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Woe To The Vanquished

The “inspiring” message of the British nationalist and unionist “No” campaign in 2014

Well I’ve waited half the morning to write this post and I’m still unsure of what to say. The feeling of sadness is genuinely overwhelming if only because I have so many Scottish friends and correspondents whose emotional investment in seeing true self-governance and sovereignty for their ancient nation has consumed so much of the last two years (and in some cases their whole lives). However the final results of the referendum on independence for Scotland cannot be escaped: the Scots have voted by 55% to 45% to remain under British and London rule. A once in a life-time opportunity for many has been rejected. The British nationalist and unionist media are crowing victory. The Westminster lobby of Greater England smells blood in the air. Was this a win for Britishness and unionism? I think not. It was not “Better Together” that won the referendum campaign: it was “Project Fear”.

While many, many people in Ireland share the sense of disappointment brought about by the final polling results in our northern Gaelic neighbour there is also a sense of puzzlement. Why would the majority of Scots not want their own nation-state? Why the lack of courage or determination to take, what seems to us, the obvious next step? Perhaps the Scottish historical experience is not our own despite our many other similarities? Invasion, occupation, colonisation and annexation by an alien power and people was not theirs (at least not in the same way). Those centuries of bloodshed and tyranny seemingly make all the difference. Ethnocide, physical or cultural, leaves marks that cannot be erased. Just ask the people of Israel. Or Palestine. However above that there is the most obvious point of all: the island nation of Ireland is not the island nations of Britain. We are Irish. They, if only geographically, are British.

Will there be fundamental changes in the constitutional, legislative and political structure of the so-called United Kingdom? Or will there be some tinkering around the edges and tokenistic scraps thrown to appease the demands for more? I suspect the latter. The British do not do magnanimity in victory. They do vindictiveness. The exaggerated claims of an era of “neverendums” will almost certainly prove false. Never again will a British government or parliament willingly – if reluctantly – grant a territorial unit of the UK the right to vote on secession. If comprehensive changes are made it will be on that issue.

In the words of Brennus before the gates of Rome: “Vae victis!

22 comments on “Woe To The Vanquished

  1. We can dress it up whatever way we can but to outsiders the scot result will be seen as a huge step down for that country. In fact you could argue it isn’t a country now, rather and extension of England. To think numerous countries have had to fight tooth and nail and die for what the Scottish were offered on a plate and they refused it is a terrible indictment on that people.
    One thing that should be learned by the scot campaign is that no matter how passionate your support is or how visible it is you should never underestimate how far back and deep the occupier sows the seeds of doubt in people’s heads. Everyday they sow the seed of doubt through schools,bbc etc. it is incumbent on all of us in Ireland to counter this established policy.
    One other point, I believe when you take on perfidious Albion you can’t afford to play honest and fair as you give them an immediate advantage straight away. For example, incidents of egg throwing,scuffles etc attributed to the Yes campaigners could easily have been set ups designed to turn the meek type voter off. Also allowing oneself to be duped into not turning events such as the commonwealth games, into rallying calls, whilst your opponent does exactly what he urged you not to do, is pretty naive.
    My heart goes out to all those freedom voters in Scotland. Don’t be too hard on yourselves. You now realise you are up against a machine that is well experienced at quelling unrest. Don’t give up, dust yourself down and galvanise yourselves to carry on. Never go away.


    • Looking at some of the polling data (albeit from not the most reliable of sources) it could be argued that the SNP, Greens, etc. went for it ten years too early.

      Long-term this will shake out two ways.

      1) Younger #VoteYes people will be motivated towards even stronger nationalist feeling in reaction to the sense of disappointment, frustration, anger, being cheated, etc. 10-20 years from now another vote may be forced upon London.

      2) Younger #VoteYes people will be demoralised and abandon nationalist feelings (and politics) in reaction to the sense of disappointment, frustration, anger, being cheated, etc. Another referendum would then be decades or centuries away.

