Losing Scotland


Over at Open Democracy, Gerry Hassan has a good post offering five reasons why the Scottish pro-Union ‘Better Together’ campaign is losing momentum and losing ground. Here’s an extract:

[T]he ‘Better Together’ forces do not want this debate. They are fighting a battle which they would prefer not to, at a time not of their choosing, and when their political opponents are mobilised and galvinised. This fundamental cuts through everything that ‘Better Together’ does; behind their rhetoric they are running a defensive political contest and one of retreat. They are presiding over a virtual, rather than real political campaign: mostly without foot soldiers, made up of three party leaderships, parts of the mainstream media, and business organisations and corporate CEOs.

Some notes from me:

  1. You should never under-estimate the SNP. I met Alex Salmond in the late 1980s – in my then job as a television producer – when he led a group of 5 MPs (from memory) at Westminster and the devolution argument looked dead in the water. By any measure they have been the most successful political party in Britain over the last generation.
  2. From a Scots perspective I think the independence argument is too close to call. From the perspective of the rest of us, the best outcome is probably that the ‘Yes’ campaign loses the referendum by about 1%, creating irrestitable pressure for the “Devo-Max” option that Cameron cynically excluded from the ballot paper. Why? Because it would re-open the devolution argument everywhere else. Along with fairer voting systems. And let’s face it: the only parts of the country that have done at all well in the last decade are those that won some measure of self-control in the late 1990s. London included.
  3. There are cynics out there who think that the inept showing of the Conservatives in the campaign so far is because they’re trying to push Scotland out of the Union to enjoy an endless autumn of Conservative rule in England. I think this probably misunderstands the tin ear the Conservatives have had for Scotland ever since Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister decimated their Scottish political base. But even if it is true, there are dangers here for the Conservatives. The unionist story is part of their political identity (it is called the “Conservative and Unionist” party for a reason) in a way that isn’t true for Labour or the Liberal Democrats. And the party may be in long-term decline, despite some Gen Y straws in the wind. The combination of loss of membership and the loss of an ideological core could be fatal to the idea of the Conservative party.

The image at the top of this post is ‘Distressed Scotland Flag‘ by James Miller. His work can be found at Redbubble.

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