Monthly Archives: June 2012

‘Does my accent matter?’

This is some background information to answer Severin Carrell’s (‏@severincarrell ) tweet today: “Goldie interviews northern Englishman lived here 50 yrs or so: “does my accent really matter?” Good question. #indyref #bettertogether”

From Paul Cairney (2011) The Scottish Political System Since Devolution (Exeter: Imprint), pp.147-8:
“The monitors discuss, periodically, Scottish attitudes to who can claim to be Scottish. For example, in 2001, 75% respond that people who immigrate into Scotland cannot be considered Scottish, compared to 15% saying that they can (Curtice, May 2001: 24–5). There is some movement by 2005, but the majority (54% plays 33%) still require more than Scottish residence. In 1999 only a small majority believed that ‘people who live in Scotland but were not born in Scotland should be entitled to a passport in an independent Scotland’ (Curtice, May 2001: 24–5). This rises only to 62% by 2004 (33% against) among ‘majority Scots’ (born in Scotland, not English, not Muslim, and without a partner born outside Scotland—Curtice, May 2004: 23; Miller, 2008: 4).  Further answers (from all respondents) suggest that English residents in Scotland should fake a Scottish accent and keep their birthplace secret if they seek acceptance. While 44% ‘would regard someone who was born in England but now lives permanently in Scotland as “definitely” or “probably” Scottish … 70% said that they would regard a non-white person with a Scottish accent as “definitely” or “probably” Scottish’ (Curtice, May 2004: 23). The latter rose to 90% by 2005, and the colour of the Scottish-accented person’s skin makes no difference (Curtice, September 2006: 30). However, the response differs if the respondent knows that the person in question was born in England; only 44% think that someone born in England with a Scottish accent is Scottish (42% if that person is not white, 15% if they have an English accent, and 11% if they are also not white—Curtice, September 2006: 32). Overall, as Curtice (September, 2006: 31) notes: ‘It would seem that the children of immigrants to Scotland who are born and brought up in the country are readily accepted as Scottish, irrespective of race or colour, but that their parents will to some degree be regarded as “outsiders”’ (see also Curtice, May 2002: 29–30 on mixed Scottish attitudes to immigration; Curtice, November 2003: 22–4 and January 2008: 51–2 on perceived and expressed levels of prejudice). However, perhaps some comfort can be taken from Scottish attitudes to English people. Curtice (August 2000: 7; August 2002: 18–19; May 2006: 37) notes the generally high proportion of Scots who like the English and would support England in the (football) World Cup or European Championships (as long as they don’t ‘lord’ it over the Scots—Curtice, January 2006: 56) There is also no evidence presented to suggest, in surveys of social capital, that people are less likely to ask an English neighbour if they can borrow a sink plunger or £5 for milk (Curtice, January 2006: 62–3).”

The notes in brackets refer primarily to individual ‘Scotland Devolution Monitoring Reports’ which can be found here (up to 2005) and here (2006-9).  This UCL project ended in 2009, but similar work on national identity and attitudes is still being done by people like John Curtice and David McCrone/ Frank Bechhofer.


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Scottish Independence Explained

I am co-authoring a second edition of ‘Scottish Politics’ with Neil McGarvey. It will appear in 2013, with a new chapter explaining Scottish Independence. The first draft of the new chapter can be found here – – or here –  . If, like me, you find Google Docs a bit slow and fiddly, you can just download the file from the site.

The independence debate can be controversial and I have tried (although it usually comes naturally) to make the chapter as dry and unexciting as possible so that no chunk of it can be used for positive or negative purposes (it will just lead to the line, ‘nutty academic says …’). However, it is bound to be biased in ways that I know about, and ways which did not occur to me. Please feel free to point those biases out in a reasonable way. I have recently become addicted to twitter, which might be the best way to comment (@CairneyPaul).


What Does Independence Mean?

Can We Compare Independence with ‘Devo Max’?

What is Fiscal Autonomy?

The Modern History of the Constitutional Change Debate

The National Conversation

The Calman Commission

Summary of the Scotland Act 2012

National Identity and Support for Further Constitutional Change

Support for Constitutional Change: What Exactly is the Question?

Independence: Current Issues and Debates

No to Independence but yes to Devo max?

How Should a Multi-Option Referendum be Ordered?

What Happens Next? The Timing of the Referendum

What are the Big Questions?

