Scotland decides - The Possible Diminution of Greater Greater Brockley (Part 3)

Part 1 covered the costs of independence, Part 2 covered the main debate battlegrounds. Time for predictions.

Nobody knows anything. The pollsters are already offering all kinds of disclaimers. There are no precedents or models. Turnout will be through the roof (the Scots deserve no lollipops for that - if they can't turn up to vote on the subject of whether to create a new state then they really can't govern themselves) and 16 year olds get the vote.

This is not about politics any more, it's about crowd dynamics. The entire country feels the hand of history on their shoulder.

On the basis of their campaigns, neither side deserves to win. No has been utterly useless. It started when they let the Independence campaign own the word "Yes". Then, they surrendered patriotism to the other side, offered a decidedly sheepish defence of Britishness and pretended that independence was not just undesirable but virtually impossible. Every big move they have made seems to have made things worse and offering Devo Max now is insulting to the Scots and to the rest of us.

Yes has been in many ways worse. If you want to start a new state and break one of the most successful countries in the world, it should be incumbent on you to do three things: 1. Deal in facts, not fiction and fantasy. 2. Make a clear and compelling case for what you would do with new powers. 3. Treat those who disagree with respect, rather than mounting witch hunts against all those who dare to demur. They fail on all three counts and frankly, anyone who has been swept up in the hyperbole should be ashamed of themselves.

But who will win?

I'm 30-something, leftish, liberal, Guardian-reading and a Twitter obsessive with lots of 30-something friends, some of whom have revealed them to be Scottish sleeper agents, hopped up on righteous fury, which seems to have little to do with the cosy lives they've carved for themselves down among the Londoners they despise (not you dear reader, the "other" Londoners of popular myth). Yes has all the best tunes (unlike the pop stars who played at their rally this week) and best jokes (well, one joke, about pandas, that got old a long time ago). You can't open a browser for Yes Vines, memes and blogs.

The sense of occasion looks like it's sweeping all before it, just as the Olympics converted the nay-sayers in the final days before the Opening Ceremony. But it's also like the 1987 general election, when as a boy in South East London, it seemed obvious from the crimson blizzard of Labour posters I saw all around me that the left would sweep to power. The mania on display in Glasgow and Edinburgh may not be reflective of the wider population. This result will be a measure of how influential social media has become in Britain.

My bet is that it isn't quite strong enough yet. That the majority of "don't knows" will fall on the side of No. But I expect it to be exactly as close as the polls are predicting and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it's Yes. And if it is, then it will both be fascinating and entertaining to see what happens next, for both our countries.

As I wrote, an independent Scotland would certainly be poorer in the first years after the vote, but might make a decent fist of it in the long term. At least as likely, however is that it would grow to mirror Scottish football - an area in which Scotland has fiercely asserted its total independence from England for over a century.

Deprived of a bigger stage on which to flourish, Scottish professional clubs have retreated inwards, been riven by sectarianism, struggled to get into Europe, flirted with financial collapse and lost their best players to the English game. The fate of the national team is entirely in the hands of Scottish football administrators and the country's youth development system has become an unproductive ghetto. Rather than becoming a national game at ease with itself, it is sustained by the occasional moral and actual victory over the English.

Who knows how to govern Scottish football better than the Scottish people themselves?

PS - there is one part of Britain that really is different from the rest.

On any measure of social attitudes, it is a UK outlier. Its way of life is very different to any other part of the country (less likely to do drugs, less likely to drive a car, more likely to have been born elsewhere) and, like Scotland, it has a distinctive culture and iconography, recognisable around the world. It gets the government it votes for about as often as Scotland does and its local assembly has far fewer powers. It produces financial surpluses that make Scotland's oil wealth look like chump change and its population is demonised by the rest of the country on a daily basis. Despite this, it votes for policies and parties that favour redistribution, rejects nationalism and regards those who talk of separating as cranks.

It is of course London - and I am proud to live here among all you other banksters, plutocrats, crooked politicians, chattering classes, oligarchs and all-round spivvy bastards.


hardlianotion said...

