Yes! er…No…er…Wait!

It may be a rare phrase to use but  Adam Ingram is right. Yes, the former Armed Forces Minister has had a rare moment of lucidity. He says a narrow Yes will result in desperate attempts by Unionist MPs to reverse the decision. I believe he’s right.

What we mustn’t forget is just how much the British state values Scotland. It’s what, in their ham-fisted way, they are trying to tell us by pleading that things will only get worse after independence. They need us to stay because of our historical net contribution to the Exchequer – also a reason why Brussels will shy away from blocking our path – because we are extremely useful for training troops and fighter pilots as well as housing nuclear subs and because losing Scotland is a massive credibility hit for the global reputation of the UK. Our departure really does shrink the UK in the eyes of the world and retaining the Union underscores Britain’s international standing. The truth is that England isn’t nearly as sure of itself as the Simon Heffers and Kelvin McKenzies pretend and the English people aren’t really patriotically English so much as proudly British.

There will be a kind of panic sweeping Whitehall if Scotland goes ahead and does it and, when they can no longer control events, the guardians of Britishness will revert to sabotage. In those circumstances, you can throw democracy out of the window and with it the Edinburgh Agreement. It’s worth as much as David Cameron wants it to be and if voices resisting Scotland’s democratic wish are loud and persuasive enough, we know from experience that Cameron will buckle. We come up against the iron rule of the British state – that power, all power, is retained at Westminster. Forget the Holyrood Parliament and your saltire flags. Read the government’s own legal advice issued earlier this year and see how the Crown in Parliament is the font of all authority. Parliament at Westminster can do anything it likes up to and including abolishing Holyrood in one sitting. Edinburgh Agreement? Don’t make me laugh.

So what will be the arguments deployed? First, that a tiny percentage like one, two or three points is not enough to embark on major constitutional change. Apart from the devastating impact on the Scots, is it really fair to destroy the United Kingdom and damage the interests of 90 per cent of the population on the basis of such a miniscule majority?

Also, exit polls will confirm what will have been apparent for months before the vote, that there is a significant number of voters opting for Yes but who really want Devo Max. That number, of those voting for independence but not really wanting it, will be used to justify holding off from accepting the result. They will then question the turnout.

In other circumstances you could imagine the world community – at least the democratic part – howling in protest at London and no doubt some will. But even Scotland’s friends across the Atlantic, in continental Europe and Scandinavia are far from convinced this is the right path for a long-integrated Unionist Scotland. They will support on the basis of a convincing win but, if there’s a wafer-thin majority and London is making clear this is a big issue on which friends are expected to remain neutral?

In the meantime, we can expect the whole tone from London to change as they whiz into Devo Max mode, offering virtually everything the Nationalists ask for, short of the end of Britain. This will be unbelievably messy. There is an anti-Scot, anti-Europe, right-wing cohort in England who want rid of Scotland and there will be many, many more very angry Scots asking what you’re supposed to do when democracy fails you. (There are several very dangerous answers to this question.)

On the other hand, Ingram’s other point has resonance too – that there will be an identifiable group shaken to the core by the implications of that Yes vote and who will be malleable to reversing their vote…and open to a second referendum, possibly?

This scenario reminds me of one of my early reflections when London first poked its nose into this whole referendum affair. I never understood their thinking. Viewed from London, Salmond is a distant warlord running his own show so let him conduct a so-called referendum on his own terms while London disowns it. If it is a No, then he humiliates himself and it’s over. If, on the other hand, he gets a narrow Yes, there is absolutely no reason for London to do anything about it. They simply say that Scotland doesn’t have the powers to conduct the referendum and that Salmond planned it as yet another grievance issue.

If the Yes was decisive, then Cameron could open talks to see what might be arranged in terms of additional powers and, as I wrote a few posts ago, it has been confirmed to me that he was ready to deal with Cameron on something short of independence. If all that failed, Cameron could take control and say he will either run a referendum across Britain first and also separately in Scotland or just agree a formulation – as he eventually did – to allow Holyrood to stage it. All along, he buys time. Instead, he was drawn into the whole process and ended up endorsing it and conferring legal authority which makes it harder for him to pull back. But, as Ingram implies, when the British state is threatened, you’ll need more than one per cent to hold them back.

