From Holyrood to Hollywood: sitting back and watching the movie of the day unfold, and the distraction of the Yes/No interlude

It starts the same way as September 18th did: good luck wishes coming in from around the world. Fewer than before, and less galvanised by the reflected energy that we emitted to the world last year, less excited, less envious of our moment. I feel similarly: there is a curious, slightly depressed sense of anxiety about today, despite the bright sunny blue sky contrast to last year’s overcast grey day… The feelings of today put me in mind of a Sylvester Stallone film, where he is sent back to Vietnam to rescue US prisoners. Having been given the briefing details (and while still behind prison bars) John Rambo asks: ‘Do we get to win this time?’ I guess that nothing can hope to take the place of a win last September – in practical as well as emotional terms, this election is NOT a rerun of the Referendum.

Because our moment has passed – at least for now. But, surprisingly, it seems that the ones that have the greatest difficulty getting over it are not the ‘Yes’ people. Nicola Sturgeon drew warm applause during the last leaders’ debate, when she pointed out that the people going on about a second (‘Fourth, surely?’ Ed.) referendum were not the SNP, but the Unionist parties – in particular, Labour. And out on the stump, that perspective is replicated: Conservative candidate for Danny Alexander’s Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey constituency, Edward Mountain, says that Inverness and Scotland need to ‘move on’ from the Referendum. Would this be because that was one of the 15 Westminster constituencies that actually voted ‘Yes’, perhaps?

So – as I began my first post, back in July last year…why are we doing this, again?

This reminded me of a truly bizarre letter sent into The National on the eve of Xmas last year, by one Sandy Wilkie. Again, he wanted the world to ‘move on’ from the Referendum, to deal with ‘real issues instead’. To be fair, at the time, Wilkie – although couching his hubris in some pomposity regarding ‘Nicola Sturgeon has yet to reply to my e-mails offering her an olive branch’ – was merely echoing the increasing clamour from those victorious No campaigners, as the polls began to look disturbingly solid for the exchange between Labour and the SNP in terms of polling percentage for Westminster. There was, at the time, a desperation with which people were urged to ‘move on’ as though this was an overnight situation that had suddenly arisen and could be as easily dismissed, like a fire in a flat, that once dowsed could be forgotten about with little consequence…rather than something 60 years in the making.

I read his letter at the time with some disbelief – he simply seemed incapable of grasping that the desire for independence was not a way of putting off discussing solving the problems of the day: that decision for independence came from the long, painful dawning realisation that it was the only way that we were going to GET to address those issues, as the great ‘family of nations’ of the Union was a lie. Change has not come from the Westminster system over many decades – and clearly will not, because Scotland’s problems will never be any kind of priority (electoral arithmetic proves this – just listen how easily the prospect of even a full 59 SNP MPs has been dismissed as ignorable in the last couple of weeks by the two main parties) in the Westminster structure, certainly not to the degree that means it requires attention. Hence independence.

And so the problem that the Referendum was supposed to resolve still exists – indeed, is clearer than ever before. The answer and resolution to the problems that Wilkie cites {dear god he even invoked Braveheart…I’ll bet he calls himself a ‘proud scot’ as well} of foodbanks, poverty, NHS funding, the environment and the democratic process still comes back to what he called ‘Yes/No’ – solved by the natty hashtag #OneScotland, which began to sound suspiciously equivalent to #OneNation Labour. Those individual problems ARE what the collective ‘Yes/No’ was supposed to solve. You can talk about these problems as much as you want – the solution to them is entirely within ‘Yes/No’ – and nowhere else: any other ‘solution’ is merely robbing another part of our society and impoverishing it at the expense of other areas, simply because another solution will not be permitted because of the representational obstacle that ‘Yes/No’ was meant to remove. In case Wilkie hadn’t noticed, the best political and cultural minds in the country already had the conversation – and it was considerably longer than the one day that he reckoned would bring together a ‘unified force’ to deal with these issues – and by and large they came out on the same side for September (clue: not that of the 55%).

Ultimately, I found myself rather sad from reading Wilkie’s letter, as it made me feel that I had personally failed him – the fact that, even after 3 years of the campaign, he still had not noticed exactly what the Referendum was about – as though, maybe, it didn’t go on long enough for him to get it? (How much longer does a campaign need to be??) It made me wonder if at that stage he was simply a Hangover ‘No’ that after 3 months was only at the beginning of understanding the mistake that he had made.

So this General Election is NOT a rerun of the Referendum, and is not ‘rerunning old battles’. As Lesley Riddoch noted 3 weeks ago, rather than this being a Referendum rerun, it looks like GE2015 will be a referendum on Home Rule – and gaining an emphatic ‘Yes’ in the process. A demand for the substance contained in the rhetoric of The Vow, not the homeopathic Emperor Smith’s new tax powers. A calling in of that ‘second chance’ given to the Union.

Labour are keen to say that they are the only ones that have brought the necessary changes in the past to Scotland…but they omit, of course, to mention that having abandoned their Home Rule roots as they were assimilated into the Westminster establishment, they have only made subsequent moves – such as establishing Holyrood – when under the duress of the SNP gaining political ground from them. Even when Labour’s executive have been pushing for change in Scotland, as in 1978, the votes of 34 Labour MPs against their party rendered a devolution vote for Scotland effectively impossible. The ‘Party of Devolution’? Only when they are given no choice.

So the SNP drives that political and constitutional change – as much as Labour have thus far been able to take the credit for something they were being forced into – as a simple strategy to emasculate the support for independence. Which is why the astonishing lack of any serious moves towards further devolution in the wake of the Referendum, as a means to again neuter the rising calls for more powers, is an amazing piece of arrogance. But yet again, it underlines my initial point – the mass move towards independence last year was not based on some romanticised historical whim, but on the modern post-war political reality of Britain, that there is no other way forward any more: if Labour have traditionally been the party of ‘giving Scotland concessions but only under duress’ – and the most they would do this time under Smith after the Referendum is token tax powers and road sign design, then the well is truly dry. This is why ‘DevoMax’ – everything except defense and foreign affairs – is a unicorn that does not exist as an option for Scotland, and never will: they ain’t giving any more. (Perhaps the reality of Michael Forsyth’s recent point in the House of Lords has finally dawned on them.) So the only way forward is self-determination.

