The latest TNS BMRB poll in Scotland is showing a small if significant rise in support for the pro-sovereignty Yes side in the run-up to the September referendum on Scottish independence. When “undecideds” are stripped out the anti-sovereignty No vote has dropped to 56% while the Yes vote has increased to 44%, a 3% jump since the last poll in June. In part the rise in support for the SNP-led proposition is the growing popularity of independence amongst British Labour Party supporters in Scotland despite the party’s fierce opposition to constitutional progress. The latest poll is being interpreted as a sign that voters are now firming up in their preferred choices on the referendum question.
It says much for the fantasy politics of British nationalism that a decision by the English-born children’s author JK Rowling to boost the already hefty warchest of the Unionist “No” campaign with a donation of one million pounds is being heralded by the right-wing press in Britain as “the most significant” celebrity intervention in the referendum campaign so far. Rowling is famous for her “Harry Potter” series of juvenile books in which a youth destined to greatness because of his superior parentage overcomes a nefarious opponent of lesser ancestry in a familiar Fantasy trope. The writer herself offered few substantive reasons for her opposition to Scotland’s right to be a sovereign nation beyond some egregious insults directed towards pro-independence Scots by referencing evil characters from her own books:
“…a little Death Eaterish for my taste.”
Of course when two ordinary Scottish citizens, Chris and Colin Weir, donated a substantial amount of money towards the “Yes” campaign from their recent lottery win both were vilified throughout the conservative and liberal British news media in an epic smear campaign. Rowling on the other hand is being hailed as the saviour of London’s hegemony on the island of Britain. To use a formula she might well appreciate it seems that for the British press:
Pro-British millionaires = good wizards
Pro-Scottish millionaires = bad wizards
Of course the Unionist newspapers are now spinning the story like crazy with hyped-up claims that the author has already been subject to a series of online attacks by “Yes” supporters in her adopted country (“attacks” being a code word for criticism or queries about her anti-sovereignty views).
Oh well, at least it adds a bit more more colour to an already garish debate. Though of course the one debate you are unlikely to see is the one between the head of government with an actual democratic mandate in Scotland and the head of government who has no mandate at all. Now that is a little bit Lord Voldemort, isn’t it?
Some more good news for the Scottish language (Scottish Gaelic) with the announcement by Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, that a further £2.1 million pounds (2.5 million euros) will be made available to MG Alba, the state-funded media organisation. The group funds Scottish language television and radio programmes in cooperation with the BBC and various independent production companies and the news came at the opening ceremony of MG Alba’s new headquarters in Stornoway on the western Isle of Lewis. The building will serve as a Gaelic media hub housing studios for BBC Alba and BBC Radio nan Gàidheal. There is more on the Stornoway Gazette and in an article carried by the Scotsman newspaper (where you get the fun of reading the puerile Comments by the usual crowd of Anglophone supremacists and bigots).
There is truly nothing more astonishing in this world than a British nationalist politician who is completely oblivious of his own nation’s history of imperial misdeeds and crimes around the globe. Or worse, actually believes that such things are worthy of veneration because they were committed by the nation of Britain and are therefore above approach (oh lucky slaves and occupied peoples who in lived in that part of the atlas coloured pink!). It’s like waking up in some bizarre parallel universe where the Third Reich won WWII and sixty years later its leaders look back with pride on those halcyon days or where Joseph Stalin had gone on to win the Nobel Prize for Peace (a not entirely inconceivable idea, admittedly, given the list of those who actually did win the honour). So we have the less than edifying spectacle of a former, nominally left-wing British government minister and NATO make-an’-shaker, nouveau aristo George Robertson, beating the war drums like a thing possessed in relation to Scotland’s upcoming referendum on independence. From the Guardian newspaper:
“Lord Robertson, the former defence secretary and Nato chief, has claimed that Scottish independence would have a “cataclysmic” effect on European and global stability by undermining the UK on the world stage.
A former secretary general of Nato, Robertson said the “loudest cheers” after a yes vote would come from the west’s enemies and other “forces of darkness”.
“What could possibly justify giving the dictators, the persecutors, the oppressors, the annexers, the aggressors and the adventurers across the planet the biggest pre-Christmas present of their lives by tearing the United Kingdom apart?” Robertson told the Brookings Institute on onday.”
The forces of darkness?! This is politics and democracy reduced to the level of Star Wars. British Unionism as an ideology has finally sunk to the level of Tea Party-style insanity. And it’s showing.
