September 20, 2014


This glorious failure could yet be Scotland's finest hour : Forget Bannockburn or the Scottish Enlightenment, the Scots have reinvented and re-established the idea of true democracy (Irvine Welsh, 9/19/14, The Guardian)

At the start of the campaign, a narrow win for the political-class-led no would have been a nightmare result for the establishment. They originally expected a rout - the rationale behind Cameron leaving devo max off the ballot paper, before he had a humiliating rush north, in realisation that his abiding political legacy might be the end of the union.

The vibrant and euphoric yes movement, which, during the debate, evolved from a small base to come within a whisker of a sensational victory, will be massively disappointed that they didn't manage to get it done.

They will have to cool their ardour a while longer, although anybody believing they'll stop now is indulging in wishful thinking. Why would they? The process and the subsequent debate, which they won handsomely, took support for independence from around 30% to 45% and heading north. It's now established as the compelling narrative of the post-devolution generation, while no dominates only in a declining constituency of elderly voters. Yes may have lost this battle, but the war is being won.

There was much talk of how ineffective the no campaign was. In some ways this is unfair: you can only go with what you've got and they simply weren't packing much heat. The union they strove to protect was based on industry and empire and the esprit de corps from both world wars, and you can't maintain a political relationship on declining historical sentiment alone. With the big, inclusive postwar building blocks of the welfare state and the NHS being ripped apart by both major parties there's zero currency in campaigning on that, especially as they're only being preserved in Scotland by the devolved parliament. The boast of using oil revenues to fund privatisation projects and bail out bankers for their avarice and incompetence is never going to be a vote winner. Going negative was the only option. [...]

Though defeated in the poll, the independence movement emerged far stronger - from the narrow concern of a bourgeois civic nationalist party, to a righteous, vibrant, big-tent, pro-democracy movement. The referendum galvanised and excited Scots in a way that no UK-wide election has done. Like it or not, unless they come up with a winning devo max settlement, every general election in Scotland will now be dominated by the independence issue.

Scotland's post-devolution generation is a different breed to their predecessors; they've been building a new state in their imagination, from the basis of a limited but tangible parliament in Edinburgh. They see the possibilities in full statehood, and came from nowhere to deal a body blow to Britain's tired and out-of-touch elites. The smartest of them have always seen independence as a process, not an event, and having come so unexpectedly close, they won't be going into a depressive hungover funk. They'll be keen for a rematch, and they'll get it soon.

Posted by at September 20, 2014 6:15 AM

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