Weird. My wife just outed herself as a closet Scots nationalist. I blame myself really - I'm glad she's not up there to vote, being an emotional no-er myself.

I am annoyed because, while I kind-of get some reasons why Scots might want Scotland to be independent, there's not enough trust or respect floating around to discuss what happens next honestly - let's get free first and figure out what it all means later. I hardly think the Scottish electorate is going to be pleased with the manoeuvrings of various interested parties after a yes vote. A no vote is going to cause a lot of trouble UK-wide as well - the deco-max promise was just irresponsible. The fact that the referendum has been held and the outcome respected is a credit to the UK and a reason to be proud to be British. The way it has been conducted and the way we stumble into new constitutional arrangements is an embarrassment.

Very good series of articles - but the footballing analogy at the end is bound to annoy.

NAT said...

You said youl'd provide one of your usually accurate predictions Nick,. Looks like that's a grudging Yes. I will speak with my bookmaker. Whatever happens, it would seem that there will be overdue constitutional changes which might otherwise get kicked down the road.

Brockley Nick said...

Thank you. And yes, I figured the football analogy might annoy, but then I thought I'd get a bollocking for calling Scotland Evelyn Ward North in the first article, so perhaps the cybernats are better humoured than I give them credit). However, I think football is almost a perfect metaphor for Britain - right down to England's game, sustained by foreign talent and money, commercially successful but held back by poor education. And of course, the Welsh do pretty well these days, thanks to a more "federalist" approach to their game. Who knows how to develop a player like Gareth Bale better than the Southampton coaching staff themselves?

Brockley Nick said...

Sorry, it was a long, rambling article so I obviously didn't make myself clear. I am predicting a very slight no victory, but also predicting that I'm quite likely to be wrong.

rjc said...

Have been a big fan of your blog since I moved to Brockley 6 months ago from Glasgow. So bloody fed up with this kind of intervention though. For the umpteenth time in the last few weeks I feel the need to repeat myself: It's none of your damn business. If you're not a resident of Scotland, stay out of it. That's what self-determination is all about...

Damian said...

I'm not a resident in Syria, am I not allowed and opinion on that?

Brockley Nick said...

Since you live here now, it's none of your business either. So how about you let people express their views without telling them it's none of their business?

We may not get a vote, but it most certainly is our business - it will effect all of our lives in all kinds of ways. When and if Scotland gets self-determination, it will discover that what the rest of the world thinks matters a great deal - freedom isn't free.

NAT said...

I liked all of it, and as well as can be done at distance from the event. The matter of 'having a say' in it doesn't really stack up as if any constituent of a union wants to leave it, it can't be for the other members to veto that. The very constitutionally uninovative John Major has ceded that position.
I liked your acceptance of the old nation state as possibly the last bastion against the excesses of global capital.

NAT said...

New constitutional arrangements no matter how nessecary don't sell well on the doorstep. No matter what the outcome on Friday these little overdue demons are now to the fore.l

Newby said...

Errr really? I am pretty sure that last time I checked my passport stated I was a citizen of the UK. The potential break up of the UK is surely worth a bit of passing interest therefore? Your point may actually be accurate but in reverse in the event of a Yes vote though as it will really be none of the Scots' business what we do with our currency, our borders, our membership of international bodies etc.

iain said...

Your description of Scottish football applies to about 85 professional clubs in England. And a union of english/scottish leagues could kill all but the few richest clubs up there, isn't that why it was always opposed?

Brockley Nick said...

Why would it kill off any clubs? England and Wales sustain the largest professional league system in the world and the number of pro clubs has gone up, not down. Why does the Scottish FA oppose the creation of a British Olympic football teams? I'll tell you because I used to deal with them - it's because they can't abide the idea of sharing sovereignty with the English. Better to be a big fish in a small pond, as far as they are concerned.

No, it couldn't be applied to the English game too, but even if it could, the point is that Scottish independence is supposed to deliver better outcomes, not the same or worse.

Iain said...