Another poll, another rise in support for Scottish independence (and the SNP) with this year’s momentous referendum half-a-year away. From the Scotsman newspaper:
“SUPPORT for Scottish independence has reached its highest level for more than six months, according to a new opinion poll.
When asked how they would vote if the referendum was held today, 39.3 per cent of those surveyed said Yes, compared to 47.6 per cent who said No.
The remaining 13.1 per cent of those who were questioned were undecided according to the poll, by Survation for The Daily Record and Dundee University [ASF: here].
It is the highest support for independence since August last year, when a poll by Panelbase found 44 per cent of people backed Scotland leaving the UK.
Survation questioned 1,002 people aged 16 and over between March 6 and March 7, and also looked at how Scots could vote in the next Holyrood election.
That put the SNP ahead of Labour, with 44.6 per cent of people saying they would vote for Alex Salmond’s party in the constituency section of the ballot and 34 per cent planning on supporting Johann Lamont’s party.
Meanwhile the Tories had the backing of 13 per cent of those questioned, with 5 per cent saying they would be voting for the Liberal Democrats and 3.3 per cent planning on voting for other parties.”
Unsurprisingly most of the national (and nationalist) media in Britain are ignoring this poll. Just as they have ignored previous surveys where the official narrative promulgated by the London establishment has run up against the very different narrative in Scotland itself. With even less surprise I note the “rounding down” and “rounding up” of the percentages by those news outlets which have deigned to take note. The 39.3% Yes becomes “39%” and the 47.6% No becomes “48%”. It’s all about the optics you know.
In the ongoing war for hearts and minds in Scotland over the question of independence it seems that the British nationalists, the so-called Unionists, are not just losing the struggle but are losing the plot too. We recently had the first truly significant rise in polling numbers from those favouring Scottish sovereignty over continued union with England, still a minority but a significant one. The panicky reaction since then from the more committed members of the Pax Britannia (or more accurately, Anglia) has been more than a little bit excessive. From the Scottish Herald:
“Scots who stay in the UK Armed Forces following independence would be “mercenaries in a foreign country”, a former Conservative Scottish Secretary has suggested.
The only other choice would be to leave and join Alex Salmond’s “Dad’s Army”, Lord Forsyth warned.
His comments prompted a furious response from the SNP who said that the Conservative Party had insulted past and present servicemen and women.
The row follows that over a fellow Tory peer who suggested that independence would “dishonour” the UK’s war dead.
Lord Lang made the remark as he opened a Lords debate on Scottish independence yesterday.
He refused to bow to SNP demands to withdraw controversial parts of his speech, after his words were briefed overnight.”
Am I the only one perplexed by the constant references made in the Unionist campaign to Britain’s military history and the claims that soldiers in a Scottish Defence Force would not have the same opportunities to “serve overseas” as those in the British Armed Forces? Since the end of WWII “serving overseas” in the British military has meant fighting, killing and dying in wars ranging from Ireland to Afghanistan. Is that something to be regarded as virtuous? Young men (and now women) being sent off in dubious causes to kill or be killed, to maim or be maimed? Is that what Britain still stands for in the 21st century, the best that the supporters of the “Union” can come up with? An appeal to quasi-imperialist militarism and the fading glories of times past?
The Economist magazine has been traditionally hostile to the idea of Scottish independence yet even it with its London-centric sympathies can see that the No campaign is faltering:
“On September 18th all Scots over the age of 15 will be offered that choice in a referendum. The pro-union Better Together campaign is reliably ahead in the opinion polls. With a strong hand in any secession negotiations, the unionists have foxed the pro-independence Yes Scotland camp with erudite questions about tricky details.
Yet Scotland’s constitutional future will be decided far from smart conference rooms, in the sort of hard-up neighbourhoods that rarely get much attention from politicians. Working-class Scots are more drawn to independence than are others. And quite a few of them are still to play for.
In most referendums, undecided voters drift into the conservative camp towards the end of the campaign. Scotland’s independence vote may turn out to be an exception. Undecided voters are more left-wing than the average Scot, more hostile to the Conservative-led government in London and more inclined to think that Scotland would succeed alone; in short, they are “almost undoubtedly more favourable to independence,” says John Curtice, a psephologist. They worry unionists keen for a decisive win, and excite nationalists longing for an earthquake.
Standing out from the crowd of sky-blue Better Together jackets (each bearing the slogan “UK OK”) is a dash of red. It belongs to Johann Lamont, the leader of Scottish Labour, which dominates the pro-union campaign. In areas like this people either vote for her party or do not vote at all. So she ought to get a sympathetic hearing. But responses are mixed. One woman with a foam of toothpaste around her mouth admits that, though a Labour voter, she has not decided how to vote in the referendum. She is not alone: according to the large Scottish Social Attitudes survey, 36% of people who identify with Labour are yet to make up their minds.