      I suspect the latter may happen but the next Holyrood and Westminster votes will let us know. There could even be a backlash against the SNP despite predictions that they will benefit electorally.

      For all our kinship the Scots are not the Irish. Though again where would we be if all of our nation had experienced the Occupation for another 90 years? The same referendum result as the Scots?


      • It’s possible that there will be a referendum to leave the EU in 2017.
        From what I’ve heard – most of the Scots do not want to leave it.

        Do you think that the Scots will go with the English if they decide to secede from the EU?


        • The Scots will have no choice. If the UK leaves they leave. There will be no new referendums for the Scots for a long, long time. 53 million English will always dictate the fate of 5 million Scots. That is their choice. To follow, not to lead.


          • I would not be so sure.
            45% at 85% turnout is still a lot of people.

            And “NO” option meant preserving the status quo – Scotland remains part of the United Kingdom which is part of the EU.

            Not Scotland becoming part of England or anything like that – it’s still a partnership not slavery.

            Secession from the EU would radically change the status quo – I’m sure that most of those 45% (and many NO voters too) would want to revisit the independence question again in that case.


    • john cronin

      It’s called democracy. Get over yourself.


      • Say’s the man who believes that the result of the 1918 general election in Ireland was essentially fake. And presumably the 1920 local elections and 1921 general election too 😉 No one is challenging the Scottish vote here just wondering at it. Even you – setting aside your partisan views – must have some feeling for the young people in Scotland who voted in such huge numbers for independence and are now bitterly disappointed.


  2. A really disappointing result. – not a single one of the countries on this list want back.
    Scotland is the only one who rejected independence.


    • Just talking to a few Scots online this morning and their sense of “defeat” is overwhelming. I suspect many recent activists/campaigners will drop out of future politics or activism altogether. A real feeling of morbid resignation is out there. Has the back of Scottish nationalism been broken or will Scottish voters balance out a pro-union referendum vote with a pro-SNP vote in the next elections? I honestly don’t know. And if they did would it mean anything? There is a world of difference between wanting to be a nation or a region. 55% of Scots choose the latter.


  3. I listened very carefully to the speeches last night. Cameron spoke about more powers for the Scots and the Welsh definitively and to “Northern Ireland, if they want it”. He spoke about their governments – and said that Britain must make sure that the locals can do what they need to for their people…but when it came again to the North, he said “Britain must make sure the government runs effectively”. In my opinion, it does not bode well and speaks to a regional agenda that makes me uncomfortable to think about.

    Everyone interviewed who was younger and part of the yes campaign, was thoroughly dejected and disillusioned – and I know that can change once the heartbreak is past but they seemed broken by this, their first political venture. Most of my friends in Scotland are destroyed as well.

    I have a hard time wrapping my head around voting no so soundly. The US has made fear-mongering a way of life and is nowhere near a democracy so my political experience is tainted by life here and maybe that’s why I can’t understand. Saying no to the only chance you’d have to break the chains…denying the possibility to be your own independent nation for at least a generation – my mind boggles at it, especially since the likelihood of any other nation in the U.K. having the opportunity after this is nil. It’s heartbreaking.


    • I agree with all of that. It just mystifies me how the Scots could vote to be a region rather than a nation, knowing the long-term consequences of that. They have thrown away their future for an illusion of… Actually I don’t know what. Economic security from a state that simply regards them as oil fields and estates for weekend grouse shooting? Its like people voting to be slaves because they are guaranteed food and accommodation rather than taking the risk of living free. An exaggeration but you know what I mean. I’m genuinely saddened by this and seeing my Scots friends in such distress is awful.

      My bother’s girlfriend is a Scottish-born teacher in Edinburgh. She told him that her students were in tears this morning.


