by Jonathan Todd
On two separate occasions this year I have been surprised by intelligent Scots telling me that they are considering voting yes in the independence referendum. Why would they contemplate something that seems to me small-minded and inward-looking?
When I put this to them, they both replied with words to the effect of, “there is a better way to run Scotland.” “Can’t that be achieved within the devo-max that is inevitably coming?” “What makes it inevitable?” “Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are all committed to it.”
At this point in the conversations, one of them expressed cynicism in the capacity of these three parties to deliver. Another was more accepting that devo-max would come if Scotland remains in the UK and began to lament what would become of the rump of the UK if Scotland voted for independence.
Behind both of these responses is a belief that Scotland is a fundamentally different political universe from the rest of the UK. The first reveals a view that the leading UK parties are unable or unwilling to give Scotland the powers necessary to build the brightest possible future. The second is concerned about what will become of the presumed conservative England without the anchor of supposedly social democratic Scotland.
But at the last general election, only 3 per cent fewer people in Scotland voted Conservative than voted SNP. At the three general elections prior to this, Labour would have formed the government each time had only votes in England counted. Labour can win England. Scotland does have Tories. England and Scotland are not Mars and Venus.
Somewhat similarly, the Glaswegian comedian Billy Connolly has claimed to have a lot more in common with Liverpool welders than Scottish Highlanders with agricultural backgrounds. If we accept that Scotland is not an island of social democracy in a sea of conservatism, instead sharing a spectrum of political values with the rest of the UK, and also take the leading UK political parties at their word, meaning that devo-max is a coming reality for Scotland, what remains for the yes campaign to advance their argument?