A Palatable Brutality: The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black Black Oil

One of the things that we were giving away on the Marchmont stall in the months leading up to the Referendum, was a DVD compilation of TV programmes. Amongst the predictable and usual suspects such as Diomhair from BBC Alba on the McCrone Report, the first item was a 1974 BBC Scotland broadcast of the 7:84 (the name comes from 7% of the population controlling 84% of the wealth in 1966 – that seems almost egalitarian by today’s standards) theatre company’s performance of ‘The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black Black Oil’ for the ‘Play for Today’ series, starring Bill Patterson and Taggart’s Alex Norton. I had heard of the play, but had not seen it, so towards the last days of the stall, I picked up a copy, finally getting a chance to watch it at the weekend.

Using narration from historical documents mixed in with reenactments, it deals with the story of the post-Act of Union Highlands, through the themes of the three great means of exploitation. It starts with the clearances, in the wake of the Marquis of Staffordshire marrying the Countess of Sutherland, and the simple equation of profitability of the land by removing the tenants in order to bring in herds of Cheviot sheep to withstand the winter weather of the Highlands. It then moves on to show the landowners trying to encourage remaining residents to sign up for the war in Crimea against the ‘evil Russian Tsar’ – only to be told that given the record of the landlord’s family over the preceding fifty years, that it could not be imagined that rule by the Russian Tsar would be any worse. It dealt with the promises by landlords of land – later unfulfilled, or reneged upon – for residents who went off to fight in such wars. Then there was the widespread introduction of deer so that landlords could mimic Victoria’s hunting trips, transforming large stretches of the Highlands into a form of bloodsport theme park. Then there was the 1962 discovery of oil in the North Sea (when the explorers were actually looking for gas) which led to the Westminster government opening the doors to a wave of Texas oilmen.

Although familiar with the general concepts of each of the three drivers for exploitation of the highland people, witnessing them retold within the context of this work was strangely sobering – perhaps particularly so in the grey post-Referendum light. The historical accounts and quotes brought the brutality of the evictions vividly home in a different way to the statistics of emigration, and made the lack of choice available to those who left, self-evident. As a tale of how the people of the Highlands have been successively and repeatedly victimised since the time of the Union (or, more specifically, Culloden) it is potent, poignant and tragic in equal measure.

As a 1974 production, the filmed interviews with oil industry workers in Aberdeen now have a similarly historical (as well as slightly chillingly prescient) feel to the other aspects, most of them no doubt long dead. But I did find myself wondering about its relevance as a production to the modern Yes movement. Inasmuch as it was undoubtedly a core cultural element within the 1970s and 1980s independence movement, Yes is now an extremely broad church of people who would have a great deal of difficulty in identifying themselves as Highlanders, or part of that heritage. There are a lot of ‘sassenachs’ – sensu stricto, lowlanders, from both north and south of the border, amongst which I count myself – in ‘Yes’ these days for which it does not have a direct cultural relevance. So is it a production that has lost its time, or even now is simply alienating? Or does it tell a broad story of people being taken advantage of, that is more directly transferrable to the present day? The story is one of the victimisation of the people of the Highlands, rather than the people in Scotland as a whole – although there are lessons there for all. However in microcosm there is a story of the pursuit of wealth by the few in power at the expense of the many with no voice.

There is a question of balance that comes in here, which I found myself reflecting on when I watched, in contrast, the telling of ‘Scotland’s Story’ at the National Museum of Scotland – there, the story of Darien is presented not as the consequence of the economic sanctions of a hostile neighbour, but as ‘entrepreneurship’. The mass emigrations in the wake of the clearances are reflections of the ‘enterprise’ of individuals, rather than a bleak consequence for those who had little choice. I watched this museum educational film, thinking about how the dark causal forces had been lightly airbrushed out of the story, to present it as simply a tale of a people ‘who liked to leave’, and I could not help but think that there would have to be a revisiting of such films in the wake of a vote for independence. It is all very well presenting things positively, and I can certainly understand that there is likely to be a certain political will to present the events leading to the Union (as well as in the immediate wake of it) in a positive light that is uncritical of the government, but omitting the motivations that underlay such desperate decisions does radically misrepresent why it happened, and misleads people’s understanding. I was reminded of the words of a political émigré interviewed after having settled in the UK, saying that you move city in order to get a better job, but you move country because you have no choice.

