The geographical distribution of Yes and No votes in 2014

In an article on Wings over Scotland, the importance of Glasgow for the independence campaign was dismissed: “[T]his site’s prediction remains the same […] – if we get 38% in Glasgow come the autumn of 2014, we’ll win.”

This might of course be true, but it didn’t sound plausible to me, so I decided to have a quick look at the likely distribution of Yes and No votes in the case of a narrow win for the Yes side.

I first found the regional votes from the 2011 election (discarding all parties smaller than the LibDems):

SNP Labour Cons LibDems
West of Scotland 117306 92530 35995 9148
South of Scotland 114270 70595 54352 15096
Lothian 110953 70544 33019 15588
Central Scotland 108261 82459 14870 3318
Glasgow 83109 73031 12749 5312
Mid Scotland and Fife 116691 64623 36691 15103
North East Scotland 140749 43893 37681 18178
Highlands and Islands 85082 25884 20843 21729
Total 876421 523559 246200 103472

I then got some useful figures from Ipsos Mori about the correlation between political views and independence voting intentions:

SNP Labour Cons LibDems
Pro 70% 15% 5% 19%
Contra 17% 73% 94% 73%
Don’t Know 13% 12% 1% 8%

If we assign 90% of the Don’t knows to Yes (this might not be realistic, but it’s the easiest way to get a majority in favour of independence), we get this:

SNP Labour Cons LibDems
Yes 81.7% 25.8% 5.9% 26.2%
No 18.3% 74.2% 94.1% 73.8%

The result of referendum according to these distributions would be a very small Yes victory (51% Yes, 49% No). The geographical distribution would look as follows:

Yes No
West of Scotland 48.7% 51.3%
South of Scotland 46.7% 53.3%
Lothian 49.9% 50.1%
Central Scotland 53.4% 46.6%
Glasgow 51.0% 49.0%
Mid Scotland and Fife 50.7% 49.3%
North East Scotland 55.4% 44.6%
Highlands and Islands 54.1% 45.9%

If my calculations are correct, it’s likely the results in Glasgow will be extremely close to the results for Scotland as a whole, and it seems unlikely that 38% Yes in Glasgow would be sufficient to ensure that Scotland becomes independent.

All Danes are nationalists in the Scottish sense of the word

Dannebrog 120/365
Originally uploaded by Blue Square Thing

When I lived in Denmark, I was a Social-Liberal Party activist. This party is very internationalist in its outlook, and I’m sure many members would define themselves as anti-nationalists.

These days I’m a member of the Scottish National Party (SNP), and I’m sure some of my Danish friends might feel slightly surprised by my personal political journey.

However, I don’t think I’ve changed very much politically in the past decade — I’ve moved slightly towards the left, but I definitely haven’t given up on my internationalist outlook. However, in Danish terms the SNP isn’t a nationalistic party at all.

The SNP’s strand of nationalism is what is called civic nationalism, which Wikipedia defines as follows:

Liberal nationalism, also known as civic nationalism or civil nationalism, is a kind of nationalism identified by political philosophers who believe in a non-xenophobic form of nationalism compatible with liberal values of freedom, tolerance, equality, and individual rights.[…] Liberal nationalists often defend the value of national identity by saying that individuals need a national identity in order to lead meaningful, autonomous lives and that democratic polities need national identity in order to function properly. Liberal nationalism is the form of nationalism in which the state derives political legitimacy from the active participation of its citizenry (see popular sovereignty), from the degree to which it represents the “general will”. It is often seen as originating with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and especially the social contract theories which take their name from his 1762 book The Social Contract. Liberal nationalism lies within the traditions of rationalism and liberalism, but as a form of nationalism it is contrasted with ethnic nationalism.

A good example of this was Ruth Wishart’s speech to the independence march and rally in Edinburgh last year:

A Scot is someone born here, and anyone who has paid us the compliment of settling here.

This sentiment is completely alien to the xenophobic far-right nationalistic parties that are unfortunately common in Denmark and many other European countries.

Arguably almost all Danes and all Danish political parties are nationalistic in the Scottish sense of the word, in the sense that they all consider Denmark to be the best basis for Danish democracy.

