Scotland after No: Giving meaning to a vote

Pitfalls and opportunities after Thursday’s referendum

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond. (AP Photo)

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond. (AP Photo)

And then pro-independence leader Alex Salmond resigned as first minister and leader of his political party, and Prime Minister David Cameron promised a revolution in the management of the U.K., and Conservative House leader William Hague was pressed into service to find ways to advance English interests in a reform that was promised to Scotland, and it’s all very exciting and fraught with danger.

If Great Britain’s administration isn’t changed to give Scots a sense of greater control over their affairs, then that’s a promise broken. And since the 1995 Quebec referendum was largely about separatist assertions that promises made in the 1980 referendum hadn’t been kept, the stakes here are high. But if Scotland gets the sense that its needs have been met and England doesn’t, that’s trouble, too, because the English outnumber the Scots 10 to one. Nigel Farage, the U.K. Independence Party leader, is working hard to emphasize points of disagreement.

“I think this is part of keeping the United Kingdom together,” Hague told The Telegraph, and already I’m a little nervous. The dynamic set up by “The Vow” the three parliamentary leaders published the day before the vote is annoyingly similar to the dynamic that prevailed in Canada after both the 1980 and 1995 referendums. The No leaders began the campaign asserting that the choice was simple—in or out?—and ended up making vague promises of change in return for a No vote. Well, then, if you don’t deliver “change,” and indeed, if you do deliver change but fail to satisfy the definitions of “change” set by cultural arbiters like newspaper editorialists, then you’ve “failed” and your country has “failed” and the separatists were, they will tell one another, “right all along.”

And yet a very large number of the No voters on Thursday were expressing affection, not for “change,” but for Britain. An exit poll shows that fully 72 per cent of No voters knew they’d vote that way at least a year ago. So they can’t have been lured to that camp by late-inning promises from David Cameron and Labour Party Leader Ed Miliband. And No voters were as likely to cite “strong attachment to the U.K.” as a reason for their vote as they were to mention “extra powers for the Scottish Parliament.”

So millions of people voted to stay in Britain because they like Britain. Cameron and Hague and Miliband and all the rest need to keep that in mind as they try to fulfill the promise (sorry, “Vow”) of the campaign’s closing days. They must avoid the temptation toward brinksmanship. They can’t, as former prime minister Brian Mulroney did with the Meech Lake accord, accept or make themselves the argument that disaster will certainly befall the country if this or that reform isn’t passed. As late as 1998, at a premiers’ meeting in Calgary, Saskatchewan’s premier, Roy Romanow, was telling reporters, “You can’t fight something with nothing. And right now, Canada has nothing.”

That wasn’t true for Canada then, and it’s not true for Great Britain now. Most of the people who voted to stay in Britain like Britain. They were right to do so. There’s no need to start telling them they weren’t.


Scotland after No: Giving meaning to a vote

  1. Well, the Scots had the chance to vote themselves off the Titanic…and they didn’t take it.

    Nae more sympathy for Scotland.

  2. Scots made a common sense decision to stay with a union that has worked reasonably well for 307 years.

  3. Old favourite Scottish Joke:
    A Scottish Soldier, in full dress uniform, marches into a pharmacy.
    Very carefully he opens his sporran and pulls out a neatly folded cotton
    bandana,unfolds it to reveal a smaller silk square handkerchief, which he also
    unfolds to reveal a condom.

    The condom has a number of patches on it.The chemist holds it up and eyes it critically.

    “How much to repair it?’ The Scot asks the chemist.
    “Six pence” says the chemist.

    “How much for a new one?” “Ten pence” says the chemist.

    The Scot painstakingly folds the condom into the silk square handkerchief
    and the cotton bandana,replaces it carefully in his sporran, and marches out of the door,
    shoulders back and kilt swinging.

    A moment or two later the chemist hears a great shout go up outside,
    followed by an even greater shout.

    The Scottish soldier marches back into the chemists and addresses the
    proprietor, this time with a grin on his face.

    “The regiment has taken a vote,” he says. “We’ll have a new one.”

  4. Quibble: Scotland did not, nor can it ever, vote to stay in Britain or Great Britain– that is actually a geographic term for the island shared by Scotland, England and Wales. What they have voted to remain part of is the United Kingdom, which also includes Northern Ireland.

  5. Scotland is collectively suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

  6. Scots voted “NO” because now they can hold out for even more handouts, just like Quebec has done since 1980.
    No? well look a little more under the kilts, and what’s the name of that game?
    ahh ok.
    If they were not, then it would have been a resounding “YES”, trust me Laddies/Lassies, we’ve been under the same gun from Quebec for the last 2 referendums.
    In other words, and this is a good highlander-saying fron long ago, “you can pull the wool over your eyes.”
    but, well, …’ya know the rest. Lol.

  7. The Conservatives have successfully installed an “indirect Taxation” scheme into Alberta and pushed through a flat tax of 10% which burdens the lower, middle class and upper middle class with the tax burden leaving corporations off light. The coming election is going to be about that in part.

    The indirect taxation means the cities own the power and utilities. Although Prentice claim is market system is working there is absolutely no controls over the line charges put on by the power companies. EPCOR is the most notorious. There is 1.5 million meters spinning in this province. If the power company puts in a 2.00 janitorial charge as an example that is 3 million dollars a month being brought into the cities that the province does not have to supply.

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