Constitutional Change and the European Union

Arguments For and Against Independence

Independence and the Media

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Scotland, Independence and the European Union

I have been moonlighting on another website – here and reproduced below:

“There are some unusual factors to note when we consider the status of an independent (or further devolved) Scotland and the European Union (EU). First, it is odd that we have to make such predictions rather than simply be told what will happen by those in authority. In other words, there seems to be no formal mechanism within the EU to find out what would happen if Scotland separated from the rest of the UK and sought some form of EU membership (the closest thing is a set of informal talks between governments, which are shared with the public rarely). Consequently, the uncertainty is something that can be exploited by opponents of independence, often drawing on speculative pronouncements from expert fortune tellers in a variety of legal, economic and political fields. This problem is not specific to the EU question. Rather, we are in the odd position of having to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to independence before being told what it means in practice. Second, there is no ‘technical’ answer to any of these questions. Any prediction about Scotland’s future is a political statement, no matter the source. We know that this argument applies to all things political, but it seems particularly important in Scotland because the stakes are so high and the level of debate is often so low. Consequently, there is a tendency for commentaries such as these to be pounced on by one side of the debate; to try to portray any academic prophesies as works of genius or folly.

At least we know what some of the key questions are:

1.Will Scotland gain automatic membership of the EU because it currently forms part of a member state? The answer seems to be ‘no’, but the Scottish Government’s position (based on informal talks with members of the European Commission) appears to be much more relaxed about the issue than the UK’s – perhaps because it is largely EU compliant already, following long term membership as part of the UK (compared with, say, Turkey which would have to undergo major institutional change to join).

2.What currency will Scotland adopt? There have been some suggestions that Scotland would be obliged to adopt the Euro, but such claims have not been made for some time. The Scottish Government position is that it would keep the pound (and seek to be part of a sterling monetary union) until the Scottish population voted to enter the Euro (which now seems a distant prospect unless the EU has the inclination and ability to set a time limit for a transition).

3.Can Scotland benefit from the same ‘opt outs’ that the UK enjoys currently? The most economically significant opt-out is the UK ‘rebate’ negotiated by the Thatcher government (and used to keep Euroscepticism down to a manageable level within the Conservative Party). Potentially the most symbolically significant issue regards the need for people crossing the Scotland/ England border to show a passport at border control. This issue, often linked to the image of rebuilding Hadrian’s wall, is used to great effect by opponents of independence. The solution for the SNP may simply be to negotiate the same opt-out from the Shengen agreement that the UK currently enjoys. That would mean maintaining passport controls for visitors from the EU – a practice perhaps made easier by the fact that it is already well established.

4.How will it affect current Scottish Government policies? For example, an independent Scotland would no longer be able to charge £9000 per year tuition fees to students from the rest of the UK ( EU regulations promote the equal treatment of citizens in other member states but appear to allow discrimination against citizens within member states because they do not cross a member state border to assert their rights). This may be the catalyst to reform its fees regime, perhaps by charging fees to all EU members and providing equivalent grants to Scottish residents (those who have lived at least three years in Scotland before going to University).

Some other important questions, that often receive less attention, relate to EU issues that arise if the referendum produces demands for further devolution rather than independence. The term ‘devo max’ (there is also some talk of ‘devo plus’) is both in vogue and rather vague. It is generally taken to mean a significantly enhanced form of devolution in which foreign affairs and defence are two of the few key areas to remain reserved. This becomes complicated in the case of economic policy (the main political battleground). We know that monetary policy will remain reserved in both a devolved and independent Scotland, because keeping sterling means accepting the Bank of England role in areas such as the setting of interest rates. However, we do not know how far Scotland can go down the ‘fiscal autonomy’ road without independence. The Scotland Act 2012 allows for the further devolution of income tax (the Scottish Government can vary it by ten pence in the pound). However, fiscal devolution remains rather low, with income tax, business rates and council tax adding up to 34% of Scottish revenue (note that the Scottish Government currently spends about 60% of Scottish public expenditure). National insurance (18%) remains reserved but could be devolved. The same cannot be said for VAT (17%) and corporation tax (8%) because EU regulations appear to rule out variations within member states (based, for example, on the argument that a reduction of corporation tax represents a form of state aid to regions; there is also considerable EU pressure to harmonise sales taxes). At the risk of being hijacked by the ‘yes’ campaign, this seems to be a more problematic issue than most others. In other words, independence may not present any more problems for Scotland’s role in the EU than further devolution.

Dr Paul Cairney is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Aberdeen. His relevant books include: The Scottish Political System Since Devolution: From New Politics to the New Scottish Government (Exeter: Imprint Academic) and Scottish Politics 2nd edition (Palgrave, with Neil McGarvey – forthcoming 2013). See also: Paul Cairney (2012) ‘Intergovernmental Relations in Scotland: What was the SNP Effect?’, British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 14, 2, 231-49.”