In the battle for undecided voters, nationalists will try to drag the debate onto the free-market evils of the London government. The Tories, Yes Scotland has concluded, are the best recruiting agent for the pro-independence cause. His eye on undecided voters like Cathy and Thomas, Mr Salmond has repeatedly demanded a televised debate with David Cameron, Britain’s patrician prime minister. For the sake of the union, Mr Cameron should keep declining the invitation.”
Not so long ago I set a rather large cat loose amongst some red, white and blue pigeons when I drew attention to the whispering campaign being engaged in by some Unionist politicos favouring a “partition of Scotland” should this year’s referendum on Scottish independence go against the authorities in Britain. So far a number of former Tory grandees and political leaders from the British Unionist minority in the north-east of Ireland have served as stalking horses for the suggestion that much of the Borders and Lowlands region of Scotland should be retained under London rule, up to and including parts of the city of Glasgow. Admittedly the idea is somewhat insane – but then the partition of the island nation of Ireland was equally insane yet Unionist leaders and their British allies went ahead with that (and we all know how well that worked out…).
So, given all the kerfuffle, it is somewhat strange to see Gordon Aikman, the Director of Research for the British Unionist “Better Together” grouping, heavily promoting a poll claiming that a majority of people in the “South of Scotland” (the Borders region) are opposed to Scottish independence. The very zone some British nationalists believe should be separated from an independent Scotland.
Despite the earnest wishes (not to mention cliché-ridden propaganda) of the Unionist media establishment in Scotland and Britain the latest Panelbase poll shows the SNP government in Edinburgh convincingly ahead of its nearest rivals. From the Scotsman newspaper:
Scottish Parliament constituency vote:
Lib Dem: 5%
Scottish Parliament regional list vote:
Lib Dem: 5%
There is a general view abroad in Scotland that a “no” vote in the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence would represent a political win-win situation for the country. Even if voters were to register a ballot-box rejection of full sovereignty many believe that the British government would still be obliged to yield more authority to the Scottish government, a constitutional arrangement known as “devo-max” (the maximum devolution of powers from London to Edinburgh short of independence).
However in recent weeks several cogent observers have pointed out that in such an outcome it is far more likely that the British establishment will take the exact opposite view and having narrowly escaped the dissolution of their nation-state they will likely impose severe legislative restrictions on the autonomous powers of the Scots (and Welsh). Indeed the probable scenario would also see the clawing back of some existing areas of responsibility from the “national” authorities in Edinburgh and Cardiff and a tightening of control from London.
This has already been foreshadowed in the very public questioning of devolutionary powers in Scotland by Margaret Curran, a senior Labour Party figure in the country, and by the words of Andrew Neil, a leading Scottish-born journalist and pro-Union media presence, who has pointed out that a No vote will inevitably lead to severely reduced devolutionary powers in Scotland.
A significant number of people in Scotland may well choose to vote against independence in 2014 but they should be aware that in doing so they may be also voting for the British government to re-assume many of its previously conceded powers over their nation. A vote against full Edinburgh rule could just turn out to be a vote for a return to full London rule.
A belated congratulations to all my friends, readers and fellow Celtic nationalists in Scotland on what was by all accounts a really great turn-out in Edinburgh yesterday.
When is a poll not a poll? When it is a false poll. From Bright Green Scotland on yesterday’s still headline splashing voter survey privately funded by Conservative Party aristo’ Lord Ashcroft on the 2014 Scottish referendum vote on independence:
“The No campaign say that while 49% of Scots think independence is the Scottish Government’s priority (though in the hands of their spinners this becomes “Salmond’s priority”), only 3% think it should be.
…upon looking into the full data tables from the poll (PDF), we find that this goes further than spin. It’s a flat-out lie. The figures they claim represent what Scots think ought to be the government’s priority exclude every single person who said the Scottish Government does have the right priority. Is it any wonder they can make it look like respondents reject the priorities of the SNP government when anyone who admitted they didn’t was stripped from their sample?
Pretty much every paper in the country has repeated this lie…”
The false narrative being promulgated across the British nationalist press yesterday and today in relation to this alleged poll arrives (coincidentally, I’m sure) after two recent surveys, one by the SNP and one by the website Wings Over Scotland, found that the divide between the pro- and anti-independence vote in Scotland has significantly narrowed making it a far closer race than the “UK” establishment was willing to admit – or recognise.