A narrow Yes could be just the beginning.

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0 thoughts on “Yes! er…No…er…Wait!

  1. “If the Yes was decisive, then Cameron could open talks to see what might be arranged in terms of additional powers and, as I wrote a few posts ago, it has been confirmed to me that he was ready to deal with Cameron on something short of independence.”
    You mean Salmond?

  2. Derek you are forgetting something, all the possible scenarios will be mulled over and not just by the unionist faction! Those on the YES front will also have been considering the options, it’s not just down to what the British faction will do or say in any given situation.

    There is such a thing as being forewarned and i doubt if any thing you have said here has not already occurred to others whom I believe will have their own plans ready for just such a situation as you mentioned.

  3. I think that a failure to endorse a Yes vote by the British state would simply confirm that we are not living in a functioning democracy. It would also be close to fascism, if not actually it, in my opinion. A Yes vote of over 50% is clearly enough. The failure to recognise this would be devastating for the reputation of the British state. It would have dreadful implications as well. I have heard SLAB politicians hinting that they would not accept a narrow Yes vote. I am afraid they are only showing contempt for democratic principles and values. They should be thinking very hard about the direction they and the British state would be leading Scotland down.

  4. I’m going to keep a copy of this…… Things have gone astray in computerland before now….

  5. I don’t know much about Adam Ingram – maybe others can tell me if he makes a habit of stating the blindingly obvious.

    Here’s some more –

    We won’t have to wait for a YES vote for goodies to be offered, opinion polls showing we are headed in that direction will be enough.

    No guarantees will be given.

    If we then vote NO said goodies will disappear like snaw aff a dike – more important things to do, EU referendum, which country to interfere with next, etc. – and some time later, well the situation has changed you know.

    Like Jim Mitchell above, I have no doubt that, since all of this is indeed so obvious, there has been some forward planning by the Scottish Government e.g. Some friendly/democratic government to acknowledge the result of the referendum and recognise Scotland as an independent country, followed hopefully by others.

  6. Labour do not agree that Scotland is a country.
    Labour only agree with democracy when it is on their terms.
    Labour will do anything to prevent Scottish democracy happening.

  7. This is definitely something journalists need to start asking unionist politicians, to get them all on record as being prepared to accept even a narrow result. Darling has often been emphasizing that ‘all the nationalists have to do is get 50% plus one vote’, but that’s just Darling. We need to hear it from Cameron, Osborne, Davidson, Miliband, Balls, Lamont and Carmichael.

    • That would assume that journalists are willing to scrutinise and hold Unionist politicians to account though. Unfortunately in the main (with honourable exceptions of course), they have been found sorely lacking in this task. Why was it left to National Collective to ask questions about the Taylor donation to the No campaign? Why has there been no real attempt to question Darling on the implications of leaving the EU as part of the British state? Why was he able to get away with saying there is only 2 billion barrels of oil left in the North Sea? Why is it the media pretending that if we vote No then Holyrood is going to get more powers? They must know that the reverse is much more likely. There was a reason broadcasting was not devolved to the Scottish Parliament…

  8. I am not convinced that Cameron would refuse to respect the result. Firstly he has made a commitment and secondly it will actually suit his short term prospects of reelection to remove 59 Scottish MPs from the equation. The dirty tricks will come before the vote not after. Expect lots of bribes and several attempts at shock, horror revelations. Possibly also some measures to create economic turbulence.

    I also think you underestimate the extent to which English identity is now stronger than British down South. I lived in Bedfordshire for 20 years and saw a marked, and broadly positive, shift. English identity is not just the preserve of the far right these days.

