Although I’m not technically prohibited from expressing my IndyRef preference prior to September 18th, I still don’t intend to — it’s a matter between me and the postal ballot I sent back a while ago (I didn’t know if I’d actually be in Scotland on polling day).
However, I am finding the mechanics and politics of it all rather fascinating. Obviously, there’s the usual stuff: it’s a historic event; being in the thick of it is eerily similar to being in The Thick of It; all of this week, Huw Edwards has been tapping away at his laptop just a few metres behind me when he’s not on air; and on Friday things will start to get really interesting, regardless of the outcome.
Both sides have claimed to have witnessed some degree of unpleasantness from the other (and I don’t doubt the claims, to be clear). I do wonder how much of it is a consequence of having a political event which has got people so engaged that even the, usually apathetic, thugs have joined in the fray—with a predicted record turn-out (my personal reckoning is that it’ll be north of 80%) and the outcome too close to call, ordinary folk are being forced to take more than the usual amount of rough with the smooth.
Meanwhile, there’s a lot which could be said about the “marketing” of it all. I struggle to get away from an awareness that the No Thanks campaign really screwed up from the outset: as was noted to me recently, negative messages peak much more quickly than positive ones, and it’s hard to say “No thanks” without sounding negative, and a little bit defensive.
And that’s without the huge apparent mis-step of taking the “devo max” option off the table in the Edinburgh agreement, in the belief that in its absence, the majority of people in Scotland would rather stick with the status quo than take a leap of faith. Ironically, this was exactly the sort of thing which many dissatisfied with the current state of affairs interpreted as arrogance on the part of Westminster, and it almost certainly helped sway some undecided voters towards the Yes camp.
The approach taken by those voting Yes seem—to my eye—to be a little different to those voting No, too.
Rather than evaluating it as a choice between “remain as we are” or “take a significant risk in separation”, as it is on paper, it seems like a lot of people are subconsciously evaluating the choice as being one at year zero: i.e., one between joining the UK (because they already feel relatively disenfranchised, and a No vote would put pay to any further independence attempts for at least a generation) and the risk of going it alone.
My hunch is, though, that regardless of views of independence, very few people in Scotland are genuinely happy with things just as they are today—so in many respects it’s not an unreasonable way of looking at things.
The reality is that this is a vote between one set of to-be-negotiated changes and another, lesser, set of the same, and neither is what anybody could call an ideal outcome. Do you want known unknowns or unknown unknowns?
Anybody who thinks that a vote either way is clear-cut and absolute almost certainly hasn’t been paying close enough attention: all we really know is that waking up on Friday morning, we’ll find ourselves at the start of either negotiations for self-governance, or negotiations to adjust the dividing line of authority between Westminster and Holyrood, and the political landscape in Scotland will likely change significantly in either case.
And, irrespective of the final outcome, if it is nearly as close as predicted, it’s a huge vote of no-confidence in the coalition Government—what message does “half of the population of Scotland voted in favour of leaving the UK altogether” send?