The 2013 March & Rally for Independence

Aerial view of the independence rally with labels.
Aerial view of the independence rally with labels (click on it to see a larger version).
I went to Edinburgh today with my wife, all five kids and my mother to take part in the March & Rally for Independence.

It was a great day. I met many old friends and made several new ones, and the rally featured lots of great music and many excellent speeches.

There were a lot of people there. I’ve no idea of the exact numbers, but the first marchers reached Calton Hill before the last ones had even started moving yet. There were definitely so many people that I completely failed to find several friends in spite of texting them repeatedly.

Here are a few suggestions for how to make next year’s march & rally even better:

  1. Assemble on a wider area (such as the Meadows), which would make it easier to spot banners. We ended up marching with some people we didn’t know because it was too hard to find the ones we knew.
  2. Failing this, make an official list of assembly points in advance and put this list on a poster so that people who just turn up can read it (e.g., “Yes East Renfrewshire to assemble at 219 High Street”).
  3. Create assembly points in the rally area. For instance, put letters on sticks so that you can text your friends that you are at assembly point X. I got a lot of texts describing in vague terms where on Calton Hill people were.
  4. Make sure that either the march route or the rally venue makes it possible to take a photo of everybody in one shot. Most of the photos of the rally I’ve seen have been taken from the stage and only show a small part of the rally.
  5. Finally, the kids would have loved to get their faces painted before the march rather than after it!

Anyway, it was a wonderful day, and I’d like to thank the organisers and everybody who took part! I’m already looking forward to next year’s rally and the Yes vote shortly afterwards!

Scotland as a Nordic country

Scotland and the other Nordic countriesA year from now, the most important referendum in the history of Scotland will take place.

In foreign policy, England has always tended to ignore the Nordic countries and preferred to look south towards France, and the UK has of course always been dominated by England in this regard, but after independence Scotland can revert to being a Northern European country.

Obviously, Scotland isn’t part of Scandinavia like Denmark, Norway and Sweden. However, can an independent Scotland be regarded as a Nordic country? If so, joining the Nordic Council would be possible.

The usual definition of the Nordic countries includes only Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Greenland, the Faeroe Islands and the Åland Islands. However, a brief glance at a map shows that Scotland would be a natural addition to the list.

Scandinavia is largely defined by language — Danish, Swedish and Norwegian are mutually intelligible after a few weeks’ exposure. This isn’t true for the other languages of the Nordics, however. Also, people from all the Nordic countries are increasingly using English amongst themselves, so not knowing a Scandinavian language might not be a real problem.

In fact, I have a suspicion that the Finns and the Icelanders might be quite happy to get an excuse to use English — although Finnish-speaking Finns learn Swedish at school, almost none of them are able to understand spoken Danish.

Historically, the non-Scandinavian Nordic countries are, or have been, ruled by a Scandinavian one: the Faeroes and Greenland are still controlled by Denmark (although they have devolution), Iceland was Danish until 1944, and Finland and Åland were part of Sweden until 1809.

Orkney and Shetland were part of Denmark-Norway until 1468, when they were pawned to Scotland, and many Scottish islands were under Viking rule a few centuries before that, so there are definitely some historical connexions there that might be useful when submitting the membership application.

However, at the end of the day the Nordic Council is a club for small Northern European countries with a Social-Democratic mindset. If Scotland goes down the Common Weal path, I expect the Nordic Countries will be more than happy to let Scotland join.

See you on Saturday!

My new Arc of Prosperity T-shirt
My new Arc of Prosperity T-shirt, a photo by viralbus on Flickr.
As you’re probably already aware, the 2nd annual March and Rally for Independence will take place in Edinburgh on Saturday (21/09).

I’ll be there, of course, together with my family. We went last year, too, and it was great fun. Have a look at my wife’s photos from the event.

I hope to meet you there, and if you like this blog, please say hello! I’ve got myself an Arc of Prosperity T-shirt, so I should be easy to recognise.

The Scots language in an independent Scotland

Attenshun, mind yer step
Attenshun, mind yer step, a photo by x_goMad on Flickr.
I’ve met many people on either side of the independence debate who seem to regard Gaelic as one of the biggest casualties of the Union.