The nakedness of the discrimination shown to the tenants from that period makes it shocking to us, in a time when we are used to such measures being prepackaged by PR companies to make the brutality more palatable. Indeed, from the events of this last week in Westminster, one can look forward to a packaging of new devolution measures from the Smith Commission as a ‘great increase in powers for the Scottish people’, when it involves reduction in representation at Westminster and a massive cut in the budget for Scottish public expenditure. Of course, we live in an ‘age of spin’ – to an extent that I find it hard to imagine that today’s BBC Scotland would really rebroadcast its 1974 programme. The regime’s refusal to criticize aspects of Union and Britain (beyond the ‘Britishisation’ of so much BBC output in the last three years, as commented on before) makes it very hard to see that programme coming out in a primetime slot again (indeed, one wonders if the content of that episode of Diomhair referred to earlier would have been made by the BBC if it had been in English rather than Gaelic) – and not just because of a snooty attitude to 1970s production values.

Maybe it is in response to this different broadcasting climate, that a recent poll showed 54% support for broadcasting control to be devolved to the Scottish parliament. However I can see that as far less likely to happen than 100% of income tax. In fact, probably as unlikely as oil revenue control being devolved – because one could theoretically lead to the other (from the perspective of London) if broadcasting in Scotland did not continue to be celebratory of London, or – heaven forfend – critical of the Union.


“You move city or town for a better job. You move country because you have no choice.” (African political émigré)


Waiting for the Future: Three and a Half Hours for the World to Turn

…and that is the polls closed.

On FaceBook, Alex Salmond’s page now has over 90,000 likes, Nicola Sturgeon over 61,000, even John Swinney is over 15,000. It may be a crude metric, but…it probably means…something.

I voted late – about 2 hours ago. After taking a shower to remove the campaign grime, I took a walk around the neighbourhood, to see how things might have changed.

It had been a grey, first day of autumn sort of a day – not perhaps the invigorating inspirational day to get the vote out that might have been good – but, then again, perhaps the sort of day that keeps the less inclined (71% likelihood to vote) ‘No’ voters a little more at home (compared with the 83% likelihood ‘Yes’ voters). I certainly felt a little subdued – but whether that was due to a slight drop in temperature (not apparently experienced by Glasgow, interestingly enough), or lack of sleep, it is hard to say. I was way on the south side, in Polwarth Terrace, staffing outside a polling station. One No woman with a voice like a foghorn, who insisted on lobbying the people coming up her side of the pavement to vote. Periodically, they would go into little clusters and talk about how if ‘they’ won it, it would be through intimidation and fear. Geez – they really have no idea of the abuse done by the No advocates…Yes campaigners are teddy bears and pussycats in comparison.

As I walked around the district this evening, what was interesting, was how fast the ‘No’ posters were already being spirited away, but the Yes ones were still up. Packing away a guilty, shameful secret, perhaps? The only No advocate left is the one who did the big art installation in his window that I mentioned before, the small altar to the union flag.

There’s a damp grey pause in the night, as we wait in these intervening 4 hours, before results start to be declared at around 2am – and I am strangely uninterested in watching the BBC (or other TV) padding and filler until that starts to happen. The revanchist agenda has geared up over the weeks, waiting for the opportunity to pounce for revenge in the wake of a ‘No’ vote. You can see it online in the comments – the grudging struggle online to understand, with seemingly decent people starting by saying it is ‘Scotland’s choice’ – then maybe even managing to say ‘good luck to them’, and then it all falling apart under the bitter spite of ‘but Salmond wants to be King’ and ‘no currency union’… This is the direct result of the media’s deliberate and determined failure to report the debate honestly, a deliberate move to misrepresent it, and poison the chalice. The media’s most conspicuous impact to date on Anglo-Scottish relations is the enthusiastic promotion of the idea that Scotland is subsidised by (predominantly) English taxpayers, an idea with a long pedigree (since around the time the McCrone Report on oil wealth was finished) but given unprecedented prominence during the Referendum debate. The animosity generated in England by this idea, so ably articulated by the London-based commentariat and its followers alike, has probably done more to erode Anglo-Scottish relations, and thus the well-being of the Union, over the last decades than anything else.

