Scottish LingQers: which way are you voting tomorrow and why?

Scottish LingQers: which way are you voting tomorrow and why?

I’m Scottish but I didn’t see this until today, I couldn’t vote but I would of voted YES! But sadly we lost, Schade.

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Even though I’m not Scottish, I was hoping for the yes side to win.

Why did you want the yes side to win?

Because we want to vote for the GOVERNMENT we want, and because we are the minority, we can’t!!!

Mostly I respect the Scots for the civilized way they ran their referendum and how the democratic decision was accepted by all.

Voter turnout of 85% is also impressive.

Thanks Steve for your kind words, the result has been tough for Yes voters like me and my friends and family, and there has been some trouble around town. But in general we as a country have dealt with it well.

Historically turnout around 80% has been pretty normal in German general elections. I am surprised that turnout wasn’t higher in Scotland given that their pension system, their currency, EU/Nato membership and a host of other crucial things were up for vote and irreversibly so.

The turn out for elections are never too high, mostly because there are many people who just haven’t been at all supportive of the political aspects of Scotland. There is also a lot of poverty, 1.8 million people which is lot considering we are small country, with poverty many people wouldn’t be as well informed as some. Where I live in Glasgow the turnout was only 75%, but in some places it was a lot higher.

I am just returning to Vienna from Scotland, I spent the last week with family on the Isle of Barra. I will have some things to say about this tomorrow when I have a proper computer to type on.

I skipped taking a holiday during the summer when everybody else was away and spent the time in Vienna working so that I could take my holiday during the referendum instead. Even though I couldn’t vote, I wanted to go to Scotland for the referendum anyway. I chose the Isle of Barra as my preferred location. This is where my dad and brother live, and it is where my grandfather, the piper Duncan Johnstone, was originally from. Getting there is either very interesting if you decide to fly, or very tedious if you decide to get the boat. I flew. Here is a picture I took of the plane on the runway at Barra international airport

Barra is a pretty bleak island at the southern tip of the Outer Hebrides. Very little happens on the island and its primary claim to fame is the movie Whiskey Galore. The main metropolis is Castlebay, which gets its name from having a castle in the bay.

I had no idea when I went, whether the island would be predominantly Yes (for independence) or No (against independence). On the one hand, it is traditionally Catholic dominated, as I understand it, so it would probably swing towards Yes, but on the other hand, it has a relatively old population, so maybe it would be No. It seemed very clear when I arrived that the island was Yes. I saw Yes signs all over the place, and everyone I talked to was Yes (which was not many people since most people spend most of the time hiding from the wind). I neither saw nor heard anything from the No campaign.

Strangely, the Outer Hebrides, like most other places, voted No. Either the No people simply were not making as much noise on the island as the Yes people, or they had all their support on the much larger islands to the north. I suspect it was a bit of both of these things, but clearly the support for the Yes side was overestimated all over Scotland. The week before referendum week, a few polls seem to show that a Yes vote might happen. The final result was clearly very different, with the No side winning by a larger than expected margin.

To be honest, I suspected before the referendum that the polls would overestimate the support for the Yes side. The reason I thought so, which may or may not be the true reason, is that I suspect it is more difficult in Scotland to admit to being a No supporter than to admit to being a Yes supporter. The belief that the Scottish are anti-English in general is nonsense, though there is a widespread attitude that one should not be too pro-English. Admitting to being a supporter of the union between England and Scotland is similar to admitting to supporting England in the footy. Plenty of Scots do support England in the football, but they won’t be as ready to volunteer this information as the people who brag about supporting whoever are playing against England.

I would have voted no if I could have. I would like to think that this is because I have carefully examined the arguments on both sides and come to the conclusion that remaining in the United Kingdom would be the best for Scotland, but I doubt many people are able to do this. Probably it is because I lived in England as a child for ten years and have some subconscious patriotic love of Britain. There are plenty of arguments for both sides, but in general, I doubt they are what convinced most people. Someone who feels themselves to be British and wants to be part of a united Britain will usually convince themselves that the arguments for the No side are irrefutable and will either ignore the arguments for the Yes side, or find ways to believe they are wrong or simply not as important as the arguments for the No side. The same is true for people who support the other side.

So what are the arguments that I would like to believe convinced me that a No vote would be the best? In the run up to the referendum, I didn’t pay so much attention to the propaganda from the two campaigns. The people representing these campaigns are mostly just talking heads who will say whatever they think will give them a political advantage. I did pay some attention to them. I was never convinced by the claim that Scotland would not be allowed to join the EU if it left the UK. This seemed highly unlikely, though maybe the Spaniards would have made it a little bit difficult for Scotland for a short time in order to satisfy their own internal political needs. The best argument for the No campaign, as I saw it, was the issue of the currency Scotland would use. Alex Salmond was pushed quite a bit on this issue in his second debate with Alistair Darling. He basically said that if the remnants of the UK did not agree to a monetary union, Scotland would not pay its share of the country’s national debt. This is extremely irresponsible. Scotland should pay its share of the national debt and this issue should not be used to blackmail the rest of the UK into a monetary union. In the event of no monetary union, he said Scotland would use the pound anyway. I can’t claim to understand economics enough to say if this is really a bad thing, though I never saw any justification from the Yes side that this would be a workable solution.