  9. Yes and no. There are all sorts of undemocratic things that London could do, but to remove the mask to that extent really risks total social breakdown. If the ruling classes can make up the rules to suit themselves, why can’t everyone else? We are already some way down this path but the point at which London reverses a democratic mandate they’ve publicly and explicitly signed up to i that point at which the social contract dies and all legitimacy disappears. What happens thereafter may retain something called the United Kingdom but it would be an overtly policed state with no democratic input.
    Ultimately this is not preferable to moving on to a post-UK democracy in Europe and even if some carpet-chewing pols would go for that, the strong vested interests that give them their instructions will not in general. There is too much to lose for everyone.
    I do think that the UK state is moving psychologically from denial of the need for its fundamental reform into bargaining. The White Paper should accelerate that process.

  10. Perfideous Albion – only fools will believe her promises.
    Adam Ingram, is he the Labour MP who held some position in the Ministry of Defence in the Blair Labour government and whose entrepreneurial instincts blossomed whilst he held office?
    Och, I suppose it was his turn to voice one of the Project Fear thingys being developed by the UK civil service on Cameron’s instructions.
    There is a civil movement developing, the Yes campaign.I wonder if the Establishment would really dare set aside democracy in the face of a Yes to independence vote?

  11. Hi there,

    I envisage a very, very slow increase in the share of the “Yes” vote in the polls as the Referendum approaches. So slow that the Unionists will remain confident that “No” will win by a reasonable margin right up ’til shortly before the actual date and therefore feel no pressure to offer “DevoMax”, by which time it will too late. In the event, because of their unremitting negativity they will have given their “No” voters nothing to turn out at the polls for, and “Yes” will triumph by an unexpectedly large margin.

    Then the fun begins.


  12. It will be quite difficult for Westminster to refuse to accept a YES vote by the Scottish electorate – not the least because of the Edinburgh Agreement. This document, signed by both Prime Minsiter David Cameron and First Minsiter Alex Salmond, binds BOTH signatories to accept the result of the referendum. A subseqent Westminster backtracking in the event of a YES vote, to one-sidedly renege on the “legally binding” agreement (their words, not mine), would put them in very bad odour in the eyes of the United Nations and the European Union. And the UK (especially Wee Willie Warmonger Hague) sets great store by the UK’s perceived “importance” and resultant participation in World Councils with the other global “big boys” .

    Isn’t it sad – and angering – that most of the vocal opposition and sleekit undermining of Scotland’s independence is coming from self-professed “proud Scots” among the unionist cabal! Historically, even at the main battles which contributed to the winning of England’s reluctant recognition of Scotland’s independence, Stirling Bridge in 1297 and Bannockburn in 1314, there were similar cabals of backstabbing, fifth columnist “proud Scots” fighting on the side of the English invaders and oppressors of their own people. Quislings, every last one of them!

  13. There will without a doubt be a variety of emotions and opinions if we vote Yes (narrowly or not). I can see some (not mentioning names but I’m looking at you Foulkes) who might be tempted to go so far as to call for the Scottish Government to be suspended and key players put under house arrest. One thing for sure, it will make the 2015 election to Westminster interesting. We would need to turf the Unionist attack dogs out and make sure that we had representatives playing for Scotland in the negotiations leading up to 2016.

  14. Ah, i see you’re all catching up what what i said some time ago…

    I did ponder what would hapen post Referendum, and thought instantly that Salmond’s timetable of Independence 18 months from referendum was way way too optamistic. Mostly because Salmond (and to be honest an awful lot of the comentators on Better Nation, The Burd, et all) were too trusting of Cameron, Osborne and Co. Still are, and shamefuly would still trust them over Milliband & Co. Still can’t remember where i saw the small nugget about Cameron not giving Scotland fiscal autonomy in the event of a yes vote.

    Oh and there’s no way Scotland will be a member of the EU on the scheuled day one of Independence (which is not a bad thing in my book, but that’s another comment).

    By the way, Hand&Shrimp, i’m already on record as saying that the post referendum Westminster Election will be the most bitter and spiteful election campaign in living memory. There will be bile flowing between the parties.