Yet unionist politicians and journalists know this idea of subsidised Scots is false. They use the statistics of Scotland having 8.4% of the UK’s population but receiving 9.3% of its public spending as enthusiastically as they ignore the statistic from the same source that Scotland also contributes 9.9% of the funding of that spending.

Further damage to Anglo-Scottish relations comes from the promotion of the idea that the desire for Scottish independence is driven by anti-English prejudice. This is an idea stated as fact by unionist commentators and politicians alike, both north and south of the border, despite it simply not being true. In fact, the reverse prejudice (anti-Scottish one) has far more palpable evidence to support its existence. An unrelenting flow of vitriol has poured forth over the past months, unsanctioned and unquestioned, particularly from opinion columns and the below-the-line comments appended to such columns, but also on radio and television, and with little effort to moderate the abuse by those who are in a position to do so. This scorched earth and burnt ground is the real legacy of the ‘No’ Campaign – and they simply don’t care about the permanent damage that it does to what was left of the Union beforehand.

This agenda, or myopia, has been greatly facilitated by what has been described as a ‘narrowing of the concept of Britishness’ since the mid-eighties. It has accelerated throughout the Referendum campaign and now, regardless of result, this has had damaging consequences in terms of the environment that this media dimension has created, even if the ‘No’ side win. But – of course – this does not matter to the ‘No’ funders and backers – as they (mostly living outside Scotland) won’t be living with the result of their work.

The agenda for revenge will be vocally supported by those MPs who have come out flatly in opposition to any more ‘powers’ being seen to go to Scotland, even before the result is in. This will give Westminster all the political backing to do as little as it wants…or even less.

The funny thing is, I can hear what the advocates of the ‘No’ vote in Scotland – like the foghorn woman at that polling station today – will say about it. ‘Well, its perfectly understandable – if it wasn’t for the damned SNP and that bloody Alex Salmond asking such a stupid question… he has brought ALL of this on our heads – nobody else but him.’

Oh, Scotland. Did you see the barrel of the gun you were looking down, and realise the terminal decision to vote ‘No’? That refusal to take ownership for our own actions, let alone begin to think about the different futures that we could have WITH independence, has more consequences than ‘stifling a little political creativity’… That rather than tapping a rich vein of ideas, allowing us to see in stark lighting exactly what we don’t like about the British State, and how we would do things markedly differently – that rather than that, that irredentist fury could descend on us – without discriminating between ‘No’ and ‘Yes’ voters…except on the basis of money?

The world waits on the turn of the hour hand. Fog may assail the helicopters, and delay the counting of the votes from the islands. The world waits to see…if Scotland put the barrel in its mouth and simply pulled the trigger.


“One of the charges against Better Together is that it is unremittingly negative, preferring to pose endless questions of the Yes side, rather than sell the benefits of the UK. Privately, some inside Better Together even refer to the organisation as Project Fear. McDougall is unrepentant about the tactics.” (Sunday Herald, 23/6/2013)

