scotsflagAre any of you following the Scottish independence referendum?  It’s a surprisingly big deal around the Huntington, which being a kind of monument to the “special relationship” between the United States and Great Britain in terms of its art, manuscript, and bibliographic collections, is loaded with British people and British scholars, always.  Opinions here vary as to how it will go, and how it should go.  I expect that the results will be some time in coming–it’s early evening in Britain now, but the polls don’t close until 10 p.m. there, so even with an immediate overnight count we may not know until late tonight or early tomorrow morning Pacific Daylight Time.

I was agnostic on the question, being neither Scots nor British nor a British studies scholar, until I saw that Niall Ferguson has been urging a “nae” vote.  Today, he claims that “Alone, Scotland Will Be a Failed State.”  Right.  Just like Canada, the U.S., New Zealand, and Australia!  Failed states, all of them, even the U.S. with its tragic adoption of Euro-style socialised medicine and Afro-style Kenyan anticolonial presidents.  Wait–did you see that?  Even the spelling around here is getting socialised–I mean, socialized!  Good God.  But knowing where Ferguson stands is really clarifying:  as a reflexively Tory doomsayer he’s so spectacularly wrong about everything all of the time, it made it easy to root for an “aye!”  

Whatever makes the Scots happy is fine by me.  I really enjoyed Scotland the one time I visited, a whirlwind trip to Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Stirling in 2001.  It struck me that Scotland in the summer was the perfect place to finish writing a book, because it’s light until 10 p.m. or so, and it rains a lot, so you’d have little to do but finish the job you came to do.  I also really liked the haggis, which I tried at several different restaurants and pubs, so go figure.

14 thoughts on “Aye!

  1. I’m an expat Scot, ineligible to vote but following everything keenly, and I’ve moved from Yes to agnostic, (except on haggis which I’ll always be in favour of). I signed up for a MOOC on the referendum, run by Edinburgh University, which has been a good resource but all I see now is shades of gray! There are compelling arguments for and against, and it’s not just pragmatism and banks versus idealism and unicorns.
    If anyone’s interested, the 6-week MOOC is in its 4th week and you can still sign up and catch up. As a supplemental resource for a complex issue (as opposed to a substitute for a real class), it’s been better than just reading the news. https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/indyref


  2. I’m totally riveted (and since actual results will start coming in shortly, there is something to be riveted to. As a British historian, I am agnostic leaning to no — I see the romance of independence, but disentangling economies and societies will be very difficult: and the yes people have, I think, underestimated the bitterness should they win. I don’t thing the English will make things easy for them. On the other hand, I much prefer Scottish policies to current British ones, so . . .


  3. I’m with Susan (and also a British historian—not sure I ever revealed that when I was regularly blogging). It’s one of those rare and unfortunate occasions when what I think is the “right” decision coincides with politics I very much dislike and rewards a PM I don’t like. An independent Scotland wouldn’t be a failed state, of course, but the switch would be far, far rougher than the Yes side is letting on. That said, the general tenor of the No campaign is evidence of why so many want to leave. It seems clear, though, that if Scotland stays (and despite my earlier prediction, that’s looking the more likely outcome), devo max must happen and fast.


  4. A Scot of my acquaintance hereabouts says tonight that any meaningful data about the vote won’t come in until about 2-3 a.m., Eastern Time, so this is one I won’t wait up for. I would vote “no,” but it’s not my call. When the oil runs out, not sure what would be the next resort. Political coalitions, and the political valences of sub-national places, come and go.


  5. Well the result is in and I, a Scot, sitting quietly weeping. But, can I just say, I hate the idea that this is about economics and especially about oil. 1) We have a pretty decent economy without oil compared to many European nations that go it alone; and 2) voting for independence should have been about identity and difference and a desire for autonomy – not to be the richest of them all.


  6. I’ve been reading here for a while, but Feminist Avatar’s comment got me to come out of lurkerville. I totally understand the sense of dismay that many Scots are feeling this morning, just to be clear. That being said, I feel an enormous sense of relief that the no side won (despite my disdain for the Tories, et al). As a POC, the idea of a yes vote truly frightened me in terms of what it would say about growing (white) ethno-nationalisms in the country. Certainly, I don’t think it would have led to much good for those of us who, by virtue of ancestry and skin colour, don’t have the option to be anything but British.


