Category Archives: USA

Scottish independence, Brexit and Trump: Similarities and differences

2016 is continuing to surprise and shock people, and the election of Trump is definitely going to overshadow the Brexit referendum in many people's minds.

Some people started to comment on Twitter that the No vote in the Scottish independence referendum is starting to look like the exception in that the result was the one expected by the elites. For instance, here's Kenny Farquharson from The Times:

Tweets like this one have upset many independence supporters, because it makes an implicit link between the Yes campaign on the one hand and Brexit and Trump on the other.

Of course, there are some similarities, but there are also several important differences. Perhaps it gets clearer if we look at some of them in a tabular format:

Yes Leave Trump
Mainly appealed to older voters? No Yes Yes
Xenophobic? No Yes Yes
Internationalist? Yes No No
Did they win? No Yes Yes
Opposed by tabloids, Fox News, etc.? Yes No No
Opposed by broadsheets, the BBC and all that? Yes Yes Yes
Strong appeal to voters ignored by the elite?

Yes Yes Yes
Strong social-media campaign? Yes Yes Yes

So the similarities are basically that all these campaigns were opposed by the elite media (the broadsheets, the BBC and so on), appealed strongly to voters ignored by the elite for years, and ran strong social-media campaigns that to a large extent broke the conventional rules about how a successful campaign should be run. In most other regards, the Leave campaign and Trump were very similar to each other, but very different from the Yes campaign.

Interestingly, if we were to add Bernie Sander's unsuccessful campaign and the Greek party Syriza to the table, they'd tick almost exactly the same boxes as the Yes campaign.

So did we lose two years ago because of some of the differences? I'm sure we would have won if the tabloid press had supported us, but if the price had been to turn the campaign xenophobic, it simply wouldn't have been worth it.

If we had appealed more strongly to older voters, that would have pushed us across the line, too. It was hard to do without mainstream-media support, though, and this is something that we need to get right next time.

Perhaps Kenny Farquharson is right, and the independence referendum simply happened too early. Everything else was right, but people weren't desperate enough yet for what was perceived to be a leap into the dark.

Perhaps the time is ripe now, and things will be easier next time. However, it's likely to be a finite window of opportunity before people tire of insurgencies, either because the elites get better at listening to voters again, or because the future disasters caused by Brexit and Trump will scare voters away from audacious experiments.

Nobody will stand up for Scotland abroad

Sam's Boys
Originally uploaded by acidrabbi

Joan McAlpine has an important point about the al-Megrahi affair (hat-tip: SNP Tactical Voting), namely that both the UK and the US are saying Scotland's government were wrong to release him, but there's nobody on the international stage to fight Scotland's corner:

Since foreign affairs are not devolved to Edinburgh, David Cameron officially speaks for us. On this occasion he trashed us in front of the world. Where were we? We should have had a right to reply at least. After all, Scottish troops are fighting and dying in Afghanistan, as they did in Iraq, to support America. Would Obama and Cameron have condemned a friendly, independent sovereign nation like this?

Even those who disagreed with the decision to free al-Megrahi should agree that this situation is untenable – the US government should be discussing this issue with Alex Salmond, not with David Cameron, and only independence will resolve this issue.