The Pitiless Storm and the Unequal Union

In ‘The Pitiless Storm’, one of the highest profile Referendum shows in this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, David Hayman portrays a trade union leader on the eve of accepting an OBE. In composing his speech, he is caught between the critical gaze of his memories of his father, his 17 year old idealist self, and his departed ex-wife’s abandonment of New Labour in the wake of the February 2003 80, 000 anti Iraq war march in Glasgow. Cornered in the nexus of his founding principles, Hayman capitulates to the inevitable acceptance that Labour have abandoned their values, and for the hope of any social justice for his people, that he has to go against his traditional party’s line and vote Yes in the independence referendum. The transformation of the character is hardly a subtle metaphor: the character is committed to the Union and the ideal of the benefits that it should – yet has failed – to bring, and undergoes a Damascine conversion on the night before his Knighthood (which I think an OBE is?). Yet Hayman’s personal commitment to Radical Independence makes him eloquent in his embracing of the character in both aspects – as well as somewhat impatient with questioners during the informal post-production conversation that he conducts with his audience while sitting on the edge of the stage. Perhaps that is why Argyll Council appears to have been systematically suppressing advertising for Hayman’s one-man show, although it still seems a massive overreaction, that on balance is more likely to provoke a ‘Streisand Effect’ (where an attempt to suppress information actually has the reverse of the intended result) in response.

Labour’s underpinning argument for the Union – that of collectivising, of uniting together and sharing effort helps working people – although a fine principle – is not supported by the evidential experience. The idea that a million families with children were lifted out of poverty in the ten years following their 1997 election is somewhat shaky grounds for justification of maintaining the Union, following the consequences of the next 3 years of that same government.

One argument I see from ‘No’ advocates along the ‘stronger together’ thread, is that the United Kingdom is ‘greater than the sum of its parts’. Is it? Frankly, I’m not sure that currently it is equal to the sum of its parts, never mind greater than them. The majority of the UK is held back from fulfilling its potential as more is poured into the city state of London – London is probably fulfilling its potential, but the rest certainly is not. Much of that is due to simple realpolitik: the Westminster Government (whether acting in the EU or elsewhere) will understandably fight for the interests of the majority of their population – which is the south-east of England. Scotland’s different needs with regards to population dispersal, fishing and farming, re-industrialisation and immigration are often argued against because they simply do not suit the agenda of the rest of the country – indeed those needs are diametrically opposed with regard to reindustrialization and immigration.
We are told the Union is ‘the most successful union in history’ (although it is hardly that, given a fair chunk of it left in 1922 – essentially the state that went to war in 1914, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, no longer exists to commemorate that hundred year anniversary), but if the ‘No’ campaign is to be believed as sincere in making this statement, then it has a romanticised view of how well the Union has actually worked for Scotland: it hasn’t, and the centralisation in London noted by Vince Cable is also making it a bad experience for the NE of England (and frankly other parts of the UK) as well.

In economic terms, we regularly hear that Scotland has been financially supporting the Union (in the sense of putting far more in than it gets out) for 33 years. Business for Scotland has argued that this is likely to have gone on for much longer, the former civil servant John Jappy noted figures in 1968 (before the oil boom) that showed that Scotland was paying disproportionately more per head even then. This is supported by figures showing that in 1952-1953 Scotland paid 410 million in revenues, and received only 207 million back in expenditure. Even more damningly, government figures for income and expenditure from 1900-1922 (recorded in HJ Paton’s book The Claim of Scotland) show that Scotland was receiving between 21% and 40% of its taxes in expenditure (I’ve excluded 1914-1918 for obvious reasons). Records seem to have been stopped in 1922 at the time of Ireland’s departure, perhaps in some trepidation that these figures might fuel ideas that Scotland was getting a ‘raw deal’, and give them similar ideas about secession (a harbinger of McCrone, in some ways). We may be the wealthy cousin in terms of supporting the Union, but we have not had the economic benefits of the Union that the other two regions (SE England and London) have had that so fundamentally sponsor the Union – and in that sense we appear to have been very much left as the ‘poor relation’ in terms of what is received back.

And this lack of economic distribution has resulted in a lack of opportunity – which can be indicated quite effectively by looking at figures of population growth and emigration from Scotland (either to London or further afield):-
– Between the 1981 and 1991 censuses, over a quarter of a million Scots left Lanarkshire and the former Strathclyde region alone.
– Between 1971 and 2011, England’s population grew from 45.9 million to 53.0 million, whereas
Scotland’s rose from 5.2 million to 5.3 million. That is a contrast between 15.5% and 1.9% growth over 40 years;
– Going back further, between 1952 and 1965, 345,000 people left Scotland;
– From 1901 to 2001, England’s population increased by 60%, whereas Scotland’s increased by 10%.