    • Allan,
      in the event the of a YES vote, no matter how slim, I can see no way that Scotland will take part in the 2015 Westminster elections. In 2014 the Tories will just have been seen to lose Britain and will instantly redouble their focus on the 2015 Westminster elections. The polls may be tight or they may not, however, there is no way that the Tory party are going to allow the possibility of losing in 2015 to 40 odd Scottish Labour MPs that are being temporarily sent down until 2016. It simply is not in their political interests to risk loss of power for even a year, (although if allowed would most likely end up an entire term of office as I will explain).

      Likewise, it is not in the interests of the SNP Scottish Government to risk an electoral reversal of the referendum result (or rather what would be claimed as a reversal by Labour, The BBC and the entire British Press) in the event of another 40 Labour MPs being returned to Westminster in 2015.

      This would be a very unwelcome powerbase from which SLab would cause political trouble. If indeed they were the majority holding Labour in power down in Westminster, they and Labour would be in complete power during half the supposed negotiating period between Holyrood and Westminster, prior to our 2016 Independent elections!

      You really think the SNP beleive those Scottish Labour MPs and their Labour Government would, in good faith, negotiate away their own Westminster electoral majority and hand power over to the Tories, as they watch their 40 odd Scottish MPs resign and head north to their dole appointments? It simply would not happen and Salmond et al know it!

      So, that just leaves it in the interests of Labour, for the reasons already outlined above. Unfortunately for them, they are not in power and worse, have no real influence over the decision making at either Westminster or Holyrood. They will be stitched up and ignored. That’s politics (and the importance of power)!

      In the event of any YES vote in 2014, the political kaleidoscope will have settled and everyone will once again see very clearly the pattern of where their short term, ruthless, electoral necessities/advantages lie and act accordingly.

      One very productive negotiating year with the Tory/LibDem Government, NATO, The EU and UN producing interim understandings, along with an interim agreement not to send any MPs to Westminster for that remaining single year, and I think we will be officially Independent, by mutual agreement, just before the Westminster (and first rUK) General Elections of 2015.

      All further negotiations will be carried out over the following years by the two newly sovereign states. Same with our relationships with all those other important international bodies.

      That’s how I see it anyway. Not as an optimist but as a political cynic that sees political parties only real interests as being power, and the patronage and treasure it bestows.

    • Why would the 2015 general election be the most bitter in living memory? If there is a Yes vote, and it is recognised by Westminster, and the international community, then there will be no bitterness. The SNP will see their voting levels soar for these elections, and Unionist SLAB will be finished. Why would you trust Milliband more than Cameron, given that the former has much more to lose from a Yes vote than the latter has (40 odd MPs to be precise)?

    • Braco, Muttley79.

      You are of course assuming that Scotland will vote Yes next September.

      If there is a Yes vote (and that is still unlikely at the moment), there will still be acromony & division in the UK General Elections. Who will be best placed to get the best deal for r-UK (and who can punish those Scots) will suddenly appear as an election issue

      • No Allan I am not assuming there is going to be a Yes vote. Why would there be acrimony after a Yes vote has been recognised by Westminster and the international community? It is in nobody’s interests for there to be after a Yes vote.

      • Allan,
        a thin YES vote is the scenario painted by Derek and the article we are commenting on surely?

        As I have outlined in some detail why I don’t believe Scotland will participate in 2015 rUK elections, I don’t understand what concern it is of us in IndyScotland, what manifestos their parties will stand for election to Westminster on. That’s their legitimate democratic system surely?

        We will be sending our folk into negotiations as hard nosed as they will. That is the nature of negotiation and would be no different conducted inside or outside the current UK after a YES vote.

        Surely your argument points to negotiations being concluded as rapidly as possible (for both parties) before the messiness of the 2015 elections has the chance to sour future trade and diplomatic relations. Money will still have to be made and life will still have to go on and neither side wants our economies trashed by dailymailism.