The move towards independence was not a flash-in-the-pan, not a distraction from ‘real issues’, but a practical realization that Westminster has no interest whatsoever in the issues affecting Scotland, unless they are so bad that they affect the south of England. And why should we have to wait until that point for this broken system? The Referendum is part of a continuous mounting resistance to the old order, which only stops when that order is gone – ‘Keep Calm & Dismantle the British State’ shall be my t-shirt (we always need a t-shirt – or a nice shiny new campaign badge).

Will the result tonight – even if it WAS the highly unlikely 59 seater ‘wipeout’ – really compensate for losing last September? I remember 1973’s ‘The Sting’, wherein Robert Redford and Paul Newman play two 1930s con artists, avenging themselves on Robert Shaw for killing their con partner Luther Coleman. At the start, Newman warns Redford that he doesn’t want him turning round at the end, having beaten Robert Shaw, and saying ‘it’s not enough’ to make up for Luther’s murder. Sure enough, by the end of the con, Shaw has been beaten – and Redford turns to Newman: ‘You’re right, it’s not enough.’ Then, as Newman’s character tenses for a fight, Redford’s starts to laugh – ‘but it’s close!’ Even though we will probably ‘win’ tonight, I suspect that the revenge will not be enough for what we lost. But this is about more than revenge, and expunging the self-interested that are fraudulently posing as our representatives – we still have to work forward, towards independence.  And wayposts on the way are a solidarity and consensus of argument for more autonomy and powers, with which it can be demonstrated to the Scottish people that we can govern ourselves perfectly well enough to be independent – and perhaps to demonstrate to the rest of the UK that maybe they should be looking to the North for ideas for how to run their patches, too.

 

“Sovereignty in Scotland lies with the people. If Westminster elites say No to a reasonable plan for exercising that sovereignty within a loose federal Union, the people might say Yes to independence next time.” (Dr. W. Elliot Bulmer, author of ‘A Model Constitution for Scotland: Making Democracy work in an Independent State’ (2011) and ‘A Constitution for the Common Good: Strengthening Scottish Democracy after 2014’ (2014))

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‘Don’t tell the Patient’: Penrose, Paternalism, and the Power of God

One of the saddest items to read in last week’s news, was that of the final publication of the Penrose Report on the 25th March. An investigation into the circumstances surrounding the transfusion of blood infected with hepatitis C and HIV into thousands of patients during the seventies and eighties, many of the recipients were haemophiliacs – and most were not told they had been infected through blood products until the mid-1990s. An estimated 5,000 people were infected, 2,000 of whom have died so far. The impact and legacy of this horrendous affair still lingers on, with families still unable to reconcile the suffering that their relatives and loved ones went through as a result of serious failings in the health service. The ‘Establishment’ of government and that which likes to describe itself as ‘The Medical Profession’ closed ranks, and calls for an inquiry fell on the resolutely deaf ears of successive political parties in power, despite 1,300 people across the UK becoming infected with HIV in the process. A bit like last year’s referendum, this was the public inquiry that was never supposed to happen. But – again like last year – the SNP were elected with a mandate to ensure that it happened (given that hundreds of victims were in Scotland, the pledge of a judicial inquiry was in their manifesto), and some, at least, of the uncomfortable questions were finally asked.

With a remit to investigate how the NHS collected, treated and supplied blood, as well as what patients were told, how they were monitored and why patients had become infected, it took 6 years (and 12 million of public money) for Lord Penrose, a former High Court Judge, to complete it, after being set up by Nicola Sturgeon. On its release, much of the press of the Penrose Report focused on the outrage of the families surrounding the failure to apportion blame (copies of report were burned outside the launch venue of the National Museum of Scotland, amid cries of ‘whitewash’), and the fact that there was only one recommendation: anyone who had a blood transfusion before 1991 should have a blood test. Well, duh.

But buried deeper within the resulting 1,800 pages of the Penrose Report were repeated conclusions that attributed much of the failings of the NHS to an unhealthy prevalent attitude of ‘paternalism’: that misguided, historically-rooted cultural notion that ‘doctor knows best’, dating from the time that they were revered as Gods that walked among men. ‘Patients should not be given information that will only upset them’, as the maxim goes, so that the supposed professional feels himself morally empowered to keep people ignorant of risks and continue with treatment the doctor decides has, in their opinion, more benefits.

I remember this attitude being deliberately inculcated in medical students back when I was one in the mid-eighties. An introductory speech was given by the remarkably nasal DC Flenley, at which he declared to an ancient anatomy lecture theatre filled with wide-eyed only-recently ex-schoolchildren, that they were not to consider themselves as mere students: they were “now a part of The Medical Profession.” I remember looking around that lecture theatre at those shining expectant faces around me, thrilled and seizing in that instant on their new demigod status, as Flenley described (as though of an extremely religious sacrament) that even at graduation they would be set aside from the other mortals, as they would be asked to separately stand and recite the Hippocratic oath. I wondered at the time whether some of my colleagues were really mature enough to be exposed to this guff, as they seemed to have the critical sensibilities of a lapdog, and in the light of Penrose I find myself revisiting that question.

Flenley died recently, but whether or not the dross that he spouted every year still underpins medical students teaching in Edinburgh or elsewhere, I cannot say. But I know that the symptoms of that dangerous paternalism were still in place less than ten years ago, in the incompetent treatment of my father by one David Hamer-Hodges.

My father was being seen at the time for colonic cancer by Hamer-Hodges, a consultant oncologist – recommended to my father by his GP as ‘if I had cancer, he would be the one that I would be wanting to be looked after by’. The operation had been a success, the antigens were falling. He had regular blood tests at Hamer-Hodges clinic, but everything seemed to be going swimmingly, according to reports.

Until, after some months, a wrinkle developed in that narrative. My father received a letter from his GP, saying that he should contact Hamer-Hodges, as he felt that not everything was being disclosed to him. This provoked not a little iciness – evidently Hamer-Hodges had not requested, and most certainly did not want, that intervention. I ended up going along to the clinic with my father, and cross-examining the deputy that Hamer-Hodges had so courageously put in place of himself, to answer those difficult questions. (There was even a student doctor sitting in on that meeting, as I recall, no doubt to learn how to deal with ‘difficult patients and their families’.) I asked again and again about the blood test results, and the rise in the antigens – if the cancer was not back, then what was causing that result? It could be anything, I was told – like what? Lots of different things – like? Well, cigarette smoke…he has never smoked. Well, even just being in smoky environments – he doesn’t go to smoky environments. Well, that would be enough – seriously? Yes – absolutely.