Another argument against the Yes side is the EU. From the beginning, the referendum has been completely misrepresented by both sides. If Scotland left the UK, it would join the EU and would therefore not be an independent country. I am no EU skeptic and I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing, but it is the truth. I suspect if the Scots understood that they were not voting for an independent Scotland, but only for a more-independent-than-it-currently-is Scotland then the Yes side would have lost a lot of support.

What about the arguments for the Yes side? Well Lewis has already given the strongest argument for the Yes side. Scotland is primarily governed by the British government. The British parliament is dominated by MPs from England and in general elections the government is primarily decided by English voters. In almost every general election, the Scottish votes could have been removed, and the final result would have been basically the same. This would not matter if the English and the Scots were voting the same way, but this is very often not the case. The result is that Scotland often gets a government that it does not vote for and does not want. Of course one could say the same for any region of any country where the people generally vote differently to the country as a whole, but it is important to remember that Scotland is not a region of a country. Scotland is a country within a union of countries. This is a powerful argument in favour of Scotland leaving the UK.

I don’t think this argument is quite as strong as it might seem for two reasons. Firstly, Scottish support for the Conservative party is not as small as is often claimed. Scotland elected 59 MPs (Members of Parliament) to the British parliament in the 2010 general election, and only one of them was Conservative. However, this tiny number is partly a result of the first past the post system for electing MPs where in individual regions of the country, the winner is the person with the largest number of votes. In fact the Conservative party won 16.7% of the votes in Scotland, which would translate to around 10 MPs if there was proportional representation. This is similar to the number of people who voted for the SNP and the Liberal Democrats. The fact remains though, that Scotland voted overwhelmingly for Labour (42%) and got a Convervative-Lib Dem government. My other reason for thinking this is not such a strong argument is that there is not much difference between the major British political parties anyway. Scotland might be voting for a Labour government and getting a Conservative government, but it makes little difference, since they are mostly the same.

As well as the genuinely strong arguments given in favour of the Yes side, a whole bunch of nonsense arguments have been floating about. When I was in Scotland, somebody told me that in the previous week, the Ministry of Defence said that they would not move the British nuclear missile carrying submarines to England because it was too dangerous, but it was ok for them to be in Scotland because Scottish lives are not worth as much as English lives. In reality, the interpretation is highly implausible and the claim itself has only a superficial resemblance to the real story. Even more amazingly, someone I know on Facebook claimed that YouTube were deleting all pro-independence videos to censor the pro-independence side. Why they would do this was never explained. I think the BBC was clearly biased towards the No side, but some of the conspiricy theories I heard about them are bonkers.

Anyway, whatever the arguments for the two sides are, we don’t have the ability to run experiments where we make two identical copies of the universe and really find out the consequences of Scotland leaving the UK. For now Scotland remains in the UK. For how long, I do not know. I don’t think there should be another referendum for 25 years at least, unless we have a referendum to leave the EU. If the UK leaves the EU, which I doubt will happen, it will be because the English decided to do it, in which case, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland should have referendums to decide if they want to follow England or to remain in the EU.

What the long-term effects of the referendum will be is unclear. It looks like the Scottish parliament will be getting more power, but what will actually become of the vague desperate promises made last week before the referendum is anyones guess. David Cameron is now cynically using the result to try to increase the power of the Conservative party in England. One clear outcome of the referendum is the loss of Alex Salmond. I think this is a man who deserves a lot of respect. I wish we could replace all these worthless career politicians with people like him.

Possibly the most significant result of the referendum is that now the Scottish independence movement needs to be taken seriously. Five years ago, I thought of the people who support Scottish independence as soppy idiots who have seen Braveheart too many times, know nothing of British history, and only want independence because “f*** those English bawbags”. Clearly this is not true, although a lot of people on the No side still like to smear the Yes side with this image. The independence movement is not going to disappear now that the referendum is over. Sooner or later, they will have another chance, and if I am still around, I cannot say now which way I will vote.

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I hope there will be another indy ref in a couple of years time, for the 45% .

Who knows, maybe you will get your wish. If the Scottish parliament is not given extensive new powers, as was promised, maybe there could be a second referendum, and in that case, the vote will probably by yes.

Interesting read. A bit strange though that there is not a word about the North Sea oil.

Well I would need at least three words to mention North Sea oil.

Ok, but seriously, I don’t really have any thoughts on North Sea oil. Nobody seems to know how much of it there currently is, but it would certainly be a boost to Scotland, if Scotland left the UK. Shame about what burning the stuff does to the planet.

Here is a great blog post by Peter Hitchens about the referendum.

And another interesting one about the West-Lothian question (the thing I mentioned about David Cameron “cynically using the result to try to increase the power of the Conservative party in England”).

Oh boy, this is some funny stuff.

I suggest reading the entire thing.

I know this is an old post, but I have a question. Would the recent EU referendum sway you to support Scottish independence if there were a second Indy Ref?