Heading into the final week of campaigning in front of the most momentous vote that Scots will take in their lifetimes and with the rest of the Kingdom strictly relegated to observer status, mixed emotions are increasingly evident. Many can see victory within their grasp and are beginning to see red mist. Their claims become more emotionally charged and factually outrageous by the day. Others are suffering from referendum fatigue and simply want a quick end to it all and to be allowed to get on with their lives while some are sucked into a vortex of questioning disbelief, worry and anxiety for the future.
“No,” would appear to be slightly in the lead but with a tolerance of + or – 3pts in these polls it really is all to play for. I do though hear more stories of stupid and crass low level intimidation from the “Yes,” campaign from the Highlands to the Borders. I think we’ll hear more about this after the vote but one thing is for sure and for certain, when individuals are in that voting booth they can tick which ever box they wish with absolute privacy and impunity. That’s exactly the point when Mr Salmond may regret not reigning in the more febrile elements of his campaign.
Standing back from the melee for a moment I can’t help but think how badly planned and handled the entire enterprise has been from every constituent part. That with four days to go the level of informed debate is better suited to the cut and thrust of a mid-term by-election is nothing short of an international embarrassment. Peoples livelihoods and their economic future are at risk here and they deserve better. So does the rest of the United Kingdom.
Both campaigns have in fact completely missed the target. Salmond has failed to invest in time and energy to create a sound intellectual case for independence and instead has leaned far too heavily on transient soundbites, reviving ancient mistrust of the English, (that many voters have no lineage to anyway), questionable election practices, a nostalgia for a post war economy that has forever gone and oil and well, oil. Creating a dependency for the well being, health and education of 5m people on the price of a globally traded commodity would to me seem a somewhat casual approach to policy but what do I know?
An independent Scotland though is of course possible and indeed could be more of a reality if Salmond and his hopeless band of backward looking socialists embraced a culture and manifesto of socially liberal, economically conservative policies that enthusiastically sought openness, collaboration, partnership and participation. That’s not going to happen though. The SNP is a small minded, spiteful and resentful collection of miscreants who in the best traditions of modern politics will promise everything to everyone and deliver nothing except value destruction and national strife.
There is the possibility that the electorate vote for independence then immediately vote the SNP out, preferring instead individuals capable of doing the job properly but they are in short supply in Scottish politics. I think such an echo of Churchill being tossed out from government in the 1945 election is unlikely; the SNP have simply left it too late having relied too much on what they perceive to be a spirit of nationalism and they have left too many open questions unanswered.
It would have been so much better to make the case ex oil and ex the EU and sell those as added bonus’s. Salmond should have focused on a very gradual disconnect with the rest of the UK with multiple joint ventures and collaborations, with checkpoints, at the sovereign, financial and social level. He should have warned every Scot that this momentous decision was one they were entrusted with on behalf of their children and subsequent generations. That for most Scots there would be no immediate financial uplift. That in fact the benefits would take a minimum of ten years to accrue, if not a generation. He should have asked, “Is that a sacrifice you are prepared to make?” He should have reminded, if not berated his potential voters that Scotland suffers from a corrosive drug problem, galloping ill health in some areas and a bewildering and growing culture of dependency on government. He should have reminded Scots of their heritage and what he intended to do to unleash the capacity of Scots to revive, invent and build based on a competitive and forward looking education system and an environment which allows business to thrive. Instead, he’s just shovelled out a truck load of lies, half-truths and cynical scare stories that add nothing to the debate and diminish his appeal to voters. Voters see through this nonsense and his standing has fallen commensurate with the diminishing integrity of his argument. He will lose on Thursday and he need look no further than himself to blame.
The No campaign meanwhile has been equally poor. In fact, its been an utter shambles. The “Keep Calm,” approach was chucked on the bonfire last week when the enormity of the weapons grade fuck up they’d made of it became apparent in the polls. They will probably pull it off in the end but it will be in spite of their efforts not because of them. In fact, it will largely be the pragmatic and sensible undecided Scottish housewife who rescues them. I don’t imagine she has much love for either side but will instead vote for whoever she thinks will cause her family the least dislocation and worry. I don’t blame her. The failure of the “No,” campaign to properly articulate the benefit of being a Scot within the United Kingdom is symptomatic of our hermetic national politicians and the arms length political class we’ve created. Here though is a man who can and in fact is one of the few who has written sensibly about the issues at hand for some considerable time, Alex Massie. Worth a read.
The winner in all of this, and there aren’t many, is UKIP who will benefit from an English reaction to an independence vote but also to an excess of largesse with Devo Max. The driving undercurrent is anyway, a rumbling dissatisfaction with central government which has resonance throughout the UK and indeed in many European countries beyond.
That general feeling of dissatisfaction was nicely articulated by a chum in the Highlands over the weekend,
“I took a wee wander with the dog the other day to pass the time and popped in for a pint. On looking up at the sign above my watering hole, it read - The Royal British Legion (Scotland) Branch. I pondered and wondered what that will be called next week? Anyway, I digress...
It was a lovely sunny day so I sat outside at a table and during my time there, I chatted to several tourists from the Manchester area about various topics, weather, how nice it was 'up here' etc, etc.... and of course the referendum. It was quite surreal actually, with about a 50/50 split in how the 'tourists' would vote if they had the chance, which came as a bit of a surprise. 'Westminster' isn't too popular in the North of England either it seems...
Also sat with me was a wise old piper, now in his eighties, who served his Queen and country well when he was in his prime and he eventually summed it all up in a few ( or quite a few...) words.
He was sitting quietly listening to all the opinions, not saying anything - apart from humming his usual heedrum hodrum pipe tunes aloud until he finally stopped 'playing' his imaginary pipes and he said;
‘Och!! I'm sick o' the whole damned thing!
Some days I wake up and my heart says Yes, but my head says No.
On other days my heart says No, but my head says Yes.
The problem is I can never get the two of them to agree.
I've listened to everything all these (*expletive*) politicians have said and all I have to do now, is decide which lot of the (*another expletive*) are lying the least!’
That for me, sums it up in a nutshell.........”
Indeed it does.