They lied there to my face with my father sitting there next to me looking for answers – and, without access to the internet searches we take for granted today, I had to accept what they said, rather than browse the Lancet or BMJ. Eventually full disclosure happened via the GP, when my father collapsed shortly afterwards, when he revealed that the blood test results were not, as my father had been told by Hamer-Hodges, “nothing to worry about”: the cancer had returned, and had metastasized, primarily centred now in the liver. Hamer-Hodges may have been making judgements about resource priorities in his unit, taking a dim view of someone almost 80 years old, when there might be others in ‘greater need’ – but he certainly failed in his responsibilities to my father as his patient. Once the final revelation of the illness happened in the GP surgery, my father was taken straight to hospital, returning home after a couple of days (because there was, now, nothing they could do). From his ‘secret diagnosis’ first being revealed, he only had two weeks to try and get his affairs in order before dying (and that is another horrendous story of incompetence by the newly-set up NHS 24 helpline – thank you so much Health Minister Andy Kerr…who also tried to block Holyrood’s Health Committee from setting up a public inquiry into the blood transfusion scandal that eventually became Penrose). His affairs were left half-done and in a mess, and the ability for he and my mother to properly plan their last months together because of a ‘doctor who knew best’ introduced chaos into my mother’s life, which she is yet to recover from.

David Hamer-Hodges retired – at 61 – two months after my father’s death, amid claims that his bowel cancer unit at the Western was ‘underperforming’.

There is another dimension to this paternalism – that patients give permission for it by their attititude. My father was from an extremely poor background, his father being a fisherman who died when he was 8 years old, and his mother had to work as a fishwife in order for them to survive. From these working class roots, came that unhealthy reverential attitude towards doctors – and particularly surgeons: so one of the worst parts of this story is, that rather than get angry at Hamer-Hodges once the revelation had occurred, he got angry at the GP for having ‘interfered’…as though, in some way, the GP that had fought for the information to be released had caused the cancer to come back by having done so, rather than having been a form of whistleblower on my father’s behalf. Shooting the messenger, indeed.

My father’s generation is pretty much gone now, and hopefully their inappropriate quasi-deification of glorified ‘flesh mechanics’ will depart with them – but while trusted professions can still maintain such deceitful arrogance towards the people that they are supposed to serve, the problems that led to the investigation by Lord Penrose, and tried to prevent the tales of incompetence from coming out, will continue to lurk in the background.

In the end, some positives did come out of it, and the speed with which the Scottish Government apologized (even though they did not even exist as a body when the events happened) and began making arrangements for compensation claims, prompted David Cameron to do the same. Although the report does not attempt to apportion blame, it is perhaps the beginning of dealing with a particularly unsavoury part of the health service’s past – and another sign of why doctors should remember that they are only doctors, and nothing more than that.

 

“To each and every one of these people I would like to say sorry on behalf of the government for something that should not have happened. While it will be for the next government to take account of these findings, it is right that we use this moment to recognise the pain and the suffering experienced by people as a result of this tragedy. It is difficult to imagine the feelings of unfairness that people must feel at being infected with something like Hepatitis C or HIV as a result of totally unrelated treatment within the NHS.” (David Cameron, Prime Minister’s Questions, 25/3/2015)

InSturgeonCy: An Unjustifiable Fear of Feminism?

I have to confess that one event from the weekend’s conference did give me pause, and made my heart flicker as though clutched by a cold hand of chilling fear…much as when I watched Darling attacking Salmond over the currency in the first televised debate last year. (An ‘actual’ debate – not two leaders being interviewed separately by Jeremy Paxman, as we saw last week between Miliband and ‘I don’t do debates’ Cameron…)

It was, as far as I can tell, the only real source of dissent over the weekend. Of course, members of political parties generally like to say that things went swimmingly well at their conferences, regardless of what actually happened. On the other hand, in past years, the SNP conferences have been applauded as unusual in the UK, because policies are actually discussed, and not dictated by the executive in advance, as with the Westminster parties – a particular example of this was over NATO membership, when Salmond knew he had to argue for it against the wishes of many members, in order to present as seamless a transition for the Referendum electorate as possible. He won the day – but it was far from certain that he would.

The tense issue over the weekend was about All-Women Shortlists (AWS) – positive discrimination in order to achieve gender equality – specifically, the option to have all female shortlists for candidate selection.

And there are certainly arguments for it. Committed to gender equality as Nicola’s government and party is, with a gender equal cabinet, of the 64 SNP MSPs there are nonetheless only 17 women. And yet, with their new membership surge, an impressive 44% of the party are now female (before the Referendum, it was 33%, so this is a significant move towards representing the actual population figure of 52%). So all female shortlists were proposed…except, of course, positive discrimination is not everyone’s flavour of feminism.

As I said, I cannot deny a chill went through my heart on Monday when I saw someone online declaring that they had resigned their new SNP membership over it, as someone who had joined and become a hard-working activist after the Referendum. It made me realise just how divisive the issue is – and the massive potential consequences. It may be sexist, but to be politically active as a woman in this day and age takes (to my perhaps blinkered eyes) more political savvy and strength than to do it as a man. It implies that you are likely to have made political decisions about your gender role in society, which is pretty unnecessary as a male. Therefore, with 44% of politically motivated females, I really feared how much fallout there might be from this.

That big electronic sign above Nicola’s head during her speech, which announced the new membership numbers of 102,143 – I wondered how much it might have started counting down again, just on the basis of Nicola’s decision, and that policy…

And I think it is not unfair to describe it in those terms – allegedly this proposal was coming down very heavily from her, and she wanted it passed. The member who resigned from the party said that although she was told she would get to speak, she did not – and felt offended at the implication that she needed some kind of legislative protection to stand and succeed, when Nicola, Angela, Shona and Eilidh did not – that she was somehow ‘less’ than them. The fact that the policy was only on a trial basis for a year, and would need to be renewed by conference after review next spring, did not make any difference.

This horrible fear rose up in me as I read this – of the SNP throwing everything away with the positive discrimination lists option, to risk fragmenting the party, losing that enthusiasm and key support, just 5 weeks before the most important general election in the history of the SNP. After my statement less than a week ago that I was confident of her ability to deal with victory and loss and present it well to the electorate, was this Nicola’s critical misstep? Will the SNP be shedding membership by the tonne in the 5 weeks leading up to the vote, before they even have time to use that legion of ‘boots on the ground’ so envied by Scottish Labour?

