Scottish Referendum – Blog 17 Sept 2014
Brown boomed; Salmond soared.
In the Scottish referendum campaign it’s been a day of high drama – in what have already been several weeks of high-tension political theatre. Many Scotts saw today as the culmination of weeks, months, years – in some cases even centuries – of campaigning for an independent Scotland.
The day began in Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, with the former UK Prime Minister and notable Scot, Gordon Brown, appealing to his fellow countrymen and women to vote NO and remain part of a United Kingdom. It ended in the fair city of Perth with Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, making a rock-star entrance to the city’s concert hall and issuing the YES rallying cry of ‘let’s do this now’.
Both were performing to halls filled with one-hundred-percent supporters. The performances were of course far more for the attention of the rest of the country, beyond the walls of the respective venues. In both cases, social media lit up with effusive praise for the two ‘champions’: “the speech of his life” was not an uncommon phrase – from supporters on both sides.
As an EU watcher, I’ve listened to and read every report I can about what a YES vote might mean for Scotland and the EU. The truth seems to be that no one really knows. Speaking to Scots, political scientists and analysts, and fellow journalists in Edinburgh, views vary widely:
– Will there really be another border between England and Scotland?
– Will Scotland be forced in the end to adopt the Euro?
– How will Scotland fare without a bank of last resort?
– What will be the real impact on Britain’s position in the EU of losing 5 million people?
There are those who broadly take the Alex Salmond line that, in the end, the EU will come to some sort of accommodation with Scotland – afterall Scotland already follows the acquis communautaire (the EU’s ‘rule book’) and is an important part of the EU’s economy, not least where fishing stocks and oil are concerned. And then there are others who say Spain will stymy any attempt by Scotland to become the EU’s 29th member state, fearful as Spain is of further bolstering the spirit of independence in its regions, not least Catalonia. There are also those who believe further devolution for Scotland, in whatever guise, will lead some regions of EU member states – including in the UK – to examine more closely their own economies compared to their state’s national economy, and demand a better deal. Westminster is not the only political centre that’s twitchy about tomorrow’s (18th September) vote.
Sampling (a small quantity of) an AYE and a NAY beer at a media reception in Edinburgh last night, I heard the case of a Dutch colleague who is currently living in Scotland. As a tax-paying resident of the Alba nation, she is entitled to vote. She has only lived in Scotland for a few months and is not planning to make it her permanent home. So she is feeling heavily burdened with the responsibility of deciding the fate of a country where she will be but a transient resident. What is the right thing to do in such a situation? She is not yet sure. But she – like Messers Brown and Salmond – is only too aware that every last vote will count.
So now – back to Edinburgh for voting day. The turnout is expected to be unprecedented (the sort that dictators invent). And so it’s hard to know if the pollsters, working in such unchartered waters, have been accurate. The latest puts the two sides just 2 points apart; with Alex Salmond almost relishing the chance this evening to describe his camp as the ‘underdogs’, a term he perhaps hopes acts as a strong voting fillip.
May be it’s my recent Edinburgh taxi drivers – ever a political barometer for over-hasty journalists – who best capture the mood. One said he preferred to keep his counsel and leave the febrile atmosphere to tourists and the media; the other said his support for the NO side had led three lesbian passengers to accuse him of being a traitor.
The gamut of emotions and opinions is well and truly being run.
Tomorrow feels like just the conclusion of the first act of this action-packed drama.
Voting begins at 7am (18 Sept 2014).
(Updates to follow)