Monday, 15 September 2014

Forever is a long long time

Over the weekend, Cameron set out to make it clear that a vote for an independent Scotland is irrevocable.  Strictly speaking, it’s not entirely true; I can think of no good reason why an attempt to recreate the union a generation or three hence would necessarily be ruled out if it appeared to be in the best interests of all concerned.  But in practice, once countries have gained their independence, they invariably decide to keep it, and there is no reason why Scotland would be any different.
That means, of course, that the referendum is not an even-sided contest in one sense.  A decision to remain in the union in this stage does not settle the issue anywhere near as definitively as a decision to leave, even though the unionists seem to speak as though it does. 
Much of what I’ve heard from the Westminster elite during the referendum campaign brings to mind the words of the late Iain McLeod at the time of rapid decolonisation, when he said that people tend to prefer self-government to good government.  It's true, but there’s also a very colonial attitude in the statement, with its implication that ‘good government’ depended on continuing to be part of the empire as was.
And that attitude, albeit unspoken, seems still to permeate the debate from the Westminster side in Scotland.  The Old Etonian and Oxbridge elite which still largely runs the UK really neither understands why anybody might want things to be different nor believes that anyone else can ‘do’ government as well as them.  This lack of understanding at such a basic level has been a huge handicap for the ‘no’ side; it’s as though the Establishment for many months simply assumed that it was as obvious to everyone else as it was to them that the status quo is natural and inevitable.
One might think that a ruling elite which saw the loss, during the twentieth century, of huge swathes of its territory and population might have learned by now that the sky doesn’t fall in as a consequence.  But their increasingly wild and incredible forecasts of “financial meltdown” and other forms of disaster at the thought of a mere 8% of the population going its own way indicate either that they have learned nothing or else that they really don’t believe most of what they are saying.  I tend to the latter interpretation; they may be stuck in outdated attitudes, but I don’t, on the whole, consider them stupid.
Apparently, Wellington never actually said that “The Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton”, but that doesn’t mean that the alumni of that college and other similar institutions don’t end up with a certain feeling of superiority, and a belief that they are born to govern the rest of us.  Whilst they are trying to persuade the Scots that independence would be bad for them, I suspect that it isn’t really concern for what is or is not good for the Scots which drives them.  Their driver probably isn’t even about what’s good or bad for the UK as a whole either, beyond their belief that their continued control is obviously a good thing.  Their problem is that a break-up of the UK challenges what they see as the natural order of things, and that includes both the UK’s role in the world and their own role in the UK.  

And that’s a pretty good reason for anyone to vote yes.


Anonymous said...

I, too, want to see Scotland vote YES. But perhaps for different reasons.

No matter, the referendum result has been assured for some time. The 'educated' will vote NO, the 'un-educated' will vote YES and the old, in memory of wartime will vote NO.

One third for, two third's against.

The politicians, other than providing the impetus for the initial debate, will be seen to have had no effect whatsoever. Just as it should be. This is not a country that has time for politicians, never has had and hopefully never will have.

Granted they have a role in life but let's not exaggerate such.

Glyn Morris said...

Three used to be an Unionist argument that because the people of Ireland wanted Independence Prometheus then the greatest Empire in the World. It was clear they did not have the wherewithal or intelligence
to make such a decision.

John Dixon said...


More sweeping assertions: "The 'educated' will vote NO, the 'un-educated' will vote YES" This is opinion presented as fact, and tells us more about you than about any referendum.

Anonymous said...

11:41, Let's wait and see ......................

As for opinion presented as fact, isn't this what politicians of every sort do each and every day.

Scientists deal in fact, the rest of us deal with opinions based upon fact.

Or am I missing something?

John Dixon said...

"... the rest of us deal with opinions based upon fact". Then where are the facts on which your opinion is based?

Anonymous said...

I present some facts, albeit based upon social science rather than neat science.

Educated people tend to be more mobile, get better jobs and earn more. By earning more, or having the freedom to earn more if they so choose (or need) they are relatively content with financial matters but less content with peripheral matters.

Poorly educated tend to earn less and their actions are oft dictated by their desire or need for more.

The old can either remember the war or remember the effect the war had on their parents and formative years.

John Dixon said...


You're still more than a trifle confused between fact, inference, and opinion; the result is that even if your process starts with facts, it ends up with conclusions which are clearly at variance with other demonstrable facts. I won't deconstruct everything you say here - life's too short - but let's just take the first of your three points as an example of the problem which I have not only with your comments on this post, but with a series of comments you've made on other posts as well.

"Fact: Educated people tend to be more mobile, get better jobs and earn more." As a general statement, I'll accept that as true. But "...they are relatively content with financial matters but less content with peripheral matters" is inference; it may or may not be true. It certainly does not follow simplistically from the original fact. And even if it were true, it is insufficient evidence to support your original claim that "The 'educated' will vote NO". As a general statement, that assertion is patently untrue, given that there are many highly educated people amongst the supporters of the yes campaign, just as there are many less well-educated people on the no side.

Your original assertion was, effectively, that there is a direct causal link between the level of education which people have received and the way they vote. That is not only not a fact; it is demonstrably untrue. To repeat, you are entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.

Anonymous said...

16:12, Gosh, we're getting ourselves into a bit of a mess here with what's true and not true, what's fact and not fact, what's opinion and not opinion.

If you are right about Thursday's result and it is a YES I will agree with your viewpoint. On the other hand, if you are wrong, which I suspect you will be, you must agree with my viewpoint.

Either way, Thursday will prove a a useful for both of theories.

Let's see what happens.

John Dixon said...

"... we're getting ourselves into a bit of a mess here with what's true and not true, what's fact and not fact, what's opinion and not opinion." Well, yes. For some of us the distinction is an important one. I guess you're not amongst us on that.

"If you are right about Thursday's result and it is a YES..." When did I say that it would be? Whilst I hope for a yes, I've not made any prediction. The only FACTS (see the importance of that word?) that I have to hand are the opinion polls, which suggest a very close result either way.

"On the other hand, if you are wrong, which I suspect you will be, you must agree with my viewpoint." Even if I had made a prediction, and even if it proved wrong, why would I then be bound to agree with your viewpoint that the vote is the result of a causal relationship between the level of education received and the way people vote? You've made some silly comments before; but that is about the silliest yet.

Anonymous said...

Someone once said the earth was round. Silly fool, said another.

'Till Thursday.

Peter Freeman said...

It would seem that the narrowness of the polls has got the establishment scared. All along they have behaved as though all that was necessary was a few pie crust promises and the Scots would do as they were told and vote for union.
Now the Old Etonians suspect that it may not be as cut and dried as they imagined and there is panic.
Interestingly, Labour party politicians who swore that they would never vote with the Tories find themselves in bed with their enemies over self government. Interesting times.

Gyda llaw, mae llawer mwy amynedd gyda di na beth sydd gyda fi.