And – that was what made it even worse: it would FINALLY give Labour something real to attack them on, as opposed to getting Eleanor Bradford to misrepresent the health service out of context every week on BBC Scotland for her ‘New Labour’ chums. Such an attack by Labour would be grossly hypocritical, of course, because Labour had done exactly the same thing, introducing female only shortlists at conference in 1993 (the LibDems rejected such a move in 2001, and Cameron has expressed support for the policy)  – but that hypocrisy has recently become par for the course with Scottish Labour’s new leader, and his Janus-like 24 hour rotations of policy. It has also been alleged that Labour lost a safe seat in Blaenau Gwent in 2005 over the introduction of AWS, so there are clearly risks in terms of a possible backlash.

And yet…

The all-women shortlists were criticised at the conference – but 9 all male shortlists (not created through policy, I hasten to add) passed through conference with barely any comment.

And then I think of the rampant sexism being applied against Nicola through the media in the past two weeks – the Miley Cyrus wrecking ball mock up on the front page of The (English release only version of The) Sun, retiring Labour MP David Hamilton referring to her at their conference as “the wee lass with the tin hat on”, picked up with unseemly haste in Steve Bell’s Guardian cartoon, indicating that all the SNP were interested in were incest and country dancing (see original quote from Thomas Beecham).

Clearly, this is unacceptable. Maybe this move IS important to show consistency in her policies across the board. Perhaps – as with those SNP members that resigned over NATO – there will only be a handful that go, and not too significant a dent. Perhaps one blogger’s observation over the weekend, is absolutely correct: “Things won’t start to happen in a way that views women as equal partners in business or politics until there are more women in there making sure they do.”

But, as I said before, 44% of the membership is now women – how will they react? Will the numbers meltdown?

I wait with heart in mouth. I guess I just have to trust Nicola, and hope that she is right. Under her leadership, a Survation poll on the 20th March on who would best represent Scotland’s interests, gave a clear endorsement of where the public thinks she is right now with the party: 17.9% thought Labour [a mere 51.5% of Labour 2010 voters], 45.6% said the SNP [including 19.7% of No voters, and a third of Labour 2010 voters], 10.6% said Conservatives and an optimistic 3.6% thought the LibDems. Her leadership ratings are +33, whilst Murphy dives down to -25, with Cameron -36, Miliband -53 and Clegg a not-so-stellar -70.

In which case, rather than her, maybe it will be Labour that will need the ‘tin hats’ to endure the switch in their fortunes – despite the SNP following their progressive policy on positive discrimination for all female shortlists. Let’s see, shall we?

 

“this is certainly the largest-ever political conference to be held in Scotland since Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Highlanders occupied Edinburgh. Better still, it could even be the largest-ever party gathering – in terms of official branch delegates – ever seen in the United Kingdom.” (George Kerevan, 29/3/2015)

Student Politics And The Microcosm: The true story of Pontius Pilate and Professor Malcolm Macleod (Neurology)

The launch today of the 5 day pilot of ‘The National’ newspaper supporting independence, in the midst of the Scottish labour leadership contest, made me reflect on former encounters in the student realm with both aspiring journalists and Labour careerists.  In this regard, I do sometimes wonder if I have just been extremely unfortunate in the Scottish Labour individuals that I came across on a personal, working basis within student politics – Jim Murphy, Malcolm Macleod, Dougie Alexander… While Alexander seemed quite the non-entity when I worked alongside him compared with his public profile today, he served as Rector’s Assessor to the today more generally-anonymous Macleod. I knew Macleod much better, first meeting him at medical school: although he seemed to specialise mostly in offending his classmates, and apparently having a big hand-up in his career from his mother (although nepotism is perhaps not so unusual in the medical profession – as with others), he was otherwise not exceptional.

I can remember the first time that Macleod’s political venom first became evident to me. I had completed a summer working for a life assurance company, and was commenting on how poor the security was, in terms of how easy it would be to send penalty payments through to people on their policies. “I wouldn’t hesitate if I saw Malcolm Rifkind’s name” he said, in a flash. For myself, I had only been casually joking in more modest, parochial terms – perhaps an unpopular and sectarian anatomy lecturer, for example – but Malcolm’s instincts were swift, to the point and extremely serious.

When I came back to university a couple of years later, things had changed – he was standing for student president on a Labour Club ticket – the standard way for political hacks to start out when they wanted a career in the Labour Party. What struck me was that a number of our friends, who were Labour Club members, were avowedly declaring that they would not support him under any circumstance. I was a little surprised by their vehemence – which seemed to indicate a mistrust not of his abilities but his motivation, and what he would actually do in post – but I helped in his election campaign anyway. Could he have changed that much as an individual, to become so mistrusted by friends (some of them, admittedly, now somewhat distanced from him)? Macleod won, and took office – however, soon afterwards, a number of those who had campaigned for him were starting to wonder if they should have expended quite so much effort in doing so. His abrasive style did not go down well, and his year troughed particularly when he was exposed as having an affair with the editor of the Student newspaper, at the expense of his long-term partner. I think that, for me, this defined a fundamental mistrust in that type of infidelity in a politician – frankly, if that is how they behave with someone who trusts them implicitly, then how can they be trusted to do anything for the electorate, beyond taking whatever they can for themselves? But there was something slightly bizarre about this revelation – the way in which sleeping with a newspaper editor mirrored ‘grown-up’ politics and advancement. Did Malcolm not realise that this was kiddies politics? Was he perhaps not taking it a bit too seriously?

I wondered if he would continue his Labour career trajectory, and it was with little surprise that I read of his failed attempt to get selected for the Ochil seat: I would be unsurprised if in particular it was his abrasive personality that led to his 5th place on a regional list. But I only read of this retrospectively in August 23rd’s The Herald, where he was touted as the leader of something called ‘Medics for No’ (me neither) in their head-to-head section against Philippa Whitford speaking for NHS for Yes. Within that piece, Macleod’s familiarly offensive nature rose to the fore again – I could practically hear his grunting laugh with amusement at his own comments, just as he used to – referring to Yes supporters as ‘delusional’, ‘juvenile’ and ‘immature’. He still patronises well, after all these years: ‘There’s a lovely, attractive optimism in the Scottish psyche. It’s given us the confidence to travel to the furthest corners of the world’ – actually Malcolm, that’s a little bit more to do with having no choice but to leave, due to clearances and land ownership, not some twee ‘och theres gie few like us, eh?’ attitude. Check out the ‘The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black Black Oil’ to fill in those convenient gaps in your education.