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Political Studies Association: Applying to Study Politics at a British University

The PSA is holding a series of events for students thinking about studying politics and/ or international relations at University.  The notes on my talk on ‘Selecting the right course and institution’ (at the University of Edinburgh, 20th June) are copy and pasted below.  Note the potentially interesting difference in the advice given to students in Scotland:

“Paul Cairney, Senior Lecturer, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Aberdeen

Political Studies Association Workshop on Applying to Study Politics at a British University

Things to think about when selecting a University course in Politics and/ or International Relations

How far should I go?

• Most calculations might be in this order: how much will it cost? Should I stay at home? Will I make new friends? How will it affect my grades? How will it affect my learning?

• Beyond Scotland – to the rest of the UK? Most students in Scotland will not go to the rest of the UK because it will cost them an extra £27000 in fees. This is a reasonable calculation to make, although it would be worth being sure that you know how such fees would be paid back. Some of you may be in the position to see this as an investment in your future rather than a weight around your neck.

• Beyond Scotland – to the rest of Europe? Since the UK is an EU member state, its citizens can go to another EU university and pay the same fees as domestic students. The main obstacle is the language barrier. Few universities will teach undergraduate students in English (postgraduate studies are different) and it is not a good idea to learn a new language when learning a new subject (in my opinion, it is better to have this experience as part of an exchange programme where they teach courses in English).

• Beyond home? There may be a basic trade-off between the costs and benefits of moving away. The costs of living away from home are generally financial and occasionally social. The cost of staying at home can (but may not necessarily) be a relative inability to adapt to University life, since local students often have less of an incentive to form new social networks at University (since they always have the option of their friends and family at home). This may often be a factor in University performance – being engaged and content generally helps people learn.

What is the right institution?

• What are the practical implications of University snobbery? People will always have their own biases about the general quality of particular institutions. Perhaps the main bias to consider is that of employers – will they rate every degree in the same way? The answer is ‘probably not’ but individual employers (and their employees) are difficult to predict.

• What are the key sources of University selection snobbery? The obvious distinction is between Oxford/ Cambridge and the rest, followed by the ‘Russell Group’ (which includes Edinburgh and Glasgow) and the distinction between ‘pre-1992’ (such as Napier, Heriott Watt, GCU, RGU) and ‘post-1992’ universities (such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Dundee, Aberdeen).

• Note the (often large) difference between the status of the University as a whole and the status of individual departments. For example, the University of Essex has one of the highest status political science departments. Strathclyde was once the highest status department in Scotland.

• Note the difference between a department noted for its research excellence and its teaching excellence.

How can we analyse the ‘league tables’?

• Rule of thumb for academics: we don’t rate the tables but we use them if they make us look good

• Rule of thumb overall: Universities are now chasing these tables – are they getting better scores and becoming better Universities?

• Most important league table for academics: the Research Excellence Framework (as a source of prestige and funding)

• Most important league table for students: National Student Survey?

• What do the composite league tables measure?

• Complete University Guide – ‘entry standards’, ‘student satisfaction’, ‘research assessment’, ‘graduate prospects’

• Guardian – NSS, ‘Expenditure per student’, ‘Staff student ratio’, ‘value added score’, ‘entry tariff’

• Times – also includes completion rates and grades achieved

• Times Higher Education (THE) – (1) reputation (2) ‘teaching’, ‘research’, ‘citations’, ‘industry income’, ‘international outlook’ (3) factors such as sports facilities and student unions

• Note 1: handle with care

• Note 2: find subject specific scores

• Note 3: what do you care about most?

What other sources of information are there?

• Prospectus

• Website (University and department)

• Staff pages, blogs and other social media?

• Open days and applicant days

• Liaison visits

• PSA guide?

• Student associations

The important details

• 3 or 4 years?

• Liberal arts or specialise from the start? Or breadth versus depth?

• Mix of compulsory options and course choices?

• What course options interest you?

• Can you be confident that they will exist by the time you get there?

• Research led teaching? What does it mean?

• Do the Professors teach the undergraduates? If so, how much and when? How can you find out? Should you want the Professors?!

• How do they assess your work?

• How do they encourage learning? How do you learn?

• Campus or not?

• City or town?

• Easy to get around or easy to get back? Compare Aberystwyth with (say) Edinburgh.”

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Private Eye Independence Question

Can anyone tell me the date/ issue that this joke ran in the Private Eye?

‘Alex Salmond Reveals The Scottish Independence Question:

A. Do you, my fellow Bravehearts, want Scotland finally to throw off the yoke of our brutal English overlords who have raped and pillaged our proud land for centuries, as we reclaim our stolen heritage and restore pride to this great land? Och Aye

B. Would you prefer to bow and scrape at the feet of spineless Old Etonian Sassenachs who wreak poverty and despair across this proud Scottish land? The Noo’

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