Tuesday, 10 January 2012
The Independence Referendum - annoyance is important
I'm not much of a blogger, and you probably shouldn't blog when you are annoyed (just like email), but I am annoyed and so I want to blog about the independence referendum chatter. What a pile of nonsense. Yes, that's quite vague, but that is my overall feeling about the current debate. There is the usually excellent reasoning given by John Curtice about why David Cameron is pushing the issue now, in terms of current opinion polls and the window of opportunity to close the matter down. However, I don't think there are many analyses about the basic link to the emotions on which we draw when we make major decisions. We make different decisions when we are annoyed. We make different decisions when we feel that we are being pressured or told what to do. We make different decisions when people tell us that we do not have the right to make decisions. Indeed, we might even make contrary choices simply because some people have told us to do otherwise. That is why David Cameron's recent strategy seems so off the mark. In my mind, the only thing that will produce a 'yes to independence' vote is a combination of two things: (1) the referendum is held and controlled by the Conservative-led UK Government (since many Scots feel much more strongly about the Conservatives than they do about constitutional change); and, (2) it asks a stark yes/ no question about independence (since the best way to ensure a lower vote for independence is to offer further devolution instead). However, the more that this goes on, the more I think that the Conservative-led UK Government can screw it up without holding the referendum itself. All it has to do is keep banging on about the 18-month timetable of permission (just as Iron Lady is coming to our screens) and watch as a huge population of docile people suddenly get annoyed enough to vote 'yes'. For anecdotal evidence, take me as a best case. When asked about this issue in private I say 'I don't care about independence'. When asked on academic panels, and I have to be more polite and sound more intelligent, I say 'I really don't think that independence will have a significant effect on our daily lives'. Yet, now, I DO care - and, if the vote was tomorrow, I would vote 'yes'. Now, let's say that I am am a relatively intelligent and thoughtful person, that I think carefully about major decisions and that, therefore, I am a decent 'best case' for either side. I have just said that a combination of David Cameron's poor strategy, combined with being annoyed by commentators on Sky News saying 'we English should have a say, too' (the best response seems to be to consider a relationship in which one person wants out; the other person gets a say in how they divvy up their possessions, but not if they stay together), has made me want to vote 'yes' instantly. Now consider all those people who don't study Scottish politics for a living and are much more likely to make an emotional decision backed on little evidence. Be careful not to open doors towards you, otherwise you will be knocked over by the stampede to the polling booths (or, in my case, first class post). My advice to unionists is simple: do not let anyone from the current (or, in the case of Michael Forsyth, former) UK Government near this issue (with the exception of civil servants negotiating the details behind closed doors). There may be few sparkling lights in the Scottish political class, but the fact that they are practicing their politics in Scotland and adapting to its environment is much more valuable than a smoother operator making pronouncements from on high.