Taking the long view
I get really annoyed at the way the No side constantly try to make people think that voting Yes is the equivalent of making Alex Salmond dictator for life. They also moan that it’ll cost a lot of money to buy a navy and duplicate certain shared institutions.
I just wish they would take the long view more often. How many people today are able to remember the names of England’s and Scotland’s leading politicians at the time the Act of Union was signed, more than three hundred years ago? And more to the point, do they actually care? Should people in 1707 have decided on the merits of creating the Union on the basis of whether they liked the political leaders of the day or not?
I’m not saying the Yes side never uses short-term arguments, but I do think the No side are the worst sinners in this regard. Focusing so much on Salmond is ridiculous — for all we know, he might decide to step down shortly after the independence referendum, and even if he doesn’t, it’s quite likely a revitalised Scottish Labour will win the 2020 Scottish General Election (or even the one in 2016).
It’s also silly to talk so much about the one-off costs associated with setting up an independent country. After a few years nobody will evaluate the decision to become independent based on these transitional costs; instead, they’ll look at how Scottish GDP developed over time after the referendum.
Whereas short-termism permeates the No campaign (probably because they know they have a very weak case when it comes to the longer view), it’s relatively sporadic on the Yes side. Of course we do get a lot of stories about how an independent Scotland will abolish the Bedroom Tax and such things, but that’s because they provide both a tangible benefit of independence and an example of how Scotland will do things differently, not because the short-term case is more compelling.
Next time I’m talking to a youngish undecided voter who says they’ll probably vote No because they don’t like Alex Salmond, I think I’ll ask them what they think their grandchildren will think of that in fifty years’ time.
12 thoughts on “Taking the long view”
RT @arcofprosperity: New blog post: Taking the long view http://t.co/RHOiZUVFqu #indyref
Good blog Thomas Widmann. It’s a nonsensical argument & one I’ve never fully understood NO using anyway, as Salmond is by far the most popular leader in the UK.
Thanks, Melissa! I have a theory — which I might elaborate on i another blog post — that the hate many No campaigners feel towards Salmon is due to deductive reasoning on a flawed basis: Basically, they start with the tenet that Scotland is better together with the rUK; it then follows that people arguing the opposite must be lying (or at least misguided), and given that Salmond is the most prominent Yes person, he must then logically the worst liar of us all. Furthermore, because he has access to the civil service and other sources of information denied to many other people, it’s impossible that he’s just misguided — he must basically be lying through his teeth. Their problem is of course they start out with a flawed premise.
This is a great article Thomas. I hear this time and time again from No voters- that they are voting no because they don’t like Alex Salmond. How ridiculous-!
I don’t like Salmond because he comes across as a political opportunist — there’s something of the snake oil salesman about him. He lacks the statesmanlike manner of a Donal Dewar character. It’s very easy to imagine that he’s in it for his ego. I also think his analysis of the situation in Scotland is flawed: it comes down to every problem in Scotland being caused by the English (euphemised as ‘rUK’ or ‘the Union’), the solution being independence. If the only ‘voice’ were Salmond’s, I still wouldn’t give the independence movement the time of day. The ‘No’ campaign is negative and uninspiring. However, I have become quite excited by the possibilities that independence could open up and I agree with you that arguing over the costs is silly. I don’t agree with your reasons why people are put off Salmond — I don’t think it’s a deductive thing at all, more a visceral thing. And people trust their guts. There’s possibly a bit of cognitive dissonance: people at gut level are feeling the way I do about Salmond but they might also possibly feel swayed towards ‘Yes’ by the arguments in favour.
Rob, you might be right that for many people it’s a more visceral thing. I’m just not sure I understand what it is that’s provoking it. I guess he’s a wee bit similar to Uffe Ellemann Jensen (leader of the opposition in Denmark in the late ’90s), who also divided public opinion in a marmite-like fashion.
See sec. 15-25 in this video. It’s from when he was foreign secretary. Denmark had voted No to Maastricht, and Denmark was about to play the UEFA ’92 final: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nt_oVKFKj5k
I think Margaret Thatcher had the same effect in Scotland. Scotland was the birthplace of economic liberalism so you would have expected her ideas to be popular there but there was something about her that just got under the skin of most Scots, in a way that it didn’t in, say, Sussex.
That’s different, though. She was loved in one place and hated in another, but Salmond isn’t an east-coast politician or something like that — there are people who love him and others who hate him everywhere.
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I think the focus on Alex Salmond and the SNP is because the Britnat Unionists have no coherent arguments to offer. They rely on emotional appeals to a mythical “great” britain and their only real hope is to turn this into a referendum on Alex Salmond and the SNP, and hope enough non SNP voters vote No. Not a very inspiring strategy, but what did we expect?
Alister, you’re right, of course. It’s very hard to see how Better Together could run a positive campaign full of honest arguments and win.