In classic deflective style, he then accused his opponents of telling lies (although the idea that he can accuse anyone of that, given his time as student president, is frankly risible), but deliberately used the term ‘porkies’: always talk down to your audience as though they are children, use that vocabulary to remind them that they know nothing and should listen to whatever you tell them. This, of course, was a set-up for his own great lie: he defended the fact that the cuts in health service spending in England would be communicated via the Barnett Formula to Scotland as not impacting on the NHS in Scotland, because ‘you can always raise more taxes if you need them’.

This uncomfortably reminded me of my own time working for the Students’ Representative Council at the University of Edinburgh, again involving the Student newspaper (although perhaps not in quite the same marriage of convenience that Macleod would have opted for) – and, in that sense, this post serves as much as an apology for that, as for aiding the beginnings of Malcolm’s political career. A cut in funding was implemented by the University on the funding that it was supposed to disburse to us, in spite of the fact that we had run our finances competently for very many years (they had woken up with an unexpected £5.98 million deficit, as one or two financial overseers mysteriously left the organisation one lunchtime), and while we campaigned against this, a large number of our internal budgets had to be cut.

One of them was the budget that the Student newspaper was funded from. The Student newspaper was founded in 1887 by Robert Louis Stevenson, making it the UK’s oldest student newspaper, but the paper was running at a hugely disproportionate loss as part of the Students’ Association’s publications board, compared to (for example) student societies, and the question was asked as to whether we as a student body could afford to keep subsidising it on this basis. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Student newspaper responded by calling in some favours from its generations of media graduates, and the local press corps (e.g. the Scotsman newspaper) got involved, asking the question ‘Why are you trying to close down the Student newspaper?’ From the political perspective, I knew exactly how to answer that: ‘The only people who can close the Student newspaper are the students who run it’. Ring any bells? David Cameron came out with exactly the same phrase with regard to NHS Scotland (and Macleod is clearly a kindred spirit) – and from personal experience I recognised it for the empty statement that it was: you can say you are not deciding to privatise NHS Scotland, but through the mechanism of the ‘death of a thousand cuts’ to the overall budget, you are still deciding that that will be the result. Your hand does not need to be the one that signs the piece of paper, you can pretend it is the decision of the one who has to choose between destinations for diminishing resources – it wasn’t me, guv – and that they were the one to have been the one to make that outcome inevitable. The fact that Pilate outsources the decision of who to pardon, does not detract from the fact that he had already decided that people are going to die.

Tom Gordon’s piece remarked, without a trace of irony, that in Macleod, politics’ loss might well have been medicine’s gain. I am less convinced of the latter interpretation – and I am similarly unconvinced by Macelod’s guarantees of the safety of funding for the NHS in Scotland, in the wake of reduced NHS expenditure in England. Yes, you can choose to support other NHS Scotland funding from your budget, regardless of what happens to the NHS south of the border – but that means making a priority of it at the expense of other areas that are already funded, and it is utterly disingenuous to fail to recognise that in the same breath as you state that its funding can only be threatened by the Scottish Government, as though NHS funding was magically protected – something that I was guilty of all those years ago, when referring to the Student Newspaper’s continuing existence. And sure, you can increase taxes – but that is further stretching an already overburdened people, and unfairly driving them towards a neoliberal agenda that they did not in any way vote for.

Of course, the way to progress is to break the linkage between the Treasury in London and the taxes raised in Scotland, so that the money is spent there on the priorities decided by the people that live there, without having an increasing chunk of it reserved for London usage. In this regard, there might be an unlikely source for optimism to be taken from Ruth Davidson’s recent observation that full transfer of raising all income tax to Scotland was a minimum requirement in more devolution – even a “red line issue” (ignoring her previous ‘line in the sand’ statement as regards the idea of more powers for the Scottish Government). This means that the Barnett Formula is history…but that only works if the responsibility for spending it also is devolved – not just a portion, the rest being sent in tithe to the Treasury, but all of it. As much as such a step would no doubt be presented as ‘full control’ and ‘full responsibility’, full responsibility to collect without the power to spend it fully is meaningless, and simply translates into a devolving of the costs of tax collectors…to be yet another additional element that has to be funded by Scottish taxpayers. Just as the shortfall in Barnett resulting from the enhanced privatisation of the NHS in England would also be. Scotland already pays more than its fair share to subsidise the ongoing union – and will be asked to pay yet more (we are already slated to pay £12 billion towards National Infrastructure Plan projects – although only one of those billions will be spent in Scotland, and it is somewhat challenging to see how transport or sewer infrastructure projects in London will directly beneift the scottish subsidisers of those particular projects). Being asked to pay to collect taxes without freedom to allocate the spend of all taxes is not ‘more powers’, but ‘more liabilities’ and ‘fewer services’. Not such an attractive offer.

In the week that the Smith Commission has to deliver its report, that is worth bearing in mind.

“Reading ‘Scotland’s Future’, I couldn’t at first account for a faint twinge of melancholy, a recognition. Then it dawned on me. The Scotland being here described – or proposed – was the Britain so passionately hoped for by the millions who voted for Tony Blair, back in 1997.” (Neal Ascherson, 29th November 2013)

Greys’ Psychology: Inside the Mindset of a Defeated Demographic

I went to a reunion of the Yes Marchmont and Yes Morningside activist groups on Tuesday night, at our regular HQ of the Argyll Bar. I was actually prepared to be somewhat inspired on the way over there, as the vibe that I had got across social media from the wide Yes movement was quite astonishingly upbeat. Arriving there, after the vanguard arrival of the English Scots for Yes, the group built up to about 38, filling up the cellar bar, all writing out their A4 sheets of ideas about how we go forward. There are a lot of galvanized people who aren’t going to let this go. Many of them had stories of ‘No’ voters who had recanted within 24 hours – some feeling sick when they realized the result was not what they were wanting (hint – you have to vote for what you want, guys…), and others seemingly genuinely astonished at Westminster so quickly and blatantly backtracking from its not so solemn ‘Vow’ on the front page of the Daily Record two days prior to the vote… As I said in an earlier post, this voting generation may just need a refresher course in that ‘1979 experience’, in order not to be so naïve again – but have they blown it forever, or do we get another shot at this? Soon. Because – sorry Alex – but when Jack Straw is writing about ‘uprooting a healthy plant time and again’ as a reason for making the Union legally indissoluble during Labour Conference, you realize that it REALLY has to be ‘Soon’.

Traveling back on the bus after the meeting, a comparatively young woman got on the bus, and sat down opposite me. She may have had the odd drink, if her ability to not drop her unlit roll-up was anything to go by – as well as her urge to offer Strepsils to the back of the bus, and to wish to indulge in conversation. “I tried to report a crime to a policeman earlier – and he wouldn’t listen to me. Wouldn’t do a thing about it!!” I asked a question or two to elucidate some more details: “I said it was a crime that Scotland still wasn’t an independent country – and he wouldn’t even write it down in his book!”

