Monday, September 22, 2014

Some reflections on the referendum

Not jubilation but just overwhelming relief that it was over - something I felt about 98% certain of at the back of eleven on Thursday.  It's been a roller-coaster.  I find going on roller-coasters deeply unpleasant and pointless experiences and so with Indyref 2014, only it went on much much longer.  A few thoughts in no particular order, starting with what is for me the must read post-indy post from the Flying Rodent.

1) What he said.  Just to reinforce a couple of points he makes. Thank goodness someone else said this too: I couldn't be doing with all this positivity about how engaged people were.  People were engaged all right, but not in a good way.  More specifically I've been personally told on more tha one occasion that various ugly scenes we've witnessed on the campaign are explicable because people feel passionately about the issues, man.  My response would be that if 'feeling passionate' is what leads people to scream 'quisling' in people's faces and stand in a parking lot on a Sunday afternoon calling for journalists to be sacked for being rude to the First Minister then I'd have thought it was an obvious point to make that feeling passionate isn't necessarily, or even usually, a virtue in itself.

2) FR's right about the turnout too.  If change is big, clear and irreversible, then it's going to be much easier to mobilise people - even if, as in this case, it's to stop it from happening,  I hope people aren't too disappointed when they realise there's not the least chance of this being transferred to the beige world of parliamentary politics.

3) I declare myself vindicated on anything I have ever said about referendums.  I thought I had written something longer than this, and I may have but can't be bothered looking for it.  One of the many objections I have to them is they absolutely do not do what they say on the tin.  Politicians usually advocate them because they claim they'll settle an issue 'once and for all'.  We've already seen numerous international examples where the exact opposite happens.  We should be clear about this: they are repeated because the people who lost didn't accept the result.  The Irish with Europe and the Quebecois in Canada are obvious examples.  I have to say the speed with which Salmond & Co. have gone cold on the whole "sovereign will of the Scottish people" thing is pretty impressive, although we have a particular Salmond/Sillars twist with the idea that plebiscites are no longer a good thing at all, what with this one not yielding the desired result.

4) Salmond's departure is a wonderful thing, even if the manner in which he's doing so is more graceless than even I expected.  Nick Cohen is bang on the money here.  I can't do nuance with Salmond.  I consider him to be a sinister Putinist bully who has been an entirely malignant force in Scottish politics.  I can find nothing good to say about Alex Salmond at all.  His departure is a deliverance.

5) Many of the footsoldiers of the Yes movement were lions led by donkeys.  I was a little apprehensive about going into work on Friday wondering how my Yes colleagues had taken defeat.  They conducted themselves with grace and dignity - an impressive feat for the committed and the sleep deprived.  I'd imagine others have had similar experiences and I think it needs to be acknowledged.

6) This hasn't been universal, to put it mildly.  De Nile ain't just a river in Egypt - it's also the first in the stages of grief and I suppose it's understandable that we've seen a fair bit of this in the last couple of days.  But the speed with which some have formulated a betrayal narrative is truly awesome.  "They promised new powers and they lied!"  It's just a suggestion but I've have thought the weekend after the referendum was a little early to be pulling out a stab in the back myth.

Couple of points on this: any promises made in a referendum campaign are unenforceable.  All a referendum does is give a mandate for negotiation and people need to understand this.

The other thing people need to understand is the Nationalists don't want devolution to work because they don't believe in devolution.  I'd have thought it would be a better strategy not to make this so obvious, but that's just me.

The last point is I find it objectionable to be told as a No voter promises of 'Devo-mair' or whatever was all that stopped me voting Yes.  Hell would have frozen over before I voted Yes and I wasn't too fussed on more powers, personally.  One of the reasons for this is there's been precious little proper scrutiny over the exercise of the powers that the Scottish Government already has in Holyrood.  I personally wouldn't want a party as intolerant of disagreement as the SNP to have even a little bit more power over my life.  Again, that's just me but I know I'm not alone in feeling like that.

7) So far the regrouping strategy looks splendidly suicidal - like Yes voters calling themselves the 45.  Dig a trench and behind it you will find the righteous minority, unsullied by the world with white unspotted garments.  On the other side you'll find the 55% who hate Scotland and probably killed Bambi's mum.  Also note that the Sheridan/SWP/hard-left gang are gearing up to do an eighties revival and are planning SNP entryism.  One can only hope that works out as well for them as it did for the Labour Party.

Having a go at pensioners is much the same.  Hardly a smart tactic in a country with an ageing population.  Anyway, we only know from opinion polls how people voted but it is indeed likely that pensioners leant towards No.  So did women and so did English voters.  My mum's an English pensioner who is also by definition a woman.  Someone more impervious to the nationalist message you will never find.  The Nats might want to ask themselves why this is instead of accusing them of being selfish and risk-averse.  However, smarter and cooler heads in the Nationalist camp will ask themselves this very question and then they'll be back.  They'll be back because it needs to be understood that all the piety we heard about this being about democracy and not nationalism is just that - empty piety.  The fact of the matter is the Treaty of Union got something it never really had - an explicit democratic endorsement.  It's patently clear already that they're just not having this.


Simon Fawthrop said...

I hadn't thought too much about the pensioner and women voting bias towards the status quo and safer option. On reflection I think they are more likely to give the future of their grandchildren and children a lot more thought that any politician is ever likely to.

Slightly tongue in cheek, but if a Gordon Brown manifesto promise isn't a contract then why did people think a vow made on television would be?

flyingrodent said...

Another point about "the 45" - the original 45ers' big plan at the time went like this:

"We will raise our banners and then the people will rise up in our support".

Which has been a consistently terrible plan whenever it's been tried throughout history.

Joe Baxter said...

I think I agree with almost every part of this and especially the parts about being glad it's over and Salmond as world champion sore loser and bully. However I don't think it's clear that the SNP don't want devolution to work, they have appeared at some points to be desperate for some form of devo max and their inability to engage with the issues around currency might lead you to believe they have no confidence in their 'answers'.

Shuggy said...

FR - Yeah. Glorifying heroic failure? That's original.

Joe - yeah, slightly divided against myself on this one. Have written before that I didn't think many in the SNP believed in independence at all. Now I've seen them going for the suicide bombing stuff on default etc. I'm left with the impression that many of them really are devoted to indy at any cost. Or if it's merely a bargaining posture, I'd say they're pretty shit at it.

Al said...

If you exclude the thugs in George square, the one notable act of violence during the campaign was an egg being thrown at Jim Murphy. It's been conducted pretty civilly overall considering historical precedents. You could argue that the bbc bias protests were all a bit pointless, but don't think the issue was lack of respect for Salmond. I'm sure Sturgeon will be a less divisive figure at any rate. Question is, who will Scotlab obsess over now he's gone? Like yes supporters, they must be feeling a bit empty now as well.

Agree the referendum doesn't seem to have settled anything. But don't see how there can be serious talk of holding another one unless there is clearly a majority in favour of independence. Not at all clear if that will happen, but think we can count on continued dysfunction of UK to keep it on the cards. I think many fervent yes supports will in time settle for true devo max ( or devo super duper max as George Galloway might put it). But the idea that Westminster would allow this is pretty unlikely. So perhaps it is more realistic to continue campaign for independence. Expect this 45 thing to peter out relatively soon though.

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