  7. I lived in Edinburgh through most of the 90s during my graduate school years, so I have been following this with great interest. First and foremost, I wish to congratulate Scotland on its 84.5% turnout – a wonderful example for the world of how democracy SHOULD work. Second, the result reinforces the idea Scotland is a deeply conservative (as opposed to Conservative) nation (the result of the 2011 Parliamentary elections shocked me, as did the poll a couple weeks ago that showed the YES votes ahead). Third, I cannot help but wonder whether this is the end of the Scottish Independence movement for this generation. What are the chances that we will see, again, a conjunction of a (1) deeply unpopular Westminster government; (2) a SNP majority in the Scottish Parliament; (3) an absolutely pathetic NO campaign?


  8. @bme brit
    I found this photo telling about Scottish nationalism’s continued civic, rather than ethnic virtues:

    That said, I cannot help but think you are spot on with regards to what a YES vote might have unleashed in the UK as a whole.


  9. Thanks, everyone, for your really smart comments. Thefrogprincess, it’s good to hear from you again! I meant to check in again last night, but I took a late yoga class and then had to deal with a cat jailbreak, so that was it for me last night. As it was, I didn’t get to bed until after 10 p., which is the middle of the night for me.

    So it’s a nae this time around, but I think Profane is probably spot-on (and Cameron too, from what I heard this morning on the radio) in predicting that separation is a moot point for the next generation or so. That’s how it’s worked in Quebec, after a breathless run-up to the 1995 vote in which we were told “it could go either way,” the Nos won decisively and no one has talked about Quebec independence since then.

    I found it interesting that the LA Times story on the Scottish referendum interviewed two volunteers from the Yes Campaign who were 1) Quebecois, and 2) Catalan, and the woman from Catalonia specifically said that if Scotland goes its own way, then it will pave the way for the Catalan people. bme Brit’s concerns are something to watch for, though, in any resurgence of nationalism.

    As for oil: isn’t that a 20th C concern? I’m thinking that water (and access to the arctic) is going to be the next oil, so arctic nations may be positioned to leverage that advantage. There’s a lot of fresh water in Quebec, which could be a real goldmine in the next century.

    Eh, but what do I know, being Historiann & not Futuriann?


  10. I have to say that if I lived my life to avoid Niall “The Tool” Ferguson and his blustering opinions on everything, it would be too damned much work. But, yes, I am also very disconcerted when I find that he and I are possibly of the same opinion on something.

    I was hoping that “No” would win so the results relieved me. As someone who’s lived in Canada for decades, I’m very wary about separation votes. I’m married to a Quebecer who is also an ardent Canadian citizen and proud promoter of the Commonwealth. We’re all a little weary of the “let’s keep trying until we get what we want” approach some separatists have so seeing the “No” side win hasn’t given new fuel to that fire here.


  11. Whether or not the results would be different depends on whether the vote correlates with the individual over time (young yes voters would vote yes again in 30 years), or whether an individual’s vote would change as they age (young yes voters would vote no in 30 years). Given the same general political conditions, the latter is more likely, since pensions, taxes, and benefits are among the high-ranking reasons for people to vote no. If Scotland’s internal policies, or people’s perception of their likely policies, were more favorable in the future, the former wold become more likely.


  12. bme brit: I totally hear you about the creepiness of white ethno-nationalisms, and don’t deny that it’s there in Scotland. But I think that white nationalism was not quite the factor in the Yes campaign that it would have been even 10 years ago. I think – I may be wrong – that the intersections of Nordic identities and white nationalisms are stronger in the diaspora (e.g. the adoption of pseudo-Celtic symbols by US white supremacist groups etc.) than they are in the political landscape of the home countries.
    Some polls of non-white Scots living in Scotland suggested majority support for independence. There was a significant poll by Awaz FM for example that showed strong support among some South Asian communities, and a study by someone at Stirling I think that said Pakistani Scots were twice as likely to claim Scottish identity as Pakistani English to claim Englishness. Some anti-racist groups in Scotland saw independence (or at least the conversations about it) as a chance to articulate a new kind of national identity that goes beyond the historical freight of empire and the current rise of Ukip in England.
    But of course racism is still a problem, and different racial and ethnic communities have different experiences of it – I’m certainly not saying Scotland is post-racial based on one poll of Pakistani Scots. And the conversation on race in much British media is a little weird, because the word “racism” itself has been hijacked by White English and Scots alike to accuse each other of discrimination. Rags like the Daily Mail are convinced that “anti-English racism” (as in, prejudice against White English based on accent not colour) is a thing in Scotland. Not denying the reality of that particular prejudice, but I do wish they’d stop calling it racism. It totally invalidates the specific experience of people of colour in white-majority nations.


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