Scottish Independence: interest from Canada

I spoke to 8 Canadian radio stations this morning about the independence referendum. Here are the sorts of points we discussed. If any relate to Quebec, I relied almost completely on notes provided by Professor Nicola McEwen at the SCCC.

  1. It’sanailbiter. What are the latest polls saying?
    • The ‘poll of polls’ continues to show 52 No and 48 Yes if we remove undecided
    • Undecided was once over 20%, now down to a few % in some polls
    • There was one poll last week with Yes on 51%.
    • It appeared to produce panic among the No camp
    • Now, we are back to the small lead for No
    • Women and older people more likely to vote no
  1. What’s fueling the “Yes” campaign? How longstanding is the Scottish desire to separate?
  • Long history since union in 1707
  • Scotland maintained separate institutions (education, law, religious organisation) and you saw indicators of nationalism when they were threatened
  • Post-war period saw high attachment to the UK and welfare state
  • As that diminished, SNP support rose
  • 1970 breakthrough in Westminster
  • 1999 presence in Scottish Parliament
  • Key: 2011 majority government allowed it to have a referendum
  • By the last interview (Vancouver), I realised that people were also asking me about the Yes campaign, so we talked briefly about national identity, but also the big arguments by parts of the Yes campaign – the appeal to social democracy, the prospect of a more prosperous country, an appeal to protect the welfare state, and to have a country in which people did not receive a Conservative government.
  1. What are the strongest arguments for the “No” side?
  • Big focus on uncertainty
  • Economic consequences – currency union, loss of Bank of England, capital flight and businesses moving, smaller budgets, North Sea oil running out
  • Smaller focus on positive aspects of the union, although the ‘lovebomb’ by UK party leaders has now begun, with cancellation of PMQs and trips to Scotland
  • Then, there is the Gordon Brown factor – don’t leave your comrades behind
  • If no, ‘guarantee’ of further economic devolution (some taxes, borrowing, some social security benefits)
  1. Canada has had its own experiences with Independence votes. We’ve had two of them in Quebec. To what extent, if at all, has Scotland learned from the Quebec example?
  • We hear about the Yes lead in 1995 but a No win in the polls
  • Some talk about the ‘neverendum’

Bigger comparisons (provided by Nicola):

  • Not the same language or culture issue
  • Relative absence of grievance in Scotland about the idea of ‘repatriation of the constitution’
  • Scottish parliament less powerful than Canadian provinces – taxes, benefits, energy policy, etc. – So, if Scotland votes No, there is still a lot of road left on the devolution journey.
  • Devolution not federalism. England makes a federal solution difficult.
  • Quebec sovereignty would have created a big physical hole in the middle of Canada, separating Atlantic Canada from the rest. Scottish Independence doesn’t pose the same geographical threat to the rest of the UK’s continued unity
  1. In the event of a “yes” win…what happens then?
  • Scottish Government talks about 18 months of negotiations
  • Stay in the EU until legal process sorted, which could take longer
  • But in both their interests to be quick, to calm the markets and appear competent
  • Big negotiations – currency union, Scotland’s share of debt, Trident
  • Constitution building in Scotland – interim then ‘civic society’ promise
  • Less change in institutions like the Scottish Parliament and likely to be a lot of policy continuity in already-devolved areas.
  1. It must be tense there now…what’s the mood like in Scotland in the lead up to the referendum?
  • Bizarre atmosphere
  • The 51% yes poll was like a shock to the system
  • Very hard to predict what will happen
  • Big focus, quite exciting, after long boring campaign

I also did Canada morning TV recently:


I follow up on most of these issues in a large number of blogs here –

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