I’ve been thinking about the four tribes of Scotland a bit more.
Let’s first recapitulate how I defined the four groups:
- The blue tribe consists of the 33% of voters who want Scotland to be an independent country inside the EU [mnemonic: blue as the Saltire and the EU flag].
- The yellow tribe is made up of the 11% who want Scotland to be a completely independent country outside both the UK and the EU [mnemonic: yellow as the background on the lion rampant flag, which this group in my experience is very fond of].
- The green tribe is home to the pro-EU unionists who were perfectly happy inside both unions (28% of voters) [mnemonic: green for hope, because they will hopefully vote Yes next time].
- The red tribe is made up of the 23% of voters who are pro-UK Brexiters [mnemonic: red as the cross on the English flag].
The first point that I don’t think I stressed enough in my first post on this topic is that it’s important to bear in mind that the four tribes aren’t homogenous groups separate from each other. Many voters for instance inhabit the blue-green borderland – they’re primarily internationalists and aren’t actually that concerned about whether they’re citizens of Scotland or the UK. Other voters are found in the blue-yellow area and are primarily pro-Scotland and less concerned with Scotland’s membership of the EU. The interested reader can as an exercise describe the green-red and yellow-red voters.
In Indyref2 the goal for the Yes side is to turn the blue-green greens into blue-green blues without losing the yellow tribe (in particular the yellow-red yellows). And similarly I expect the No side will focus on winning over the yellows without losing too many of the greens.
And this leads me to my second point: I don’t think the opposing tribes have anything in common. The blue and red tribes are complete opposites, as are the green and yellow ones.
It’s interesting that when Better Together (which were of course dominated by green-tribe politicians) talked about the Yes side, they always seemed to describe the yellow tribe and not have any understanding of the blue tribe, and I think the Yes side (which was almost entirely a blue-tribe effort) made a similar error of assuming all No voters were deep down from the red tribe, and we didn’t really understand how you could be a progressive internationalist and still vote No.
If my analysis is correct, the potential problem for Indyref2 is that you can’t create a successful coalition of yellow-blue-green: As soon as you start appealing to the green tribe, the yellows will walk out in disgust, and vice versa. It’s already very clear that the yellow tribe are deeply unhappy about Indyref2 being run on the basis of continued EU membership. On the other hand, if we focus too much on keeping the yellow tribe on board, we’ll be unable to appeal to the green tribe.
The million-bawbee question is how many members of the green tribe we can realistically win over in Indyref2. If we stop appealing to the yellow tribe, we need to win over a significant number of green-tribe voters to compensate.
We badly need an opinion poll to segment the green tribe into blue-green and red-green (and perhaps even finer shades than this). When push comes to shove, how many of them will join the blue tribe rather than the red one? I hope this is something the SNP are doing behind the scenes.