Cool heads win over Scottish independent brave hearts

A ROLLER-COASTER campaign saw Scotland flirt with freedom but finally decide to switch back to safety mode and snuggle up to the south after all.

Despite the woeful efforts of the No side, the country choose by a decisive ten point margin to stay in the United Kingdom after all the drama of a slew of eve of election knife-edge polls.

But it will now need to be a radically different UK transformed by the shock waves of sheer panic that swept Westminster when the polls first put the Yes side ahead three weeks ago.

In one of the stand-out moments of a colourful campaign a yes supporter on a rickshaw stalked a group of Labour MPs canvassing as he boomed out the ‘Imperial Death March’ from Star Wars and kept announcing through a megaphone: “People of Glasgow your imperial masters have arrived!”

It was an extreme, though extremely effective, annunciation of the dislocation felt by the 8% of the UK population living in Scotland who feel ignored and patronised by a Tory-led government in London elected by the 85% of Britons living in England, not them.

Indeed it was often remarked during the referendum that pandas out number the solitary Tory MP in Scotland two to one.

Desperation at the thought of dissolving the union saw Scotland effectively offered home rule, and it will now be intriguing to see if London lives up to that promise and also then deals with the inevitable demands from Wales and Northern Ireland for equal treatment.

Not to mention the very real problem British prime minister David Cameron has in facing down furious English Tory MPs terrified at the idea of a sweet deal for SNP leader Alex Salmond pushing their supporters further into the arms of UKIP.

Though it likes to look upon itself as the mother of democracy, the UK shared with colonel Gaddafi’s Libya the ignominy of being one of the few nations without a written constitution.

Now the forces unlashed by Scotland’s howl of rage will need to usher in a raft of radical changes because if a cornered Cameron retreats into smug complacency as the Canadian government did after the first Quebec referendum on independence in 1980, we will all be back here within a decade, and next time Scotland will go for good — no matter how high the fear factor is cranked up that that means going for (being) broke.

Ironically, the shake-up in Scotland should deliver English liberation as (mainly Labour) Scots MPs can vote at Westminster on what goes on in England, but English MPs have no such influence on what happens over the border due to devolution.

Answering what has become known as “the English question” could throw-up the bizarre situation where Britain has a majority Labour government, yet with only English MPs allowed to vote on English legislation, 85% of the country will be effectively ruled by the Conservatives.

Another interesting aspect of the campaign was the sudden rehabilitation of Gordon Brown who was transformed from tainted lost leader to saviour of the union.

Bringing Mr Brown centre stage was a sign of the No camp’s desperation as it was under his watch that Labour’s traditional working class vote shifted massively to the SNP, triggering demands for a referendum in the first place.

And it was fitting Mr Brown referenced Macbeth in his stand-out rallying speech of the closing days of the campaign as he has always cut something of a tragic Shakespearean figure.

Mr Brown plotted and twisted relentlessly in the background throughout Tony Blair’s premiership, constantly demanding the crown he believed should have rightfully been his all along, only for the kingdom to wither once he finally took over as the economic crash saw him lose control of events.

Regaining the rhetorical flourish and bombast that was his forte before his disaster-laden three years in Downing Street, Mr Brown has now rewritten his political epitaph and recast himself as a transformative figure of substance once more.

Mr Brown was the one person the SNP leader would not debate, and though he lost in the end, Mr Salmond played a largely brilliant long game, tripling support for independence from the half million votes the nationalists achieved at the last election, but in the end was fatally undone by lack of detail on the currency issue.

Mr Salmond insisted Scotland could still keep sterling whether the rest of the UK liked it or not as he cited the way Panama anchored itself to the US dollar as an example.

It was a rare tactical error by the canny first minister which was seized upon by opponents who asked how could independence mean anything if interest rates and the economic realities of Scotland where set by a Bank of England that geared its policies towards the needs of a suddenly foreign country south of the border?

Panama was also an unfortunate comparison as, unlike the Irish House of Lords, the Scottish parliament was not bribed into union with England — it came cap in hand in 1707 following a financial crisis in part caused by a disastrous attempt to colonise Panama.

From then on Scotland played a disproportionate role in Britain’s rise to imperial globalism, so it would have been ironic if it was virtually the last territory to leave London’s embrace now.

Noting that England had controlled a quarter of the world’s surface until the 1940s, US political satirist John Stewart mused that if Scotland opted for independence all London would have left would be “the quarter of Ireland that doesn’t hate it, and Wales, a country so poor in natural resources, it has to import vowels for its place names.”

The pro-independence alliance claimed it lost partly because of a media campaign of aggressive distortion directed against it, and though one Sky News presenter who forgot her mike was still on did describe a Yes campaigner as “a knob”, there was far more at play than that.

In the end cool heads won out over brave hearts.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

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