    • Well it’s complicated. Scotland is not a region, it has its own legal system etc. from before the union with England, it joined ‘voluntarily’, whereas Wales was simply conquered and annexed to England. There are two legal opinions regarding Scotland. One is that it was totally merged into a ‘Greater England’ called Great Britain and ceased to be; the other is that it entered into a kind of marriage and has the right to leave anytime that is the “settled will of the population”, for under the Scottish constitution the people have ultimate sovereignty (not so in England). Westminster of course claim to hold the first view, and so from their pov they could close down the Scottish parliament any time they liked. One assurance Scots would like is that this would never happen, but England has no written constitution, so unless the agreement was guaranteed by so third party, there would be nothing to stop a future government overturning it any time it chose.

      Why did people vote no? Old people were told they could lose their pensions, Sick people their state health care, Homeowners that their mortgage payments could escalate, no weakness was left unexploited. Of course there was always a ‘could’ or a ‘may’ or a ‘might’ it was all FUD. However by refusing to sensibly ‘pre-negotiate’ the transition arrangements prior to a Yes vote, the UK government made sure there could be no definite answer to currency and so on. The UK could have asked the EU about membership post split, but wouldn’t and the EU would only deal with a member state. So basically they deliberately created as much uncertainty as they could and then milked people’s fears to the maximum, while making the Scottish Government look stupid by continually asking questions no-one could answer.

      It was a very dirty war, and there are more ways to fix a vote than stuffing ballot boxes.

      Nor really was it a ‘sound No’. 1.6 million people voted Yes, that’s about the entire population of Estonia for example, and a larger proportion than elect most ‘majority’ governments. That’s too many to just ignore, assuming the final psychological blow hasn’t finished them. And quite a few of the No’s would have been ‘uncertain Yes’s’.

      In retrospect it might have been better to have moved via a DevoMax halfway house, that would have been less scary for many people. But the thought of Total Independence in one bound was too good to turn down, so everything was staked on a single throw of the dice, unfortunately nobody bothered to check whether the dice was weighted.

      1.6 million angry and heartbroken people, plus a good many totally pissed-off No’s when the ‘extra powers’ turn out to be rubbish, that’s potentially an enormous political force if only someone finds a way to harness it. The worst thing would be to start blaming the timid No’s, since they will obviously have to come on side (or a good number of them) to get a majority.

      Typing, typing, rubbish, bleather, agus a-nise tha mi a’ sìleadh dheur gun nàire …


      • The Yes campaign was full of FUD too.
        I got the impression that the Yes side believed that the world would just bow to them and do their best to fulfil their every wish (EU, NATO membership, foreign relations, economy, the pound, etc.).
        And that there would be absolutely no downsides to independence.
        That’s just not true – there most certainly would be difficulties, obstacles and probably a (short term) drop in living standards – the Yes side just chose not to talk about it.

        And why should the UK government pre-negotiate anything?
        It’s not them who need the independence – they’re happy with the status quo..

        If you want independence – you must be ready to come up with your own plans and prepare for the worst.

        I hope that next time the Yes side will be smarter and will not promise the Scots that they can have a cake and eat it too – because that just doesn’t happen in the real world.


        • Most of the assumptions were reasonable, EU for example would want Scotland on board and in fact have no system for excluding EU citizens. If the UK votes to leave, it would be a major headache, what with UK citizens living all over Europe and EU citizens settled in the UK, just for a start. But the EU wouldn’t say anything on the record because they want to be nice to the UK government so they don’t try to leave. Not that all Scots are pro EU, but more so than the English. NATO is not supported by many Scots, but most support its rôle as a European defense alliance, but are not too happy with it being used to fight wars for America. Sharing the £ would be mutually beneficial, at least until the two economies began to diverge, and so on. All sensible bargaining positions, but the weakness is that they’re difficult to explain simply to the average voter. So yes, it appears as a fudge. I’d have to check the text, but I’m sure the Edinburgh Agreement included a clause that both parties would co-operate to bring separation about smoothly in case of a Yes. It would have been sensible to have settled a few things provisionally before the referendum, especially currency so as to calm the markets. The UK government acted recklessly to deliberately create uncertainty and bias the vote. This may not have been technically within the agreement, but was certainly not the “fair play” that England is supposed to be famous for. Likewise making a new vague offer in the final days before the vote was against the rules and the Electoral Commission should have prevented this. I’d say this alone invalidates the result, especially now they’re going back on their offer. There are going to be a lot a very angry people north of the border, hopefully this can be channelled into positive action rather than dissipated in random violence.