In the SNP, we certainly do not wish to exclude anybody from Scotland. We just want Scotland to become a small boring Northern European democracy, enshrined in the EU, like Ireland, Denmark and Sweden, instead of being a very small part of the United Kingdom, which in many ways is very different from Scotland.

It is probably unfortunate that the SNP chose to use the word national in its name because of the connotations this word often has. This was why Angus Robertson, leader of the SNP group in Westminster, felt compelled to say the following in an interview with an Austrian newspaper:

Wir Schotten sind offene, freundliche Menschen, wir sind Weltbürger — von daher ärgert mich die deutsche Übersetzung meiner Partei: Wir sind keine Nationalisten. [We Scots are open, friendly people, we are citizens of the world — because of this the German translation of my party annoys me: We are not nationalists.]

(This article is a modified translation of this one that I wrote in Danish a few months ago.)

Did the creation of the BBC go against the Acts of Union?

The Acts of Union went to great lengths to guarantee the separateness of Scotland. In the words of Wikipedia, “[it] guaranteed that the Church of Scotland would ‘remain the established church in Scotland, that the Court of Session would remain in all time coming within Scotland,’ and that Scots law would ‘remain in the same force as before’.” Although a separate education system wasn’t explicitly mentioned, I presume it was an automatic consequence of keeping an independent church and a separate legal system.

In other words, the Acts of Union did a decent job at establishing a monetary and fiscal union while keeping the nations culturally distinct.

In this light, it’s natural to wonder whether the establishment of the BBC under a Royal Charter in 1927 was contrary to the spirit (if not the words) of the Acts of Union. Even its original motto, “Nation shall speak peace unto Nation”, seems bizarre for a union of four nations.

There’s not much we can do about it now (apart from voting Yes in 2014), but it seems obvious that the UK would have looked very different at the moment if there had never been British radio and TV channels, but only separate ones for each nation.

Why Westminster will do anything to hold on to Scotland

Wings over Scotland recently published an interesting article which contained the following illuminating passage:

So why would the UK deliberately undermine the long-held view that the UK is a political union of different countries? The answer may be seen in a passage from the report stating that “Since the rUK (remainder of the UK) would be the same state as the UK, its EU membership would continue”, and that after independence, representatives of the UK Government would enter negotiations on the terms of independence “as representatives of the continuing state of the UK”.

From these two snippets it appears that the repositioning of the Act of Union as merely an enlargement of England is an attempt to retain sole-successor status in the same manner as Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Westminster government is so desperate to keep hold of the permanent Security Council seat that they’re willing to undermine the constitutional arrangements of the UK in order to ensure they keep it in the event of a Yes vote.

I’m not an expert on UN membership rules, but I would have thought there was a decent chance the rUK will retain the UK’s permanent seat on the Security Council. However, even a modest risk of losing that seat is probably enough to give the politicians and mandarins in the FCO and the rest of Westminster sleepless nights. Sacrificing the happiness and wellbeing of the Scots is a very small price to pay for maintaining a place amongst the great powers of the world.

Besides, the unionist politicians in Westminster are not the only ones who are worried. David Leask quotes Phillips O’Brien of Glasgow University for the following: “France’s place in the world would come under real pressure if Scotland were to leave the United Kingdom[.] In the first place, it could lead to reform of the UN Security Council and the concurrent loss or reduction of French influence in the UN.”

Personally I’m pretty relaxed about a reform of the Security Council, but I can understand that for a small group of politicians clinging to the remnants of the empire, it can seem like the end of the world as they know it, which explains why they attack Scottish independence so vociferously.

Overlooking the obvious

Viking by airship
Viking, a photo by airship on Flickr.

The Economist this week has a special report about the Nordic Countries.

I would have considered it natural to mention in that context how Scotland is currently extremely focused on Scandinavian solutions (have a look at Nordic Horizons, for instance), and how this is inspiring the pro-independence movement.

Alas, The Economist doesn’t seem to have mentioned Scotland at all in their special report. For all practical purposes, they’ve already forgotten there will be a referendum in 2014, and therefore in their book the only question worth asking is what the UK can learn from Scandinavia, not whether their special report will inspire even more Scots to vote Yes to become an independent, Nordic-inspired country.