Monday, 29 September 2014

The Sovereign Will of the Scottish People

The Scottish Independence Referendum is over.  The question was unambiguous: Should Scotland be an independent country?  The answer was equally clear: No.  The Sovereign Will of the Scottish people is that we should remain part of the United Kingdom.

A couple of closing observations:

1. It wasn't close (from BBC Results)

  • On an unprecedented 84.56% turnout 2,001,926 voted No versus 1,617,989 who voted yes
  • The number who voted No was 23.7% bigger than the number who voted Yes. 
  • 383,937 more people voted No than voted Yes
  • 28 council areas voted No compared to 4 which voted Yes

2.  Those data-mining the results seeking scapegoats really need to get a grip
  • There is some wild extrapolation taking place based on a poll carried out by Lord Ashcroft, published by the Sun
  • The raw data tables are here > Ashcroft Poll Data
    • The 16-17 year-old sample size is 14 (as highlighted almost immediately by John Rentoul)
    • I can't find any information to suggest how the wider sample has been assembled to ensure it's representative; there are no  margin-of-error bands for the different age categories shown
    • And yet (for example) ...

  • Let's be clear: we will never know the true split of how people voted by age group (those data are not recorded)
  • Even if we could know how people voted by age group, even if there was a systematic trend towards (for example) older people voting No - so what?  
    • Suggesting we split our country down age-lines is as ludicrous as suggesting Dundee (57.35% Yes) should declare war on the Orkney Isles (67.20% No)
    • Isn't this about the Sovereign Will of the entire Scottish electorate?  I'm sure I remember some politician parroting that phrase in the last few months...

And finally ...

It's clear to those of us who were close to the numbers in this debate that many of the 1.6m who voted Yes did so on the basis of a false prospectus.

Not all of course.  Some Yes campaigners recognised the pain that separation would cause, some were honest enough - in private at least - to admit that we would have been set on a path of austerity-max as an independent Scotland struggled to deal with the economic damage caused by separation; they believed the ultimate prize of independence was worth that pain.  Had they argued for Yes despite those economic costs rather than in denial of them ... well, they'd probably have lost the vote by a wider margin, but I personally at least would have found it easier to respect their position.

But  false prospectus complaints aside, the absolute size of the Yes vote shows that many in our society feel any change at any cost would be better that their current lot.

That should - that must -  give us pause.

Let's start talking about how we address the issues that create the need for food banks, the under-lying causes of child poverty.  Many of us arguing for No were insulted by the implication that we didn't care about social justice.  We have a duty now to show that not only do we care, but that we care enough to invest time and effort to try and make a difference.

There should be some time for sober reflection of course, but let's not lose the momentum of political engagement that's been created.  Like it or not the Referendum has created divisions within Scotland and between Scotland and the rest of the UK; there are wounds that will take time to heal.  But our ambition should not be to repair but to improve, to reduce the shameful social and economic iniquities that exist within and across the UK.

Just don't - right now at least - ask me how.


Anonymous said...

Pensioners voted no for several reasons:
They are old elderly therefore for most the advantages of Independence appeared to have little effect for them, except pensions security with the triple lock which Westminster has adapted.
You also have a strong "Labour till I die" attitude, combined with a lack of political interest results in a failure to realise, the labour party they loved is gone. And its not that they left labour, its that labour left them.
The other point is a major lack of balance in the media and press, elderly are less likely to have internet access, therefore only heard the argument for no, combined with scare tactics.
Finally on the other end of the spectrum you will have several wealthy pensioners who aligned themselves with the conservative party, in my opinion a selfish ideology, of I'm okay screw the rest, I worked hard to get were I am, failing to appreciate the opportunities that where afforded them on the way up.

On your point of a false prospectus, I would say look at the state of the "fag packet" vow.

Anonymous said...

Well said. As a 'no' voter, I'm horrified by the fact that we live in a rich first world country that still has a need for foodbanks, and by the war on benefits claimants waged by the current government with the assistance of a right-wing media. One of the reasons I was opposed was that I was fairly sure that these trends would worsen in the wake of post-independence austerity, hurting the very people voting 'yes' in the greatest numbers. Perhaps I was wrong to think that - we'll never know for sure - but I feared a newly independent Scotland that would not be at all like the vision sold in 'Scotland's Future' and a nationalist government spending the following couple of decades blaming the rUK Government for its problems.

Like you, I don't know what the answer is - I sometimes think the Scottish Greens have the beginnings of them with ideas like citizens' income (although in my more pessimistic moments, I think it could never be sold to the electorate) - but I do kind of wish they were a UK Green Party not in thrall to separatism. Perhaps I should join and try to change that from the inside...

Colin Erskine said...

You crunch the numbers your way and I'll crunch them my way. They're the same numbers.
My way says Yes was 5.4% of the vote short of a win. I say that's close.

I voted Yes with severe misgivings on the validity of the SNP white paper. The numbers did not stack up. There were no numbers to stack up. To vote Yes I accepted the risk that Scotland may have seen 30+ years of extremely difficult transition. I believe the potential rewards outweighed the potential risk. We can't know that outcome. Scotland voted No and the outcome of that decision is our future.
Our elected Parliament in Holyrood awaits powers granted by our elected Parliament in Westminster.

It's political decisions that steer our economy. Political decisions are made for political reasons. Westminster will now attempt to destroy the SNP and they will use the economy to do it. The powers will be designed to reduce Scottish funding leaving the SNP with a selection of choices as they approach the 2016 election. Cut services, raise taxation or increase borrowing. This Hobson's choice will be dissected by our media and we will watch the SNP politicos squirm.

Your No vote is about to visit economic hardship on this territory with absolutely no upside. No upside unless you relish the poor middle management of Labour back in power in Holyrood.

The economic hurt we are about to receive is the managed decline of a failing state. I think we could have done better.

Glasgow Boy said...

A "Yes" vote was a vote with a high degree of faith/hope/risk. With a "No" vote, you more or less knew exactly what you were getting. Older people are more risk averse but that is necessary to reflect the overall risk aversion/acceptance of the electorate. Taking age groups, genders or regions to task over not voting "Yes" is barmy.

Anonymous said...

I love the quote from the (in)famous BfS who, in one breath will remind you of the national debt the UK has for 'loans [Scotland] haven't taken out' and in the other, convince you that Scotland should have borrowed £8.3bn MORE than we did over the last 5 years! You can't make it up.

I'm upset over the disrespect that the elderly voters are receiving. How dare you presume to know what their voting intentions were? Everyone voted for their OWN reasons. Do not think for a second this means yours is any more valid than theirs.

What bothers me the most is many Yes voters have struggled to grasp the concept of democracy over the last few months, stating 'Independence means we get the Government we vote for' yet here we are post-referendum and after a democratic vote, we have chosen to remain in the UK, however this isn't acceptable? Democracy means a number of people will NEVER get what they vote for. I think the sooner you grasp this concept, the sooner we can move on as part of the UK.

longyear44 said...

"Democracy means a number of people will NEVER get what they vote for."

That awareness from the #indyref will certainly increase people's consciousness of what democracy means and what personal political power entails.