          • NATO is a defensive organisation and Iraq and Afghanistan are not NATO wars.
            No one conscripted and sent me to fight there.
            At least in Latvian army – only volunteers who want higher pay can go and take part in those wars.
            And NATO countries like Germany are staying out of Iraq altogether.

            So blame Bush and Blair not NATO.
            Sharing the £ would be mutually beneficial
            Why? If Scotland is independent – that’s an unnecessary risk for England.
            As I said – you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

            And EU also would not bow to the Scots’ wishes – they would have to reapply and join the EU under new terms and conditions.
            And of course the EU is not going to negotiate with a region of a member state bypassing the state’s government.

            It would have been sensible to have settled a few things provisionally before the referendum, especially currency so as to calm the markets.
            The UK government had already said NO to a currency union – and they had every right to do so – the Scots should not expect that the UK will bow to their every wish.
            The right thing for the Yes side would have been to come up with a realistic and detailed plan B – even if it’s a new currency that’s pegged to the pound.

            I agree that the No side did deliberately spread FUD.

            But that did not prevent the Yes side to come up with clear detailed plans for worst-case situations – “We’re going to negotiate for this and that but if it fails – here’s a clear plan B”.
            They simply chose not to do it.

            Russia/USSR was far more uncooperative than the UK ever was – and yet – that did not prevent the breakup of the USSR.


            • Just a couple of points. NATO was used to bomb Libya as a proxy for the USA. Currency : The UK is heavily in debt to the outside world and needs the income from Scottish exports (mainly oil, but also whisky etc.) to help with the Balance of Payments. This is just one reason why they would want Scotland to keep using the pound. Remember Ireland separated as a result of violent armed conflict and still used the pound for many years.


  4. It was *both* “Project Fear” and Better Together that won the vote.

    A significant amount of Scots see themselves as British, or Scottish and British, and see Britain as their country with Scotland within it. They remember the many historical achievements of the Union and would rather not see the political link with the three other UK nations severed. This line of argument was promoted most by right-wing newspapers like the Daily Mail.

    These people make up a section of No voters. The rest are mainly people who, ideally, would like independence but fear the consequences for the economy, pensions, or more personally (eg middle class people fearing a socialist Scotland’s consequences for them)

    I’m from Yorkshire, which makes me English (though a *special* type of English – we’re like the Bavaria of England) and I’d be very sad and conflicted inside if Scotland ever does become independent, which I see still as happening sometime within my lifetime. That doesn’t mean I don’t see independence as a good thing for Scotland. It probably would be. But the founding rock of our national life – the national symbols, identity, flag, history, that we all take in granted – would be torn in two. Going to bed last night I was daunted by the prospect that my state, and indeed to a certain extent my country, might not exist anymore in the morning.

    The pro-UK newspapers described the English-Scottish union as one of equals, This has never really been true, considering the numerical dominance of England, but nor can the relationship between Scotland and England be compared to that between Britain and Ireland. The original union may not have been democratically decided, but for much of the union’s history Scots have basically accepted it’s existence and have indeed benefited from it in many respects.

    Why did Yes lose?

    Well, the big reason cited is that almost all of the TV and print media was biased against independence, openly or not. But there’s two more big reasons in my eyes.

    Firstly, while Yes derided it as “Project Fear” some of the concerns about eg currency were quite valid. Yes, the SNP did say that the “Plan B” was use of the pound outside of a currency union. But they weren’t vocal enough to make clear this was their policy, and it doesn’t sound great that an “independent” Scotland would have it’s policies decided by the Bank of ENGLAND, which outside a currency union would not have to take any Scottish interests into account.

