parties are The Labour Party, The Conservative Party and The Liberal Democrats – all the parties with high stakes in the UK parliament.
Glasgow adds it’s usual dash of Belfast into the mix – the most visible No-Voters being Rangers fans with a real or imagined connection to the Orange Order (a sort of cut-price Irish Protestant Freemasons, that started as a Militia and keeps going in the absence of any other pan-denominational organisation)… It’s a tiny minority but it looms large in Glasgow’s psyche and completely distorts the way the battle lines are discussed (& felt)… Some Irish Republicans think this could be the road to a United Ireland (it’s not) but at the very least would give them a cheap laugh at Sevco (as if everything about it doesn’t already provide that)… Celtic fans can easily be Yessers – but their Irish heritage isn’t entirely containable in a Scottish Narrative that has breaking with Rome as such a major feature of its history… which is possibly why the Catholic composer James MacMillan has been so vocal about the Union. Away from football fans – the main churches in the UK have a great working relationship with each other.
No voters tend to be middle-class and OLD… There’s been a lot of talk of waiting for No-voters to die and then going Independent… The issues that enrage England – Immigration and the E.U. don’t matter in a Scotland where resentment can be aimed at Westminster and the Tories… but equally the strength of feeling in those issues turned on the Scots as foreigners with a border would make Independence negotiations rocky… The idea that we would keep all the advantages of the UK while leaving it are misplaced… Once we have our own agendas those ties will rupture.
Scottish musicians, playwrights and actors tend to be in favour of Yes – believing an Independent Scotland is a better platform for our cultural production and our self-esteem in general… But Scotland’s novelists and fine artists have more No-voters… possibly because their interests are well served in the UK in a way that theatre and film and television is not… To survive, the UK will need to win over the artists who currently feel marginal in Britain…
Some of the unofficial Arts-world rhetoric of a no-vote being about fear, or victimhood or brainwashing by the might of the British state is a misreading of the way people who are not aspiring/professional artists or activists feel. Most Scots never think about being Scottish and have no pressing desire to show their Britishness with bunting. Calvinism’s legacy is a moral distaste for signs and symbols, along with a tendency to read their very existence as a provocative act of aggression… you can see it clearly in the way that Yes/No campaigners will interpret a person flying a flag (us – joyful – them – thuggish) and the (very quiet) mocking of anyone festooned with ‘yes badges’ or the (equally quiet) marking down of anyone with a defaced picture of the Queen or Margaret Thatcher (however much you’re not a Royalist or a conservative) as a loon or a terrorist.
A new problem is that a great deal of Scotland’s cultural tropes come from the Highlands, Islands, and Borders – areas that voted in favour of the Union in the greatest numbers… the Islands in particular are flirting with the idea of breaking with an iScotland and becoming UK crown dependencies in line with the Channel Islands… that ruins the whisky/folk-songs/Gaelic nature of Bella Caledonia… The truth is (I type as a half-Islander) they hate Glasgow and Edinburgh far more than they hate London – and there are signs in Glasgow that the feeling is now mutual – which is a new and weird take on the old Cosmopolitan Scum/Inbred Tcheucher divide – City Separatists and Rural Unionists are a nearly unheard of double-bind.
Perhaps the over-reliance on Irish or Nordic role models, the re-packaging of our Empire opportunism as oppression and our celebration of happily unionist writers like Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson – was a sign that the Scottishness of this new Scotland was in trouble all along… Sir Walter Scott made the English love Scotland and Scotland accept the Union… it would be difficult to use any of our world-famous achievements of the past 300 years to sever those connections, and without them, what are we? We can’t dine out on a 13th-century warlord and a beheaded Queen forever.
The Labour Party is going to struggle to find leverage in the muddle between this not-entirely-thought-out Scottish patriotism, the clarity of ‘Yes’ as a demand, and the progressive left’s mistrust of the mainstream media and increasing faith in conspiracy theories, urban myths, and shared videos that make a small incident a permanent source of outrage and vindication. It’ll need to point out that the joy of ‘sticking it to the British Empire’ is going to last about a week… after that you’ve got to pay the bills and the ‘oil bonanza’ may or may not be enough. They could add that Empires are even more powerful once they’re truly dead – America tries to mimic Ancient Rome, Islamic State are trying to resurrect the Old Caliphates and Russia is fusing its Soviet and Imperial pasts with hyper-capitalism and Putin as a quasi-Tsar.