Scottish fans and clubs (as opposed to people in England telling them what is best for them) have repeatedly pointed out that most clubs don't have the resources to compete in England and depend on the money generated from derbies and fixtures against Celtic and rangers (who are on tour of every Scottish stadium). Celtic and rangers would do OK, the rest could drift, with fans unable to afford English travel and ticket prices. And local derbies could fall apart.

And which of your statements doesn't apply to almost any English club in the last 10 years- sell best players to big English club, flirt with financial ruin, unproductive youth systems. Of course it applies.

I am not sure I'm looking at another country's quest for sovereignty as a question of outcomes, which are largely unknown.

And of course the SFA is full of dicks. That's what football governance is all about, UEFA, FIFA, FA. All completely unreflective of anything.

Brockley Nick said...

"Scottish fans and clubs (as opposed to people in England telling them what is best for them) have repeatedly pointed out that most clubs don't have the resources to compete in England"

Yes, why don't they have the resources to "compete"? Because they are in a crappy little league. If there was a British league, they would have more money (because revenues are redistributed among member clubs). If they joined, they would find their level. Most would be in the lower leagues, but League 1 is of a better standard than the Scottish Premier League. They wouldn't be "killed", they just wouldn't be able to pretend to be Premier League. Rangers and Celtic would undeniably be EPL standard (eventually) and thus Scotland would have 10% of the Premier League, which is more than their share of the population. A good deal.

"And local derbies could fall apart."

Why on earth would local derbies fall apart? Has Shef Wed v Utd fallen apart? Has Newcastle v Sunderland fallen apart? The Bristol derby?

Scottish fans couldn't afford English ticket prices? What, at Derby County? Not every club is Chelsea.

Now who's talking the Scottish people down and scaremongering?

Iain said...

Most would be in a lower league, if not the non-league. The Dundee and Edinburgh derbies would become far less frequent as their league changes, it's bound to, they could go years without those key revenues. Obviously the derby will always be there, but when was the last time Bristol rovers played city? Must be ages.

Ticket prices in the championship, plus trains etc. It's way more than what they are paying now. Of course it'll cost more to go to Derby.

Scaremongering, my arse. Of course I'm talking their football down, it's shit, but it's theres. It's not an academic exercise of predicting improved outcomes. Anyway, if they vote yes they can ask to merge with the bundesliga for all I care, if their fans want to.

iain said...

Did my reply to this disappear? Disqus is a right pain.

Basically, I said so what if the scottish league is shit, it's their league. It's not our place to speculate on improved outcomes for scottish clubs and posit that as what is best for them. If scotland go indpendent, they can join the bundesliga for all I care, if that's what the fans want.

Also, of course it'll cost more to see Derby county than a scottish team, it's further away and travel is a fucking rip-off, even if the clubs put on a coach. The clubs and fans will have to cross the border about 20 times more a season, stay in hotels more etc etc.

The Bristol derby is a good indication of what they could expect - hardly ever playing each other as one team goes non-league.

Brockley Nick said...

"it's shit, but it's theres" Yes, that's precisely my point. That's why it's analogous with a nationalist movement. If the Yes rallying cry was "there's a good chance it will be shit, but it will be our shit" I doubt they'd get the votes...

"Anyway, if they vote yes they can ask to merge with the bundesliga"

No they can't because FIFA and UEFA rules prohibit such a move. There is no such thing as an independent country.

Damian said...

My 2 pence as a Derby lad, between £20-£30 a game. Probably more than most spl grounds probably. But then you get what you pay for

local n vocal said...

Great articles- thanks for sharing!
I'm going for 'yes' to get 40-42% of the vote. Had the election been last week, when I was in Scotland at that time to experience the atmosphere, I would have predicted a much higher number, perhaps a majority. The euphoria for the yes campaign just feels to have subsided a bit, as the cold, sobering poll-box emerges.
Of course, I'm talking as much b*llocks as everyone else but c'mon who's going to take this bet? I want predictions to a 1% swing either way... Starting with you, Nick.

Luke Silburn said...

I agree that constitutional arrangements are a tough sell, but if we can't work out a revised constitutional settlement then I don't see how the UK can survive long term.