The Panelbase voter questionnaire commissioned by Wings Over Scotland has thrown a spanner in the works of the usual media polls on the question of Scottish independence showing that the Scots are almost evenly divided in their opinions with 36% favouring a No vote, 34% a Yes vote and 30% undecided.
“36% of Scots voters are currently planning to vote No in the referendum, with 34% planning to vote Yes and 30% undecided.
(14% plan to rebel against the position of the party they support.)
67% of Scots do NOT believe the Scottish Parliament will be granted any additional new powers if there is a No vote in the referendum.
(And over a quarter of those people believe Holyrood’s powers will be REDUCED.)
If Scotland was currently an independent country, only 18% of Scots would vote to join the Union.
(With 55% against and 28% undecided.)
Only 6% of Scots think the Scottish media is doing an adequate job of giving them the facts about independence.
(Almost six times as many think the media just prints what it’s told.)
Only 13% of Scots think the Scottish media is unbiased.
(Over three times as many think it’s biased AGAINST independence as FOR it.)
20% of Scots might switch parties after a Yes vote. Only 5% might switch after a No vote.
(22% are unsure, leaving only 53% definitely committed to their current party.)”
A fascinating counter to the British Unionist newspaper headlines reporting the predictions of doom and gloom for the Scottish Nationalist movement made by the US-based polling analyst Nate Silver.
Some great news for the ongoing development and growth of the Scottish language. The government of Scotland has announced a major increase in the funding of Faclair na Gàidhlig, a project to establish an online Scottish dictionary similar to Ireland’s Foclóir.ie and Focal.ie.
From the BBC:
“The Scottish government has given £2m funding for an online Gaelic dictionary that could take 30 years to complete.
Work has already begun collecting source material for a digital archive containing 30 million words.
The project is a partnership of Skye’s Gaelic language centre Sabhal Mor Ostaig UHI and Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Strathclyde universities.
The aim of the project is to produce a historical dictionary of Gaelic that will be comparable in value and status to dictionaries already available for Scots and English.
Gaelic national body Bord na Gaidhlig has supported the work since 2004 and contributes £75,000 a year.
Sabhal Mor Ostaig UHI is managing the project called Faclair na Gaidhlig.
First Minister Alex Salmond has welcomed the new funding package.
He said: “We’re committed to working with a range of other public bodies to create a secure future for the Gaelic language.
“The dictionary initiative will play an important part in that work and I’m delighted that this extra funding has been identified to drive forward the project.”
The Comments on the BBC article and a related report in the Scotsman newspaper are interesting to read, not least for the examples of the same racism that Gaelic speakers in Ireland experience from their English-speaking peers. Indeed the bigotry of an anglophone supremacist minority in both nations expresses itself almost identically with the added twist that some in Scotland disparage the Scottish language for being allegedly “foreign” to their country. Unlike of course the English or Scots-English tongues…
So Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, has finally unveiled the long-promised date for the Scottish independence referendum: Thursday the 18th of September 2014. Good news for the broad Nationalist movement in Scotland which now has a target date to aim for (along with the encouraging – if slight – rise in the polls for the potential pro-independence vote seen recently).
However the political war over Scotland’s (and Britain’s) future is well and truly on and nothing seems to be excluded. I noted back in January of 2012 the calls emanating from leaders of the separatist British Unionist minority in the north-east of Ireland suggesting that their vital (as well as historic) links with Britain and Lowland Scotland should be secured by “partitioning” any future independent Scottish nation (essentially moving the border between Scotland and England up to a line between Kilmarnock on the west coast and Dunbar on the eastern coast, and taking in areas around or including Glasgow). Lord John Kilclooney, better known as the former UUP head-honcho John Taylor, was the first off the blocks with this:
“Northern Ireland is not only geographically close to Scotland but shares more with Scotland than with any other country. When the majority in Ireland voted for independence from the UK… Northern Ireland remained within the UK as was the desire of most people in that part of Ireland. Should there ever be a majority in Scotland for independence it should not be binding on all the people of Scotland.
If, say, Strathclyde or the Lowlands prefer to remain in the UK then that decision should be honoured by a partition of Scotland.”
Ah yes, because appeasing a small, violent and anti-democratic British separatist minority worked out so well in Ireland didn’t it?
But no matter, Taylor’s attitudes were reflected in those of other British Unionist leaders. Tom Elliot, the then worse leader of the UUP up to the present worse leader of the UUP, declared:
“…the constitutional approach of Alex Salmond appears to pose a greater threat to the union than the violence of the IRA.”