Armed conflict, of course, will take a proportion of these figures – and others have argued elsewhere over (for example) the higher per capita cost to Scotland of the First World War (although 53 parishes in England and Wales had all their servicemen returned from this conflict, there were no such settlements in Scotland or Ireland that achieved this). Although a family tradition of military service is an important factor, one has to remember that families rarely opt for such careers, when there are other opportunities (such as agriculture) which would enable people to stay at home.

Beyond the lack of population growth, the statistic of 19% of the population of Scotland being in poverty (this should be the country with the 14th highest GDP per head in the world, remember), and the burgeoning of foodbanks after 307 years of Union, are also not great indicators that there has either been a Union dividend, or that we are indeed ‘in it together’. In Westminster, the Labour Party failed to get a full turnout to pass their own motion to end the Bedroom Tax (the absentees would have been enough to secure the vote), yet enthusiastically voted for a welfare cap. In addition, they have promised to go even further on welfare cuts than the current government – cuts with an implementation deadline of 2016, that the Child Poverty Action Group has said will push a further 100,000 children in Scotland directly into poverty by 2020, following the 30,000 children pushed into poverty in 2013 alone. In health terms, this is further reflected: in particular, the correlation between long-term Labour wards and low life expectancy in Glasgow is striking. Life expectancy for males in Glasgow’s East End is lower than some warzones (including the Gaza Strip): Labour may espouse that it cares about the worker in Grimsby as much as in Glasgow – but that doesn’t mean that they are going to do damn all for either of them.

This picture of a donor sector of the UK, that has suffered disproportionately as a result, becoming historically poorer than elsewhere in the UK, is not a pretty one: in particular, the squandering of oil resources (at the same time as the possible benefits to an independent Scotland were kept secret in the suppressed McCrone Report of 1975) means that the UK is one of only two oil-producing territories in the world NOT to form an Oil Fund. And this is not an exclusively one party problem: this fiscal recklessness has been repeated by Westminster governments of all colours, and is not simply the domain/devoir of Conservative or Labour Governments, but of Westminster governments as a whole. This has resulted (as the old joke goes) in Scotland being the only country in history to discover oil – and become poor.

“If you agree that society’s ills transcend borders – of course they do – then you should wish to eliminate the influence of these elites from as many people as quickly as possible. The fastest way to do that is to vote Yes. Voting Yes removes the Lords’ power over Scotland forever in one fell swoop, and sends the unmistakable message that we won’t tolerate such injustice any longer. We can stand as equals with our friends in England, Norway, Iceland, Ireland, and beyond, and start building not just a better country, but a better world. It will also be the biggest slap in the face the British establishment has ever faced; a wholesale rejection of austerity; a rejection of weapons of mass destruction and reckless environmental policy; a rejection of centralisation and neoliberalism. This majestic act of defiance could be just what the left in England, Wales and Northern Ireland needs. A single act of defiance can inspire revolutionary movements.” (Magnus Jamieson, National Collective)

Badges of Change?: Rules of Engagement & Normalisation

Seen any members of the public wearing referendum badges recently? Last week I read a hilariously sarcastic letter in the Metro, where the individual concerned had said that they had been thinking about voting ‘No’, but were seriously thinking otherwise now that they had seen all the little stickers on bus shelters and a poster in their neighbour’s window. Of course, the writer (perhaps quite deliberately) is missing the point – spectacularly. The badges have nothing whatsoever to do with getting an argument about independence across. In a way, they serve a far more basic, fundamental campaign purpose.

For most of the last 50 years, since the first SNP election victory, independence has generally been regarded as a joke, and a preposterous idea. The discovery of North Sea oil threatened to change that, as argued by the 1974 report by Gavin McCrone, so the true scale of the discovery, and its potential implications for an independent Scotland, were deliberately kept quiet, as noted by Denis Healey in Holyrood magazine recently. This meant that it was easy to trivialise and dismiss any idea that a referendum would be held, never mind that we would be as close numerically as we appear to be, within touching distance of winning the vote on that question. This has meant that the idea has been continually regarded as marginal in press and on broadcasting outlets, something never dealt with as a realistic proposition.

