Seeing the Light

The next nine months will concentrate minds on Scotland’s chances post independence but it must surely mean a similar scrutiny of the developing UK after a No vote. I say “developing” but that contains an irony because on a battery of comparisons it seems Britain may actually be in the category of developing nation. That term we normally apply to primitive economies struggling to put themselves on an upward curve aided by financial transfers from richer countries so a more appropriate phrase might be undeveloping country since in the UK’s case it has been developed but is now showing signs of unravelling into a threadbare and worn out curiosity.

And simultaneously research shows how this relative decline in the British state presents an opportunity to draw Labour voters away from a traditional affiliation to the UK and to express their real feelings about the possibilities opened up by Scottish independence. If the research is accurate, many Labour voters are already eyeing independence as an appealing prospect but can’t get over the mind-set that it is a concept owned by the SNP, a party to whom they don’t owe allegiance.

We’ll return to that. But first, the emerging critique of Britain as it crawls, slowly and painfully from recession – at least on some measures – is that it is inflexible and therefore lacking the ability to do anything other than genuflect to the City of London, is class-ridden so that social mobility is blocked (witness even John Major) and mercilessly pursuing a cuts agenda targeted on the low paid and the vulnerable.

Education is a key monitor of national performance and lays the foundation for so much else in society yet the latest PISA  results  show Britain stagnating as a mid range  nation with teenagers lagging  behind their peers across the world as improvements stall in reading, maths and science with no improvement recorded in the basics of learning. Among those moving further ahead despite spending less than Britain are Slovenia and Estonia, two newly independent small nations. The UK was in 26th place for maths, 23rd for reading and 21st for science. Ambitious countries should not be scrambling to stay mid table.

Or there is the World Economic Forum report on competitiveness has Britain doing well in some categories but what about the balance as of the national budget as a percentage of GDP at 140 out of 144 nations…of gross national savings at 123…government debt at 136…national imports at 107…soundness of banks at 97…. ease of access to loans at 82? And does the UK sitting at number 55 for women in the labour market strike you as progressive?  For more on this read the Guardian

Meanwhile food banks, as clear an indicator to poverty and stress as can be imagined are a growing feature of society. In July, the welfare minister Lord Freud said: “The provision of food-bank support has grown from provision to 70,000 individuals two years ago to 347,000. All that predates the [welfare] reforms. As I say, there is no evidence of a causal link.” Yet an inquiry into the growth of food banks by the government has been delayed. Why? And when Alistair Carmichael spoke to MSPs he said there was a link between benefits cuts and food banks but also claimed it was simplistic to say the cuts led to them multiplying. (This sounds like the same tortured responses he gave to Nicola Sturgeon in the STV debate). Now household debt is rivaling sovereign debt and heading for £1.5 trillion.

So Britain, although by no means a basket case and with most of the features of a safe and modern nation compared to most others, is far from the gleaming model of prosperity and opportunity the government would like to present when held up against a possibly independent Scotland. And it may be that the point is being consumed by Scots yet to decide their vote in the referendum.

Work by two Scotland-based academics and published by the London School of Economics finds that the referendum result is more uncertain than opinion polls may suggest. They say: Labour affiliates are an important component with regards to the referendum result, and there appears to be a noticeable discrepancy between the party’s message and those who identify with it. Labour affiliates are not negative about the performance of an independent Scotland on the whole, but these assessments are not translating into actual constitutional preferences, perhaps partly because they see the term ‘independence’ as one that belongs to the SNP.

The suggestion is that far from believing the relentless message from the leadership about failure and doubt, Labour supporters have a different and more positive outlook for their country as a separate nation but haven’t equated that with a Yes vote yet because they regard it as something SNP people do, not them. If that’s true we are entering different territory in which there potentially is a majority for independence but it is being blocked by a traditional way of thinking about party allegiance. It may also explain why Labour is so dogmatically averse to rational debate about the possibilities of independence to the extent that they cannot bring themselves to use the word and have a policy vacuum on what they would do after a Yes vote. But it also means there is a prize awaiting Yes campaigners who can inch Labour doubters away from historical resistance to the SNP and who can be brought to recognize change as the wish of a much wider front across society, not just of Salmond and his party.

The point is reinforced by another finding that only 14% of Labour affiliates were in favour of independence in 2012, but 26% believed that ‘all decisions’ should be made in Scotland. This is not a new phenomenon in opinion polling and shows that the term independence is a loaded one. These voters are effectively calling for independence of their country’s government but they don’t want to call it that. That could mean they are only a paper wall away from becoming Yes voters.

|Then this: Labour identifiers have become more positive about independence on average between 2011 and 2012, taking up a position just below the neutral point. This is potentially significant to the outcome of the referendum as almost 38% of Scots identified themselves with the Labour party in 2012.