Ta-dah! But others remained focused on the idea of divide and conquer. Like Tory bigwig Malcolm Sinclair, the 20th Earl of Caithness (but of course):
“A former Conservative minister has said Orkney and Shetland should have the right to remain part of the UK if Scotland votes for independence.
The Earl of Caithness has tabled amendments to the Scotland Bill, which gives further powers to Holyrood.
He said a referendum vote favouring independence should not be binding on the Northern Isles, unless the majority of islanders voted “yes”.”
For a while the battle-drums fell silent but they are droning loud again. From the Telegraph:
“The Orkney and Shetland islands could remain part of the UK if the rest of Scotland votes to separate, according to a report submitted by their MSPs to the Government. The islands could even declare independence themselves, it adds.
Alternatively, they could agree to join a separate Scotland only if they are granted a much bigger portion of North Sea oil and gas revenues, around a quarter of which lies in Shetland’s waters alone.
Tavish Scott, the Liberal Democrat MSP for Shetland, agreed the threat was political “dynamite” but questioned why Mr Salmond was the only politician who could use oil wealth to argue for self-determination.
Their residents have traditionally been extremely hostile to Scottish independence and preferred Westminster government to that from Holyrood. The SNP has previously recognised the islands’ right to decide their own future but Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy First Minister, recently angered residents by stating this was wrong because they are “not a nation”.”
Could it be that one of the Unionist tactics for the Scottish referendum campaign is a simple threat: if you break up our nation we will break up your’s! And of course, all those oil and maritime resources in the northern extremes of the North Sea do help.
- Scottish independence: islands consider their own ‘home rule’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Scottish independence: Northern Isles devolution bid (scotsman.com)
- ‘Home rule’ for Shetland? You’re on your own, Tavish Scott | Malachy Tallack (guardian.co.uk)
Did you know that Scotland ceased to exist as a nation after the so-called Act of Union between the Kingdoms of Scotland and England in 1707 that formed the United Kingdom of Great Britain? Maybe, yes, though people’s views differ but did you know that England continued to exist as a nation? In fact, England as a national and territorial unit simply became the United Kingdom of Great Britain and the “Union” was nothing more than the annexation of a neighbouring (and rival) territory on the island of Britain by the Kingdom of England making it another region of the English state.
This is a claim that would incense most Scottish nationalists and even irritate quite a few pro-Union Scots. Yet, remarkably, this very claim is implied in a document released by the British government yesterday putting forward its case for the continued existence of the UK and its opposition to Scottish independence. From “Scotland analysis: Devolution and the implications of Scottish independence” comes this constitutional, legal and political analysis on page 73, Part IV “The status of Scotland and the remainder of the UK in international law”:
“26. From 1603, when the Stuart King James VI of Scotland inherited the English throne, Scotland and England (and its colony Ireland) shared the same monarch.
27. There is little reason to doubt that between that date and 1707, England and Scotland remained separate states.
(a) Whether the union of 1707 created a new state
35. An alternative view is that as a matter of international law England continued, albeit under a new name and regardless of the position in domestic law, and was simply enlarged to incorporate Scotland. In support of this view, among other things:
35.1 Scottish members joined Parliament at Westminster, but there was no new election of its English members. This was in accordance with the Acts of Union Article XXII.
35.2 Treaties concluded by England appear to have survived to bind Great Britain.
35.3 England’s diplomatic representation in the rest of Europe continued uninterrupted. The Acts of Union Article XXIV appears to acknowledge this in retaining the Great Seal of England for transitional purposes.
36. We note that the incorporation… of Ireland, previously a colony, under the Union with Ireland Act 1801 (GB) and the Act of Union 1800 (Ireland) did not affect state continuity. Despite its similarity to the union of 1707, Scottish and English writers unite in seeing the incorporation of Ireland not as the creation of a new state but as an accretion without any consequences in international law.
37. For the purpose of this advice, it is not necessary to decide between these two views of the union of 1707. Whether or not England was also extinguished by the union, Scotland certainly was extinguished as a matter of international law, by merger either into an enlarged and renamed England or into an entirely new state.
43. The same result follows from the alternative possibility, discussed above, that Great Britain was the continuator of England rather than a new state.”
While it is welcome to see the British government formally recognise Ireland’s incorporation into the so-called UK as a case of colonisation and annexation, it is bizarre to see such an explicit acknowledgement by the British state of the belief held by most observers: that Britain equals England and British equals English. Has the British English prime minister David Cameron just handed Alex Salmond and the SNP another propaganda victory in the Scottish referendum war?