Oh no, not that tone again; anything but that tone.
I was prepared for Farage’s monstrous braying. I steadied myself for Boris burlesquing a bit of Horace or Plutarch. I was even ready to endure the sound of Gove’s voice. But I had forgotten how unbearable Scottish people are when they feel politically thwarted these days. Over the past 24 hours or so, the reality of the vote to leave the European Union has unleashed an onslaught of full-spectrum nationalist whining across social media the like of which I’ve never seen before.
The self-righteousness that clogged up the post-indyref atmosphere has descended once more. Across the country, heads shake gently in damp-eyed rebuke as disappointed Facebook posts are bashed out and furious tweets sent. And would you believe it, the SNP leadership has considered events through its single lens and concluded that another indyref is exactly what the country needs in a time of confusion and turmoil. It’s a good job the Scottish Government hasn’t been captured by constitutional obsessives like those UKIP guys, eh?
Now, I lost the run of myself completely during the 2014 referendum. I came to believe many more than six impossible things before breakfast on any given day during the campaign. This blog has essentially been a record of my trajectory from suggestible Yesser back to my general disposition as a skeptic, and I’ve left my early posts on this site as a permanent reminder to myself of the damage enthusiasm can do to rational thinking.
If we’re really going to flirt with having another independence referendum there are a few things we all need to get straight, whether we’re Yes or No or Not Again Please For The Love Of God Not Again. There were lessons to be learned back in 2014 about tone, respect for opponents and preparedness to scrutinise one’s own prejudices – I’m not sure they’ve even been acknowledged let alone assimilated. Well I’m here to help! Learn from my fail by asking yourself the following questions and answering honestly. It can even be our wee secret.
Since when was the European Union such a massive deal to you?
A rhetorical question perhaps, but worth asking. I don’t remember much chat on Facebook about the value of the EU before Friday. In fact, outside university seminars I don’t remember having a single conversation about the EU in my entire life. With anyone. Even in the run-up to the EU referendum the tone was more of exasperation with the tedious campaign than of any positive or negative attitude to the institution itself.
And then – boom! Suddenly everyone’s hamming up their devotion to the EU and its centrality to their identity and worldview.
If you woke up on Friday with a sudden onset of deep Europhilia, perhaps ask yourself where this feeling came from. Perhaps the EU was part of your background life context for so long you took it for granted and never felt the need to articulate its value explicitly? Or maybe the benefits of EU membership only now suggest themselves clearly when we have the prospect of losing them?
Or maybe…could this be an excuse to claim cultural difference from (and superiority to) the English?
Answer me honestly.
What makes you so sure your Remain vote is purer and better motivated than a Leave vote?
Now, I studied politics at university and used to dread the bits when we had to think about the EU. I always found it confusing and unclear and have never been able to commit the various institutions and capacities to memory. Even this week I’ve had to google the differences between the Commission and the two Councils. It’s really complex and difficult.
Ask a group of EU specialists for their views on, say, the Common Agricultural Policy and you’ll get differences of opinion about what’s even being asked. Cameron (remember him? He used to be Prime Minister) asked the full UK electorate for a binary opinion – thumbs up or thumbs down – on the EU in its entirety. That’s a hell of an exam question. Faced with such an unreasonable burden, people will naturally have projected their own preoccupations onto the question on the ballot paper.
As such some voters may have been animated by a feeling of powerlessness and thought that Brexit would either buttress British power or at least express their anger. Others will have been motivated by a desire to restrict migration. Many will have voted on the basis of perceived economic gain. Some voters will have wanted to strengthen local communities. There will have been a significant vote expressing solidarity with continental Europe. Some voters will value the European project for making war impossible between France and Germany and have voted accordingly. Attitudes to our prevailing economic relations of production will have been in the minds of some voters. And, crucially, most of these could go either way for Leave or Remain. And lots of people will not have had any idea what the EU is or does and gone along with what someone told them.
To the above it will be possible to able to add literally millions more personal motivations. And I would argue that many Scottish people will have voted Remain to accentuate cultural difference from England. So my question to you is this: do you think the preoccupations you read into the referendum question were purer than those that motivated the votes of other people, particularly in England? And if so, why?