I am selecting from the report so best you read it yourself for your own analysis but I think it’s also interesting that many Scots don’t differentiate in their minds (greatly) between independence and devo max which to me confirms the historic mistake of the Unionists to block a second question on more powers. Even if they do now come up with some formulation for powers, their case is immediately shaky because they turned down the chance to put it directly to the people in the referendum. The problem they now have is convincing Scots that whatever they say, either separately or collectively, we will still be at the mercy of a British general election and a hostile English electorate after a No vote.


13 thoughts on “Seeing the Light

  1. “Blocked by a traditional way of thinking about party allegiance”
    Take it they bunked off Scottish Independence, when those making the decisions for Labour were at Oxford studying PPE.
    In fact, often wondered why they don’t just miss out the middle men and woman and just give us all photocopied handouts because although there are plenty of options (Progress, One nation, New Labour etc) there’s not an awful lot of original thought. Funny , joe public who supports the Labour Party through thick and thin would mainly be excluded from Oxford, maybe that’s why some affiliates are ‘off message’.

  2. You are progressing very nicely. There is a change, despite the rhetoric downplaying the ‘white paper’, it is feeling increasingly like ‘the’ game-changer many of us believed it to be.

  3. This is not a vote for Labour or SNP. This is a vote on whether Scotland is governed by Scots for Scots needs and values. Or Governed by a foreign alien society that has radically different goals and objectives.
    Would Scottish Labour rather be governed by English Tories for most of their lives or indeed any of their lives? What are Scottish Labour afraid of? RESPONSIBILITY.

  4. To extend your opening metaphor while emphasising the delusional nature of the embarrassing imperialist pretentions characteristic of the rulers of a future rump UK or (FUK as Boris would have it), how apropos would the epithet ‘Absurd World Country’ be? 🙂

  5. I think the referendum represents a point in time where Scottish citizens reach a fork in the road, nobody knows where each route really goes and what lies on each path but the history of ancient empires provides a map of what awaits uGB (the union of Great Britain) in one direction – with or without oil underpinning wongaland, in the other we will be able to influence the choices to be made along the way to a more fruitful plain.

  6. I liked this quote:

    “It seemed to take almost a year after the SNP’s devastating victory in the May 2011 Scottish Parliament election for most of the UK’s political class to begin to realise the potential implications. Belatedly, the truth seems to have dawned. There will be a referendum in Scotland on independence. A Yes victory is possible. The British Union, created in 1707, could end.”

    And this quote:

    ” As a very senior civil servant in Cardiff observed to me recently, with Scotland inside the union, one can still believe in the UK as a multi-national state – albeit one where one nation is much larger than the others. But, as he went on, if Scotland leaves, ‘Who wants to play Montenegro to England’s Serbia?””

  7. I can understand that it’s difficult for Labour voters to come to terms with the fact that they’ve lost power both sides of the border but the other day I was having a conversation about next September’s vote with someone who began by saying “Look here, if the SNP get in…….” Now, I know the fellow hasn’t been out of the area since the last Scottish election so what kind of blockage is that?

  8. Whatever happened to the “negative campaigns never win?” schtick repeated ad nauseum by separatists at the start of this interminable charade?

    This is boring guys.

    You hate the idea of Britain.

    We get it.

    But this whining and increasingly bitter attacks on Britain and more specifically England (or – ahem – Wongaland) will turn folk off. So, please, carry on….

    PS Mr Bateman says: “..which to me confirms the historic mistake of the Unionists to block a second question on more powers. ” The second question was rejected by those who responded to the SNP’s consultation paper.

    Since the majority of Scots support the union I suppose Mr Bateman is quite correct to use the term unionists when he means the Scottish people because those terms are synonymous…

    • “Since the majority of Scots support the union I suppose Mr Bateman is quite correct to use the term unionists when he means the Scottish people because those terms are synonymous…”

      You hope

  9. I don’t hate anyone or any nation Grahamski, unlike those who rule us from the inadeaquate and ill informed benches at Westminster! But your are of course correct in writing “the idea of Britain” – that’s all that remains of the remains. Your trenchant negativity has always had a positive effect on me – you stick with the warmongers Graham. SAOR ALB

  10. Grahamski
    I started this last year with no hatred of Britain, England or Wongoland!
    Thanks to HMG, MSM, BBC, BT and good people like yourself I now detest these institutions. So you are succeeding in your objectives. Thank you for helping me see the truth.
    Well done!.

    How is Falkirk Labour Party, is it fixed yet?

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