    Issues like this were not satisfactorily answered in my opinion, leaving an open goal that BT could kick a ball into time and time again. Uncertainty was probably THE main factor preventing a Yes vote. I think the best option would have been to commit to an seperate Scottish currency from the beginning, which would probably have been the least bad option.

    If Yes had a real solid answer on currency, EU, and related issues the vote would have been a lot closer if not an outright Yes win.

    But secondly, Yes did not do enough to reach outside of its core demographic. There is only so many votes you could squeeze out of the working-class and young demographic. Yes seems to have thought they could ride to victory mainly on the votes of the working class, especially the “Missing million”. They should have reached out to Middle Scotland and pensioners more. I understand it was difficult to sell to the working class and poor that an indy Scotland would be a socialist Scandinavian-like state, but also to sell to the middle-class that taxes would not rise or would indeed be cut (SNP policy on corporation taxes for example).

    As for the old folks, they tend to be more conservative and pro – status quo so not much to be done with these people, I guess.

    45% Yes was still an amazing achievement all things considered and this will go down as probably the best political campaign in British history.


    • Thank you for that praise, and I’m sorry if you’re emotionally attached somehow to the concept of GB. But “there’ll always be an England”. In the age of empires Scotland did OK as the junior partner in a successful concern, but those days are gone, we’re in a Europe almost without borders now (except England won’t play and remains isolated and xenophobic) where wars between members, I mean shooting wars, are about a likely as you lot attacking Lancs. So we’re not planning on border raids or anything … And of course Britain (indeed Great B as opposed to Little B which is Brittany) will still exist as a geographical entity, just as Scandinavia is a geographical entity, split between friendly states. Come on, the days Imperial flag waving are over, except for a few retards in NI and sadly parts of Glasgow).


    • Some fair points there. Ireland becoming independent in the 1920s had very little effect on the British body politic (essentially they simply ignored it, just as they ignored Ireland when all of it was under British rule; Britain’s presence in Ireland was – and is – colonial in nature unlike the relationships on the island of Britain, to an extent). The British flag, institutions etc. remained the same. Scotland going on the other hand would have had a real effect.

      There seems very little appetite in the British establishment for “English home rule” and not much evidence the English people themselves want a parliament/assembly of their own. It seems most English folk regard the House of Commons/Lords as their “English” parliament anyway and the Westminster class agree. As long as that is the case UK-style “federalism” is doomed and Scottish aspirations for autonomy will continue to thrive.

      The Bavarian analogy might be an apt one 😉


  5. Why did the majority vote NO?

    Used a quote from liam mellows about the treaty – “this is not the will of the people -it’s the fear of the people” on my post about the day after.

    maybe scotland has that “learned helplessness” tim Pat coogan wrote about in his book on the famine? for very different historical reasons of course

    There was also a certain ingenuity/decency about the Yes campaigners. Unlike the irish early in the 20th century they did not seem to have the measure of what they were up against in the british establishment

    Maybe the Scots believed all those promises of Devo-max?
    in any case even with 45% voting YES, England is apparently ready to renege on those promises (perfidious Albion anyone? apparently they were only “intentions” not “committments”)
    However if they do go ahead English conservative MPs are demanding equal change for England and the Welsh are butting in for their share of devo-Max – the constitutional issue does not look settled at all but you can be sure the establishment will not change anything.
    How will the Scots react to broken promises? Will they react at all or has Scotland been “pacified”?

    ireland really should go down on bended knees to thank her patriot dead for what they achieved – despite the price they and the country paid – they got almost all of us out when the empire was at the height of its powers and we’ve never looked back!some of us have even pressed on trying to get the rest out!


  6. Most of the uncertainties and hypotheticals were on the Yes side, the No side made the more concrete offer, so it is hardly surprising that the Scots made the choice they did. It was interesting to see the areas that did vote Yes : all were areas of high socio-economic deprivation, areas where people had little to lose by voting Yes, areas which in the past would have been labour strongholds .It was as much a vote of disillusionment with the Labour Party, particularly New Labour, as it was a positive endorsement of independence, these people would have voted for anybody who promised them a better future.


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