It was a great gag – but then humour has always suffused the Yes campaign, just as much as sublimated anger and arrogance has suffused the No. Talking to Mark (one of the mass purveyors of the WBB) on one of the last days of the stall, he reported one rejoinder that he had overheard to one naysayer: “Aw, don’t be such a Nawbag – and grow yourself a pair of Yes-ticles.” On the bus with me was a good friend and colleague (an old-style socialist from Leicestershire – the type that cancelled his longstanding membership of the Labour Party after the Iraq invasion), who was up visiting me in Edinburgh for a few days of joint work. He had angsted about the Referendum but – finally, and not without the help of the Wee Blue Book – he came forward supporting Yes before the vote. I had a few friends down south who had been like that – who suddenly seemed to ‘get it’ on the ‘eve of war’, and their support was greatly appreciated. But it is not the young – or the southern non-voters – that were really the issue, according to the stats: the demographic that REALLY voted No – by over 70% – was the over 55s. The Greys.

This – with the curse of hindsight – was, of course, entirely predictable: the demographic that was least internet savvy, is inevitably the one most resilient to the idea that mainstream media (especially the BBC) might be less than reliable. Sealed in their social media-free bubble, they were by-and-large immune to Yes. Maybe we could have done a grandchild-to-grandparent dialogue, as a means of exploiting Generation Yes. Inasmuch as sometimes you felt it was a race to get as many people unplugged from ‘The Matrix’ as possible, in order to see the real world and the harsh realities of the choice we had to make, we did not ever find a way to get to that particular batch.

I engaged my pet ‘over 55’ in the process early on, helping her give an online response to the consultation exercise ‘Your Scotland Your Referendum’ launched by the Scottish Government in January 2012. At the time she wanted more information on different aspects. I obtained a copy of the White Paper for her – but that was apparently ‘too much’ – even the WBB didn’t work its magic. I’ve tried quizzing her on why she voted ‘No’, and Mum’s adamant insistence is (STILL) that there was ‘not enough information either way’ and that there ‘should have been a third option’. This may just be a group who, with DevoMax off the ballot paper, voted ‘No’. Why would you go that way? What would drive a Grey to do that? It seems unlikely to be pension fears, given Gordon Brown (he who most vociferously propounded that nonsense, contrary to Home Office statements) was also responsible for the tax grab that destroyed most private pension schemes in the UK when he was Chancellor. But then, memories are fickle in the over 55s: as mine said “They say that Alistair Darling was Chancellor….but I don’t remember that. Was he really?” No, Mum – not really…

Well, then, was it another brand of shameless last-week manoeuvering that swung them, perhaps the type that led to stories about ‘disrespecting the war-dead’ with a ‘Yes’ vote? This ‘reimagining’ of social history is tasteless but – again – entirely foreseeable: the ‘celebrations’ (as they were initially rashly referred to by government spokespeople) commemorating the centenary of the declaration of war (as well as hosting Armed Forces Day in Stirling – a repackaging of Veterans’ Day to try to expand the ‘romantic and heroic glow’ of the old war dead to take in the woefully under-resourced and vulnerable modern military – way to ‘punch above our weight’ guys…) were an opportunity to try and appropriate these activities as ‘solely for the Union’, dismissing somewhat more commonplace motivations. The state that declared war on Germany on August 4th 1914 (the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland) no longer exists, but Scotland’s dead constituted over 16% of the British dead for that campaign – there were thirty two ‘Thankful Villages’ in England and one in Wales (where no men from the village died in the conflict), but there were no such villages in Scotland. I talked with my brother about this, and he pointed out the military tradition in many Scottish families which might lead to such disproportionate levels of casualties – however that tradition (like mass emigration) tends to be the result of a lack of opportunities at home in farming or industry, the ‘disposal’ of a sector of working class (predominantly) males. Family traditions of going into the armed forces do not always start through choice.

The great security of the armed forces is a great mythical dividend of the Union – never mind the twelve ‘traditional’ Scottish regiments abolished/merged since 1957, the air and sea protection around the country has been stripped back, with cuts disproportionately high in Scotland, only Lossiemouth left (albeit without any submarine spotting craft) as an airforce base, and Faslane as a military naval base with Coulport’s Trident submarine pens. Scotland’s role in the UK military is to be undefended, provide a base for the nuclear weapons of Westminster’s vanity and provide fodder for US wars, both of which consequently make us a target for foreign attack. We no longer even derive the local economic benefits from having the number of bases we used to on our territory – economies compromised by reduced local spending power, just as with deindustrialisation thirty years ago.

Of course, this does not stop ‘supporting our military in Scotland’ getting wheeled out at election time: the Conservatives last pitch in the run-up to the general election was vote Tory for more Scottish military investment but since then they have closed RAF Leuchars and Kinloss and reneged completely on their promise to build a ‘super barracks’ for Scottish military returning from Germany (most of whom now appear to be in Belfast).

Certainly, my mother was deeply offended when, just this week, Tony Blair turned up arguing that British troops should go back into Iraq. ‘You do realize,’ I helpfully said ‘that in voting ‘No’, you have given them complete permission to keep using Scottish working class people as fodder for US conflicts like that, don’t you?’ ‘I didn’t vote for that!’ Oh, yes, Mum, you SO did…

As I predicted in an earlier post, the Party of ‘I Told You So’ is in the ascendancy. With each broken promise and escalating threat, it seems we are growing stronger – the membership of all three Yes parties (SNP, Greens, SSP) have doubled, such that the Scottish National Party is now the third largest political party by members in the whole of the UK, beating the LibDems into fourth: forget my little ‘metrics’ of FaceBook ‘Likes’ – there is the real rise in support, right there.

The question is, even with the unexpected continuation of many of the pro-independence blogs and social media sites that one expected would fold utterly after a ‘No’, how does this support sustain itself and – I think most importantly – manifest itself? Fair enough – we can do events on every day that Gordon Brown’s timetable fails to deliver what he said it would, and we can have a demonstration next September 18th – but we need something more now. Before the end of the year, when there will undoubtedly be a Yes manifestation at Hogmanay.

