I was going to blog about something else today but the TV News has been leading with the Sunday Times poll which says the Scottish YES vote for independence is ahead of the NO vote for the first time – with only 11 days to go to the poll.
I have always thought Devo Max was a better solution than independence – more powers without opening the Pandora’s Box of complications and unknowns that independence would cause. But Devo Max has never seemed to be mentioned as being on the table and it was not put on the ballot paper.
Apparently it now is.
Presumably this will be seen by the Westminster government as a magnanimous gesture. In fact, the offer may well be another nail in the coffin of the UK because – coming so obviously immediately after the Sunday Times poll – it looks like an insincere move of desperation.
Not helped by the fact that nothing specific was actually offered today. The government seemed to be saying: “We will give you some Devo Max. But we will tell you the details – well, maybe some of the details – tomorrow. Err… when we have thought what they might be… Which we have not bothered to think about until now.”
The American comic Lewis Schaffer has a joke about why Americans do not know much about Britain… “Because you’re insignificant!” he says.
To many Scots, I think, this looks like the English attitude to Scotland.
I worked on a nationally-networked TV show in London years ago where the very liberal, open-minded, sophisticated producer wrote a script which referred to England.
“You mean Britain not England,” I told him. “If you say England, it will antagonise viewers in Scotland and Wales and maybe even Northern Ireland.”
“It doesn’t matter.” he told me.
It may seem minor to someone born in England, but there has been a widespread and oft-repeated gripe by Scots throughout my lifetime that, when a Scots sportsperson wins, it is a win for Britain; when an English sportsperson wins, it is a win for England; when a Scots sportsperson loses, it is a loss for a Scots sportsperson.
Over years, small bitternesses become ingrained bitterness.
Why does the UK exist?
Because Scottish King James VI inherited the English throne in 1603 and the two kingdoms were united through him. (Alright, the Acts of Union were 1706/1707.)
As for me, I have been pissed-off for years with the weather maps on BBC TV and elsewhere.
In some artistic ambition to show the curve of the earth, the viewpoint of the British Isles is taken from a position which appears to be over Central France. Why on earth is the viewpoint from outside the country?
The result is that the islands are distorted with a giant southern half of England and increasingly diminishing northern parts, so Scotland is distorted into less visual significance compared to England. Why? Why is the viewpoint not over the UK looking directly down?
A ridiculously minor gripe. perhaps. But something other people have mentioned to me.
Minor gripes combine to grow into major bitternesses.
It is that Lewis Schaffer (semi-)joking observation again that, to Americans, the UK is insignificant in comparison to the US.
To many Scots, it seems Scotland is insignificant to England.
After the recent Edinburgh Fringe, I stayed on for a week, going up to Perth and Inverness.
When I was in both Perth and Inverness, I was asked what the English in London thought about the looming independence vote.
“They don’t think about it,” I said. “No-one talks about it or thinks about it – no ordinary person. It is in people’s minds less than what’s happening on Celebrity Big Brother and no-one talks about that.”
The YES campaign is not winning the argument because no-one has any idea what would happen after independence.
The NO campaign has been losing the campaign by (arguably) not treating the possibility of independence seriously. Until today.
Just by agreeing to a ballot paper which has a psychologically positive YES for independence and a negative NO for the status quo is a benefit for those pushing independence.
A load of bullshit has been spouted about the pound sterling. But, before it joined the Euro, The Republic of Ireland got along happily by having their Punt float with the UK Pound. They appeared to have no problems with that.
And a load of bullshit has been spouted about Europe. But I cannot see Scotland splintering off from the UK and being accepted into Europe. The Spanish would surely veto it because of their problems with the Basques and the Catalans.
Personally, I think there is a risk that an independent Scotland (with only 5.3 million people – the UK has 64 million) would go the way Ireland has – widespread engrained corruption. I can see Scotland becoming like some Balkan state with fiefdoms.
After all, as Bonnie Prince Charlie found out to his cost, Scotland was never really a single country. There was the Highland/Lowland (or, at times, Catholic/Protestant) divide. But, beyond that, were a whole collection of regional and clan (read gang) loyalties.
I still think Devo Max is the best solution.
But it may be too late for that.
I got a message from a Scot who lives in Scotland this morning:
“It feels like we are on the edge of revolution. I’ve noticed a change today though… The move to Yes has stirred-up some of the more negative elements of the Yes campaign… But there are still seven per cent undecided.”