The Scottish National Party may lose its startled heartlands outwith Dundee… and its new allies in Glasgow have different economic ideals that would be hard to reconcile. They can capatalise on the idea that Scots don’t own their own resources, they can imply we have no influence, power or self-determination within the UK, they can paint us as being ‘cap-in-hand’ but those things are down to class, not Nationality… and after a break-up or with Devo-Max those arguments could be demolished by a good Labour politician… there could be a backlash of disappointment as bitter as the one Scottish Labour is currently enduring. In fact – many of its allies actively talk about its destruction in an Independent Scotland as if the Greens and Socialists could fill all the remaining political space.
Most Scots paid no attention to the Independence Referendum until the last few weeks… The Yes campaign was mostly conducted in a series of exciting bubbles – from marches that looked the same as the Gaza marches but with blue flags… to the Arts world holding a series of events that their usual audience attended… to social media where a small core of sincere activists were backed-up by users wanting re-tweets and likes. The No campaign started negative and complacent (hence all the ‘too wee, too poor, too bigoted’ stuff)… became negative and desperate… and in the end was ditched while the UK politicians intervened to makes pleas and promises.
Civic Nationalism – meant to reassure minorities and socialists – has led to many Scots being labelled ‘Unionists’ as if they’re colonialists or traitors – another weird division that’s potentially as toxic as sectarianism (especially in Glasgow where it will be framed directly as sectarianism). It risks Scots seeing themselves as being pushed out of the parliament in the way that Celts were pushed to the fringes by Anglo-Saxons and Serbs felt pushed out of Kosovo.
If Civic Nationalism loses the bulk of its own nationals but keeps the progressive-left we’re in for the kind of vicious, internecine, schisming politics that mirrors our rapidly atomizing world. An antebellum Yugoslavia with an inlay of clapped-out Ulster… The HOPE-CHANGE alliance will blame the evils of the British Media-Elite-Establishment’s lies and scaremongering, plotting and fearing A DAY OF RECKONING, while continuing to alienate the people – Scots, Scotland, Scottish – they should be leading to freedom.
No-voters will resent, ignore and resist them – the Scottish status quo hunkers down, it doesn’t parade – unless it’s the Orange Order… which will continue to be the Orange Order come rain or shine, yes or no… attached to their customs and history… picking up the disaffected whose unhappiness can’t be countered by finding someone worse off than them to help or by being helped by someone better off than them… taking all the fascist, neo-Nazi, Brit-Nat, fat, ugly, stupid racist, sectarian, sub-human scum, c**t flack that they internalized so long ago that they would shout it at themselves if no one else did… The ‘Shy Nos’ will not feel the pressure that’s meant to turn them into Yessers… they will simply blame Glasgow with its poverty and violence.
So – we are literally a divided nation – every council area has a huge minority of yes or no voters, and nearly everyone has heard, seen or experienced some form of insult or attack… we’ve even managed to attract the attention of Russia who views us as a potential way of embarrassing and scaring the E.U. and NATO (a Union we want to join, and an alliance some of us despise). The United States would rather we stayed in the Union because we’re allies and God knows what they’ve got dotted about our coastline or incubating in one of our Arms factories…. with international attention focused on wanting us to stay or go -nukes on the Clyde could be the least of our warmongering worries.
So what now?
Well – we’re not going to be friends. Many of us will be frenemies… some of us are stuck in enemy camps and will front like Kim Philby… and true bastards are going to persecute the ‘other’ to hell and back.
But I think we’ll enjoy it.
UPDATE : the Independence movement has decided to label itself ‘the 45′ and is waging a war against more than half of the (duped/scared/fascist) voting population in order to liberate it… They’re doomed.
UPDATE UPDATE : I wonder if Nigel Farage will cotton on that all he has to do to forge an alliance with the Greens and any old radical socialist is to promise them a couple of wind-farms and yell Euro-Nat at Angela Merkel?
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE : The Catholic Church in Scotland appears to have struck up some informal alliance with the SNP that may promise that an Independent Scotland will leave them alone on hot issues like gay marriage and Catholic Schools… This is incredibly short-sighted of them… A small boring country that contains radicals is far more likely to get round to imposing and banning things than the Frankenstein UK with its fudge and compromises….