“For the Record- I am English, I entered military service when I was 18. I served up until 2008 where I was severely injured in Iraq. On leaving hospital in Plymouth I returned to my partners home town in Scotland. I served in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia and Serbia. Instead of 6 month tours I often ended up away for almost a year with no leave. I am decorated with an exemplary record of praise from senior officers. The fact I can walk is a tribute not to the military support but to the Scottish NHS. I find it insulting that my fallen comrades are being used as a tool in this campaign by the ‘No’ side. Our sacrifice over the last century has not been about protecting a union, but about protecting our democracy. To use this against a yes vote is an affront to their sacrifice. They and I, fought for our right to have a free vote in any election and to take this away from us in emotional blackmail is disgusting and I believe that those saying this should hang their heads in shame and resign. VOTE YES and let us all move forward to a future of our own making.” (Unknown Soldier)

Scotland’s Economic Prospects In and Out of Union, and the Death of the Post-War Dream

At the end of my first day back on the stall, an individual approached the stall wanting to know our reasons for voting Yes. It soon became clear that rather than undecided, he was a ‘No’ voter, so as my colleagues packed up tables and diminishing numbers of leaflets in the background, I continued to talk to him. Although ‘No’ supporters are ‘high risk’ in terms of time investment (and there is always the danger of them simply being a deliberately time-wasting troll – but for that they usually pretend to be undecided), this is also part of winning the potential peace if we get a Yes vote, and if at least some concerns can be alleviated amongst the more rational and less headstrong of them, then the smoother that transition might be. We don’t want ‘Project Fear’ to reap its own harvest of further fear in the wake of an actual ‘Yes’, having spent its entire campaign trying to create uncertainty about the future of a much wealthier (per head) independent Scotland, without turning any scrutiny to the massive uncertainties of remaining tied to a UK economy that is going down the pan with an ever increasing debt mountain (and punishing the poor and disabled on its way down).

It appeared, from his account, that he had been swayed to ‘No’ by the arguments of a variety of economists. I suggested that he look at Joseph Stiglitz’s analysis, but wanted to use it as a prompt to get a particular article on the economy up on this blog.

Others elsewhere have noted the degree to which the UK’s economy continues to decline, thus starting to raise the possibilities of further cuts than those already waiting in the wings after a ‘No’ vote. Others elsewhere have run the numbers for what Scotland’s net surplus contribution to the UK has been over the last thirty years (£222 billion). For further figures on Scotland’s longer term pre-oil overpayment, I refer the interested to Business for Scotland: http://www.businessforscotland.co.uk/scotlands-century-of-lost-wealth/ and also for figures predating Ireland’s break from the UK to ‘The Historical Debt’, an article on Wings Over Scotland that reprints figures from a 1960s (pre-oil) publication.

The Financial Times (February 4th) has noted that Scotland would start with better finances (10.9% better, to be precise) than the UK from day 1 of independence. This – like many reports – also makes the flawed assumption that the expenditure plans of the Scottish Government would remain the same as currently (i.e. devolved rather than independent), whereas the lack of burden of UK –spending plans currently not directly benefiting Scotland would also be lifted. If you like, this is the dividend savings of self-government – freed of supporting infrastructure projects elsewhere in the UK with no direct Scottish benefit (particularly London-centric ones, such as the Olympics – see earlier blog for the tourism impact on Scotland that year) such as HS2 (which Scotland will pay £4.8-7.9 billion towards, despite it stopping 150 miles short of the border), the replacement for Trident (£250 million per year for Scottish taxpayers, currently £160 million per year for the current model), shares of the £3 billion Westminster refurbishment (never mind the £60 million per year currently paid to running Westminster and the Scotland Office – and that is without the imminent 10% pay rise announced for MPs) and the £4.2 billion London sewer upgrade (perhaps related to the preceding item in the list – who can say?). They also do not take account of export duty and VAT currently lost to Scotland via payments through port of exit (for duty) and head office location (for VAT).

The proposed budget in the SNP’s Scotland’s Future manifesto includes £800 million per annum on defense, in order to set up a Scottish military. There are also the opportunities that come from paying for a Scottish rather than London-based civil service – and from closing tax loopholes (£2.8 billion currently estimated to be lost in Scotland by HMRC) partly through replacing the horrifically complicated UK tax system with a transparent and efficient one with fewer loopholes.

All of these are positive opportunities to save vast amounts of money as well as expand our activities and pay towards an oil fund. But there is a rising political pressure (undoubtedly a vote winner with those in the UK that are outside of Scotland) to scrap the Barnett Formula, which (if replaced by an average system for all), will leave a hole the size of 30% of the Scottish block grant. This should also be viewed against the alternative, whereby the Scottish Government Budget allocated from 2011-2016 is planned to drop by almost 10%. Where, of the 42 nations analysed, the UK’s pensions are not only the worst in Europe (see previous blog) but 39th out of 42 in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (Mexico, Indonesia and South Africa are the only countries that come lower in pensions).

Currently we have a political climate that demonises the poor, to the extent that a welfare agenda that saves £6 million by Ian Duncan Smith with a benefit cap in its first year, yet costs £120 million to implement, is presented as legitimate or beneficial. Where, under the pretense of eliminating the DWP estimated £1.2 billion of benefit fraud, cancer sufferers assessed as able to work, while benefit overpayments due to error are £1.4 billion (DWP estimate) and dwarfed by the £16 billion of unclaimed benefits both go unaddressed. And figures for tax avoidance are estimated between £30-120 billion, yet that is not a priority. Labour’s complicity in the welfare cuts (even promising to go further) and the privatisation of the NHS in England and Wales dragging NHS (Scotland) down the same route of a privatized health service through corresponding funding cuts paint us a picture of the future of health and welfare within the UK that is increasingly bleak. This is the Death of the Post-War Dream, as the Westminster government ties its people into nuclear energy companies with ridiculous guaranteed tariffs when we have our own burgeoning energy resources, nuclear weapons sit on the Clyde as a ghost of Empire that are entirely redundant for us in the modern age, and not tackling but creating more poverty when we could seriously address it as a priority which it has ever been for Westminster.

Our priorities are not those of the SE of England, and they are the ones who determine the government of Westminster – NEVER us. And for that reason, we cannot expect to ever receive an equitable deal within the Union – that is simple politics. If we take responsibility for ourselves and our actions, we can avoid continuing as the rich nation held in poverty by its neighbor, and be what we can be.