Technically, this all changed with the 2011 Holyrood election and the unexpected landslide victory, which delivered the power to hold a referendum (with or without Westminster’s approval) into the SNP’s suddenly capacious collective lap. At this point, one might have expected the media to start dealing with the independence option differently – and some commentators noteably did so, although the failure of the BBC to move with the times has been incisively dissected by Derek Bateman. The response letter to Professor John Robertson (in light of his findings of bias in referendum coverage by both BBC and STV) from the BBC queried his description of independence as a ‘normal’ option, in the context of the Union having been in place for over 300 years – so it seems like a considerable period of time might have to pass before the BBC in Scotland considers that it is incumbent on them to play ‘catch-up’ with the zeitgeist.

So, if the bulk of the media are not going to deal with independence as suddenly a viable option, then two things are going to happen. One is, that alternative media will be created to fill the vacuum where those outlets should naturally exist – hence the emergence of the huge social media and online presence of the pro-independence movement. And it is significant that this is not just simple websites and blogs amidst FaceBook pages and Twitter feeds, but also online radio broadcasts from Derek Bateman (Bateman Broadcasting), and online TV broadcasts from Lesley Riddoch (Referendum Live TV) – both seasoned BBC broadcasters – indicating the sense that this subject matter is not being broadcast, and more to the point cannot currently find an outlet in the mainstream’s output, despite broadcaster responsibilities (however you wish to define them, as commercial or charter-driven) to cover it extensively during this critical year.
But I digress (television coverage is a topic for another time). The ‘alternative’ presence means that the issue of independence and everything that surrounds it, is encountered, discussed and considered in a way as never before. And all those tiny little stickers and badges are part of that – telling people that first of all, if they are considering ‘Yes’, then they are not alone, and secondly that it is (if the numbers on the streets are anything to go by) a far from unpopular choice. This is the beginnings of engaging with the voters for a possible ‘Yes’ vote.

On this issue, I have to say that the absence of ‘No’ badges, stickers and posters has been striking. I only really noticed this two weeks ago, when I saw my first ever ‘No’ badge wearer. I was not aware of the badge initially, only that someone was staring intently – almost like they were coiled, and preparing to strike – at me from the seat opposite. As my eyes drifted slowly upwards, I saw the red badge and thought (instinctively? naively?) that it was like the red badge that I wore…until I realized, with something of a shock, that his was a ‘No Thanks’ badge. He was a retired gentleman, well-dressed on a Lothian bus (it was only later that I thought about the irony of someone in that position, given that I would bet that he had not elected to pay for his fare, so was buying into some of those radical SNP Holyrood policies very happily indeed) – and I tried (perhaps unsuccessfully) to avoid any stereotyping of what his wider politics might be on the basis of those few observations. He appeared to be waiting for some kind of a fight, but frankly I was on my way home from work, and given he was unusual enough to publicly advertise that he was voting ‘No’, I thought it was fairly unlikely that a short bus journey was going to be enough time for me to give him any food for serious thought.

Furthermore, as part of my growing incipient activism, I have recently started helping out on a ‘Yes’ stall on the Meadows, where the encounters with ‘No’ voters have been extremely rare (perhaps one a day – usually ‘regulars’), but almost universally aggressive when they do happen. They have not wanted discussion, or debate, when they approach the stall, and solely seem to want rather physical confrontations. Ok, those words of the Somerset philosopher come back: ‘if you are going to stick your bum out the window, people are going to throw things at it’ – but given the majority of the time it is retired elderly ladies staffing the stall, such an approach seems a tad questionable, if not inappropriate. And indeed it seems to speak more to the idea that the emotive (and less rational) response to this question is coming far more from the ‘No’ side than the ‘Yes’ side. But it does make one a little reluctant to engage with ‘No’ voters, when one is conditioned to expect that response. (By this stage, it is really all about the undecideds, anyway.) This is perhaps also supported by the only other piece of No advertising by the ‘public’ that I had seen prior to that – a large piece of graffiti around the advertising hoarding area partway down from Leith Walk from Elm Row, which loudly proclaimed ‘Holyrood Traitors’ signed by ‘No-stradamus’ (you see what they did there?) in spray-painted letters that were crying out for a misspelling to be present. There is something intrinsically quite violent about that sort of vandalistic manifestation, with letters running around 30 feet down a hoarding and nearby wall. (When I went past on Saturday, the black paint below the hoarding had been renewed, and the stonework cleaned, so sadly I cannot show you an image of it – although the Scotsman carried coverage of a similar piece by ‘Nostardamus’ as ‘Salmond the Traitor’ on the walls of Holyrood Palace – so I’m glad to see that the anticipated spelling error did turn up.)