If the Westminster parties renege on their recent devo-max commitments then the resulting bad blood north of the border will mean there will be a strong push to reopen the independence question and the Yes camp will surf the 'betrayed nation' narrative to a win. Alternatively if Westminster offers substantive devo-max to Scotland without doing something about the rest of the UK (ie come up with an answer to the West Bromwich question), then we can expect the Kippers and their fellow travellers on the right wing of the Tories to make hay about the 'cossetted Scots' for the next few election cycles until the accumulated resentments on both sides of the border drive us to a split.


Newby said...

The West Bromwich question something to do with if their Scottish manager is up to the premier league?
As an aside how badly have the Labour party messed this up? They have lost their Glasgow base and now fallen into the Tories' not so subtle trap of tying Scottish devo max in with English devolution. If they allow English devolution they will hardly ever have a majority in England and if they resist (as surely they have to given Scotland is tiny) then their base with further defect to the SNP.

Brockley Nick said...

I don't think it's fair to call it a trap. It's a reasonable principle that no one part of the UK should get special favours. This referendum has brought the issues to the fore.

Luke Silburn said...

Heh, didn't we come in with 'Scottish football is rubbish'?

The Labour answer to Cameron's trap (if indeed it is one) is to trump 'English devolution' with 'regional devolution' and propose a federal structure based on the twelve regions we use for the EU elections (9E, 1S, 1W, 1NI) rather than the four home nations. This would actually be a better practical arrangement since each English region would have broadly the same demographic/democratic weight as the non-English nations (plus the London assembly would be a regional legislature rather than the anomaly it currently is).

The problem with this scheme is that, in the short term at least, it would put Labour in a very strong position in the 'länder' - thus it would hard to get the Tories to go along with it.


Anonymous said...

I am very proud of the Scots for voting YES. The Green Party & SNP's did an excellent job of working together to highlight the current problems in the Westminster government and how the UK's constitution needs a massive overhaul to work properly today. The people of Scotland should be able to have control over their own affairs. Under the present system too much is still controlled by Westminster.

There's a difference between two countries working together and one effectively being governed by the other. In practical terms, this has meant policies being implemented in Scotland that virtually no-one voted for. This is not a recent thing, it's been going on for decades. That is not democratic, unless you think that Scotland is just a region.

There's also a disillusionment throughout the UK with the self-serving elite who run the country. This is seen as a chance to do things differently. The UK has an upper chamber of hereditary peers, placemen, and clergy. Look at the cabinet of hereditary millionaires, selling off the country's institutions to their friends in big business (POST OFFICE - NHS HOSPITALS EG. LEWISHAM HOSPITAL ALMOST SHUT). There were wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, justified on outright lies. There was the expenses scandal, and the child abuse cover up.

People in Scotland also ask why they are constantly lied to. Why was the McCrone report suppressed under the official secrets act? Why was Scotland promised devolution in 1979 that wasn't delivered? Why were the sea boundaries redrawn the day before the Scottish Parliament reconvened?

Why should Scotland also have Trident on their doorstep. They certainly did not have a choice on that matter either.

In London, the UK media (especially the British Broadcasting Corporation) has and shown a bias against the YES campaign. Now look at Cameron, Milliband and Clegg. They are already arguing with each other on how to give Scotland the powers that they promised at the VERY last minute of the campaign. Cameron wants to tie this into English issues but that would mean they have a majority in government and Labour and Lib Dems obviously would not want that. What a pickle!

The Scots are a sensible and intelligent. Thank you Scotland for shaking things up for everyone in the UK. I only wish you had all said YES.

Brockley Nick said...

They voted no.

Anonymous said...

You missed the last line: "I only wish you had all said YES"

Woodman said...

Nick - you missed a Brockley hook here! - The 'Better Together' campaign director was a Brockley resident for a while before moving back up to Glasgow.

Brockley Nick said...

Thanks - just fact checked that with my mate who knows him. Apparently, Blair lived in Honor Oak Park. Which explains a lot... ;)

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