 

“Even excluding North Sea output ….Scotland would qualify for our highest economic assessment” (Standard and Poor’s, global credit rating agency, February 27th 2014)

 “An independent Scotland could expect to start with healthier state finances than the rest of the UK” (Financial Times, February 3rd 2014)

The Party of I Told You So, or ‘Too Late to the Party’

Many have talked about the possibilities of sustaining positive political change after the vote on September 18th – but I myself foresee a darker aspect. For, as upbeat as ‘Yes’ has been, I can see an inevitable transformation on the other side of the vote – regardless of the result – where the ‘Yes’ movement changes into the party of ‘I told you so’.

In a ‘Yes’ scenario, it is easiest to envisage (or even expect) this – as soon as those straw men of ‘no currency union’, ‘no EU entry’, start crumbling in the harsh light of RealPolitik’s dawn, there will be inescapable crowing from Yessers over our ‘extraordinary prescience’: we were right – and yes, you were right to listen. (And that is without even beginning to take into consideration the possibilities that the favourable economic future predicted by so many would start to make a real impact on people’s everyday lives…)

But there is also an imminent dark side of the ‘Yes’ campaign that is poised in the shadows, waiting to emerge after a ‘No’. And no, I’m not talking about any of the mythical ‘aggression’ that Yes has been accused of by ‘No’. There has been a mendacity in the ‘No’ campaign that has translated into a ‘scorched earth’ policy for Scotland’s place in the Union. In the course of ‘No’s malice, Scotland has come to see that her comfortable perception that we were regarded as some sort of equal partner in this Union, has been completely obliterated in this campaign, in favour of rather being some kind of errant child. In this sense, it recalls the way some commentators look on the ‘special relationship’ between the UK and the US to be a one-sided piece of willful self-delusion…and feels uncomfortably similar.

Part PR construct and part revelation, this mean-spirited attitude has created (or ‘revealed’, depending on how much you believe that that attitude was already present) an increasingly hostile attitude towards us from other parts of the UK. In and of itself, this is unfortunate, but something that we could afford to deal with in the longer term, when reality begins to set in after a ‘Yes’. But after a ‘No’, this attitude instead becomes a dangerous thing, as this will politically legitimise much of what is to come as consequences for Scotland afterwards.

And this is not even talking about when the meagre promises of the ‘No’ campaign for ‘more powers’ fails to materialize. Although ‘Yes’ has run a remarkably positive campaign (to the extent of often being criticised for it, by its own supporters, when refusing to respond in kind to disparaging attacks by ‘No’), it has also highlighted what is waiting for us with a ‘No’ vote: next year’s welfare cuts (70% of the £6 billion cut to Scotland’s welfare budget due by 2016 have yet to be applied – ‘I told you so’), the further expansion in foodbanks and poverty levels (‘I told you so’), the National Health Service in Scotland starting to be cut whether through the TTIP treaty being applied (‘I told you so’), or the budget cuts with the loss of the Barnett Formula (a projected £4.5-6.5 billion) – yes, I really really did tell you so.

In the wake of a ‘No’, and as the above consequences slowly start to appear, the highly hostile attitudes that increasingly have been appearing via the press (including online comments) seem likely to emerge as a force majeur during next year’s UK general election campaign. Driven forward by the resentment towards Scotland created/revealed by the press and media, this will directly precede the ‘astonishing’ (to some) failure of anything resembling DevoMax to materialize, and suddenly a large tranche of the ‘No’ vote will start to reluctantly realise that they have been – successfully – played for mugs by the establishment.

What happens then, of course, would be very interesting. Of course, many ‘No’ voters would not care – for them this has all been about saving the Union, no matter what the cost: remember the statement by Jim Hood (MP for Lanark and Hamilton East) in Westminster, where he declared that he did not care if his constituents would be economically better off in an independent Scotland – he would still vote against it? But there will be others who will have voted ‘No’ genuinely believing that the future under the UK could not be so bad, and that of course Westminster would stand by their word and give Scotland ‘more real powers’. It’s them that will feel like they have been well and truly ‘had’. And – it seems likely – that more of them would go over – at least in principle – to ‘Yes’. How would this disillusionment manifest itself for ‘No’ voters? There is not another vote planned or envisaged for a considerable period of time, so little outlet for any sense of outrage from that quarter.

Of course, in a (currently hard to imagine) scenario whereby such disillusionment brings about a second vote on independence, this would be a positive thing: in that sense, even if they walk into the polling booth on the 18th September and vote ‘no’, those voters are still not a lost cause; they just need a little more experience of a reprise of that ‘1979 Feeling’, when those that had trusted Westminster (either Labour to have a fair referendum on devolution, or the Conservatives who promised a better offer after the Labour one was rejected) started to realise that they had been taken for a ride.

My father was one of those in 1979 – he died still angry at having been so brazenly and unashamedly deceived by politicians. Nowadays, we might say ‘well, what exactly did you expect?’, but the levels of public mistrust in politicians (particularly, for those naturally to the right of politics, of Conservative politicians) were not nearly as rampant as they became under the ensuing Conservative government. Now we live in a post-MP’s expenses world, where Alastair Darling can be cited in as august an academic publication as the ‘Biological Journal of the Linnean Society’ as the epitome of corruption in UK government: a Chancellor guilty of willful financial malpractice while in the top job in charge of the nation’s Treasury. In spite of this, blatant lying by politicians to their electorate is still found by most to be a shocking and abhorrent idea, still seen to be crossing ‘a line’ – and many of those voting ‘No’ will need a 1979-type shock to their system, to make them angry, understand (finally) why things need to be changed in terms of Westminster rule, and to be motivated to do something about it.

As I have said – how this new energy for change might manifest itself is hard to see at this point – particularly as the political will at Westminster will be for this question NEVER to be asked again. Already, Douglas Alexander is trying to manoeuvre to harness or ‘claim’ (‘neuter’, perhaps, is a better word for it) the revitalised political energy of the people in Scotland for Labour’s benefit – as inappropriate a hijacking as there could possibly be, after this campaign. Would it be through some sort of transformation of the current political energy, as happened with Common Cause after the 1992 General Election, which led to the Scottish Constitutional Convention? Perhaps it might – but the harnessing of that energy and the forging of a road forward will be a lot more difficult this time, with Westminster implacably opposed to Scotland’s departure, and no Westminster political party wanting to advocate constitutional change along the lines desired by a revitalised people (something that the Labour Party happily took ownership of in the wake of the Constitutional Convention).

However many ‘No’s subsequently may come to feel cheated – it is highly likely by then that they will have come to the party too late, and missed their chance. What way forward for them, then?

 

“The Union of equals that we thought exists doesn’t exist…’we love you, please stay, if you go we’ll wreck your economy’…sometimes we’re treated very colonially.” (Stephen Noon, Yes Scotland)