Answer me honestly.
Do you think Leave voters are racist?
To focus on one of the possible voter motivations above, it’s fair to say that Scottish social media has pinned this one on a perceived English racist vote. So let’s think about this for a minute.
17.4m people voted Leave across the UK. The full electorate was 46.5m on Thursday, so 37.4% of the entire electorate voted for Brexit. That’s more than one in three people in the UK. (34.6% of citizens voted Remain, and 28% didn’t vote).
In the 2009 European Parliament elections, the BNP won more than 900,00 votes, which they then backed up with more than 500,00 in the 2010 UK General Election. I think it’s reasonable to allocate these voters to the ‘probable racist’ pile.
UKIP are studiously Not Racist but it’s fair to say that they probably attract some voters with extreme views – no idea how that happens but hey! The collapse of the BNP vote in 2010 coincided with a rise in the UKIP vote to nearly 1m, which they increased to 3.8m largely unrewarded votes in 2015. The number of votes cast for parties further to the right of UKIP at the last two elections is negligible.
So, the jump from about 900,000 BNP voters to 17.4m Leave voters is a considerable one. It’s still a leap from 3.8m. So my question is this: do you think more than one-third of the entire UK population are racist, or motivated by ‘legitimate concerns’ about ‘being left behind by globalisation’?
Answer me honestly.
Where’s your solidarity?
Manchester voted Remain. London voted Remain. Liverpool voted Remain. Leeds voted Remain. Northern Ireland voted Remain. It wasn’t just a Scottish thing.
Do you feel so different from the rest of the UK that you want to desert the 14.5 million people outside Scotland who voted to Remain?
Answer me honestly.
What’s the story with Scottish Leave voters?
1 million people voted Leave in Scotland. That’s as many as voted SNP in May – and the YouGove poll (health warnings attached of course) suggests one-third of the Leavers are SNP supporters. So, if there was no obvious Yes/ No cleavage in this referendum so how do you explain the Scottish Leave voters? What accent do you think they might have?
Answer me honestly.
Do you really want to go through this again?
The First Minister has blown her dog whistle and indicated that a second independence referendum is now on the table. I’ll make a few quick points before asking you a question.
This year’s SNP manifesto for the Scottish Parliament election contains the following rather half-hearted reference to a post-Brexit indyref.
We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.
The post-Brexit thing is tagged on as an additional clause after an em-dash. It reads like an afterthought to the substantial point about needing clear majority support before doing anything.
This is important, because Sturgeon campaigned at best lethargically and at worst mendaciously over the past couple of months. Even the most avid SNP fan could not claim the First Minister was an enthusiastic advocate for Remain. Like Corbyn, she did enough to achieve plausible deniability but it was hardly at the top of her agenda.
Fair enough – it wasn’t her idea. But as far as I’m concerned this entirely voids any mandate for a second referendum. I did not cast my vote on Thursday with Scottish independence in mind. If anyone else did so, then that was a context of their own devising. It would be completely opportunistic for the First Minister to essentially ignore the EU referendum and then inform voters afterwards that the result actually triggers an entirely different constitutional process.
I would also sound a note of caution about the economic environment. Scottish nationalism has a bit of difficulty with numbers, as we know, but surely the GERS figures haven’t suddenly transformed themselves overnight into a fruitful basis for independence? I’m writing here as a repenting sinner – I was as duped as everyone else during the indyref and the Scottish Government has a lot of work to do to win back my trust after its scandalous White Paper. But either way, would it not be a slightly odd decision to react to the loss of one common market by flouncing out of another one (at least in the short and medium term)? To lose one customs union may be regarded as a misfortune, but to lose two would begin to look like carelessness.
But I digress. My question is this. I know you’re hurting. I know you’re angry. I know you feel disempowered. I know you want to take back control. I know you want to revolt against the elites. I know you want to be sovereign like every other normal country. I know you hate sending money to the administrative capital that you think would be better spent locally. I know you identify closely with your popular leader and you could imagine the two of you having a drink together. But seriously, is this a good time to pile yet more uncertainty onto an already disorienting political context?
Answer me honestly.