However, I think it’s likely that Gaelic would have declined at a similar pace even if Scotland has remained an independent country forever — a large reason for the lingering death of Scotland’s Celtic language is the depopulation of the countryside, and most Western countries have seen this development, at least to some extent.

On the other hand, I don’t think there’s any doubt the Scots language wouldn’t have been suppressed and dismissed as a mere dialect of English if the Kingdom of Great Britain had never been created. Scots, not Gaelic, would have been the majority language of Scotland today if Edinburgh had remained the capital of an independent country.

After a Yes vote we’ll be in a situation similar to the one Norway found itself in after the ties to Denmark were cut as a consequence of the Napoleonic Wars: Lots of people still speak the original national tongue, but they write in the dominant language of the union. In the case of Norway, the written language was Danish, and the remnants of Norwegian were seen as uncultured dialects.

However, in a surprisingly short amount of time, Norway got rid of Danish and created not just one, but two varieties of Norwegian: Bokmål, which is a Norwegianised form of Danish, and Nynorsk, which is based more strongly on Old Norwegian and on the dialects. The two varieties have converged a lot, so even standard Bokmål these days can be pretty different from Danish.

I wonder whether the same could happen in an independent Scotland. Will Scots gradually gain higher status? Will it become more acceptable to write in Scots, or at least to use Scots words when writing in English?

It’s impossible to predict exactly what will happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a hundred years from now, 2014 will be seen as the year when the decline of Scots was reversed.

The victory forecast

Nostradamus statue
Nostradamus statue, a photo by farrokhi on Flickr.
Keen readers of this blog might recall that I wrote the following back in March:

The effect is that according to current trends, Yes will overtake No on the 1st of September 2013, and by the time of the referendum, there will be more than twice as many Yes voters as No voters.

Last Sunday, which was the day I had predicted the tables would turn, the only new opinion poll was one from YouGov that found a huge lead to the No side (but at the same time virtually unchanged compared to their previous polls); however, I must admit to feeling a bit anxious that my prophetic skills weren’t quite as sharp as I had hoped,

However, Monday morning I woke up to this press release from the SNP:

The most recently sampled independence referendum opinion poll puts support for Yes a point ahead of No — at 44 per cent to 43 per cent, with Don’t Know at 13 per cent — as we enter the month of a year to go until next September’s vote.

It’s somewhat frustrating being off by a day, but I still think it was a pretty decent prediction.

Perhaps this would be a good opportunity to update my prediction. Are we still on track for a 2-to-1 Yes victory?

The trends lines and the newest polls.
The trends lines and the newest polls.
If we do the same as in April, drawing a trend line through all the recent opinion polls, things aren’t looking too good at the moment; however this is heavily influenced by Sunday’s YouGov poll and Tuesday’s TNS one.

If we ignore the YouGov poll (there were multiple problems with it, as described here and here), and if we adjust the TNS poll to take the 2011 Holyrood votes in account (see this post by Calum Cashley), we’re still on track for a big Yes victory, although it probably won’t quite reach 2-to-1 territory.

I would have liked the polls to be converging at this point, but they clearly aren’t, so instead of producing a plot with new trend lines, I’ve added the newest polls to the old graph with the old trend lines. (I’ve added both the original and the adjusted versions of the TNS poll.)

It’s clear that the No vote share isn’t declining quite as fast as I predicted back in April, no matter which polls we look at. However, the Yes vote share is potentially rising faster than predicted (if we look only at the most optimistic polls).

Until we get to a point where the opinion polls start converging again, I think this is the best we can do. It’s definitely looking like a decisive Yes victory, but perhaps not quite as big a landslide as I thought in April.

For A’ That 33

Mobile Podcast Recording Studio
Mobile Podcast Recording Studio, a photo by theunabonger on Flickr.
I spent some time today recording episode 33 of the For A’ That podcast together with Michael Greenwell and the Lallands Peat Worrier.

I very much enjoyed taking part, and if my dear wife is to be believed, it’s worth listening to, too. Do let me know what you think!

This is the direct download link (right click and save as).

You can listen to the show online at its web page.

Or you can subscribe with itunes.