Anyway, once that first (and so far only) ‘No Thanks’ badge was encountered, I did start looking more actively, and consequently found myself reflecting on the remarkable scarcity of ‘No’ badges, stickers and posters. Why would this be, given the polls that we have been seeing? Should there not be at least as many in evidence as for ‘Yes’? Well, one can understand that ‘No’s (who may somewhat mistakenly think they are voting for a status quo) would be less likely to display their viewpoint – it is not an advocacy for change, therefore is a far more passive (bearing in mind the preceding paragraph) position. In contrast, ‘Yes’ represents a far more evident political change, involving signing up intellectually to a change rather than passive acceptance, and perhaps are therefore more likely to advertise that position. But, going deeper than that, is this contrast in willingness to display also something that correlates with a reflection of a willingness to turn out and actually vote? It may be, certainly people have discussed the fact that ‘yes’ is likely to turn out regardless of storm, Arthur’s Seat suddenly returning to active status or tsunami on the day. Less theoretically/anecdotally, a TNS poll in February 2014 showed an 11% greater likelihood to turn out and vote for Yes as opposed to No voters. But ‘No’ – especially with the message that they have so constantly put out about how far ahead their lead is – might be deterred by a smir of rain. Perhaps that is why so many postal votes have been opted for, supposedly 25%? (Google ‘Glenrothes electoral fraud postal votes’ for some other perspectives on this…)

Having considered ‘No’ voters’ likelihood to declare themselves before the Referendum, and the chances of them voting during the Referendum, I suppose it is also worthwhile considering the aftermath. In this regard, I am reminded of studies that dealt with John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s election, and the fact that the numbers of people after JFK’s election who said that they had voted for him instead of Goldwater, were far greater than the actual numbers of votes cast for Kennedy. People want to be part of a positive legacy, and are reluctant to retrospectively admit that they did otherwise. Regardless of the result on the 18th September, I suspect that it will still be hard to find people who claim to have voted ‘No’ – a vote against hope, against a future, against belief in the people of Scotland to run their own affairs (making them unique in the world in this regard). Whether you believe in it or not, it is more difficult to be proud of having made such a vote, against change, and boast about it afterwards (IMHO). To be fair, we have seen this concept of ‘Invisible Retrospective Voters’ before in Scotland – see Elaine C. Smith’s sketch on ‘Naked Video’ where a group chase down an individual and she points an accusing finger at the cornered man, declaring “There he is! The SCOT that voted Tory!!!”

A last point worth noting is that last week I also noticed the only ‘No’ car sticker that I have seen thus far. It was in the rear window of a C1 Citroen, next to a ‘Scotland for Marriage’ car sticker. I smiled when I saw it, and tried – again, probably unsuccessfully – to avoid making a stereotypical connection between those two fairly non-progressive viewpoints…

Oh, and, just to be clear? I have nothing against Citroen C1s.


“I think we did underplay the value of the oil to the country because of the threat of nationalism but that was mainly down to Thatcher. We didn’t actually see the rewards from oil in my period in office because we were investing in the infrastructure rather than getting the returns and really, Thatcher wouldn’t have been able to carry out any of her policies without that additional 5 per cent on GDP from oil. Incredible good luck she had from that.” (Denis Healey, former Chancellor, May 2013)