  15. I don’t think WM needs to be nearly so open and brutal about it as you suggest. The post-yes negotiations are the key. Apart from Trident, Scotland’s hand is comparatively weak. Main gate decision time for Trident replacement isn’t until 2016, so there’s delay time there. By election 2015, the shape of a deal will be becoming clear, and if Westminster is refusing to support EU membership and playing rough on oil and Faslane it may begin to look like a deal the SG cannot accept. At that point, Cameron offers a devo-something compromise, lapped up by ScoLab. So how does the SNP then play the 2015 election? Stand for UDI and be wiped out, or accept the compromise and split? London’s thought processes were not that foolish: give them the rope to hang themselves, and if they don’t do it first time round, we’ll force them into doing it later. You’ll note none of the above contaminates democracy or the Edinburgh agreement, nor does it give anyone an excuse for taking to the heather.
    The only danger is a 10-15% majority for Yes, and even that can be scuppered by a sufficiently persuasive Devo-max offer at the right time.
    Remember that we were given a clear warning when Michael Moore said ‘Scotland cannot expect a free pass’?
    Of course, the above is to accept your initial premise that the British state values Scotland sufficiently to risk considerable fall-out (not least in the north of England). There will be someone whispering ‘Remember Ireland’ in the PM’s ear. That particular stooshie half paralysed the British state for three quarters of a century, and in the end the state found it had not lost as much as it had once thought. Let’s hope that council prevails.

  16. Kininvie,
    would the Scots and international community view it as UDI after a YES vote in a democratic and Westminster sanctioned referendum and after the break down of negotiations with an intransigent Westminster? I don’t think so.

    Negotiations then restart as independent sovereign states, which is probably the easiest and most usual way these things are done anyway. It just gets so messy otherwise, with party rather than national loyalties coming into play.

    That year of wiggle room is essential, and a master stroke of timing by those schemers in the SNP. Class!

  17. Braco: No matter how justified, the international community is likely to view UDI with horror. Just who would break the consensus and recognise Scotland? Iran and Venuzuela. Anyone else? Without international recognition, the UK would be entitled to take such measures as it wished to restore the status quo and Scotland would find it impossible to trade. If you need convincing that UDI would be a power game doomed to failure, just take a wander through the history of the American civil war and the desperate attempts by the Confederate government to obtain recognition. Sorry, but it’s not on.

  18. Kininvie,
    define UDI? I was under the impression it was the declaration of a political party on behalf of the population of a region or colony against the wishes of the recognised parent state.

    NOT a declaration of Independence by a democratic countries elected government after consulting its electorate directly on the subject by voting in a ratified and formally agreed legally binding referendum! (agreed between both governments of the current UK constitutional state)

    Look at the UN’s founding principles on rights of self determination.

    The American civil war pre dates modern world and international organisational communities and is of no real relevance to this discussion.

  19. I cannot see Scotland returning a majority of Scottish Labour MPs at the next election. VI for Westminster 2015 are showing SNP with a commanding lead. If the UK reneges on the Edinburgh agreement (untenable in my view), we’ll return a huge majority of SNP MPs who will spend their entire time at Westminster demanding independence.

    • G.P.Walrus,
      possibly, but why on earth would the SNP risk it when they don’t have to? Elections (like referendums) are strange, uncontrollable things and politicians (when in power) try to avoid them as much as possible, for good reason.

      ‘Events dear boy events’

  20. This is a scare story worthy of the worst that the Bitter people could dream up. Is Derek Bateman really on the YES side? Putting this story together with some of his other scares and his absolute denial of bias at the BBC makes me wonder.

  21. ” there will be an identifiable group shaken to the core by the implications of that Yes vote and who will be malleable to reversing their vote…and open to a second referendum, possibly?”

    I’m not sure that’s true. Or at least it works both ways. I didn’t vote SNP in 2007. I wasn’t very political, and still largely believed the media “consensus” that they were a bit fruit-loop and a fringe party not to be trusted. I supported the Lib Dems and federalism. But when they won I found I was inexplicably happy and excited. It felt like a real change. I hoped the Lib Dems would go into coalition with them, but instead we had 4 years of the Westminster parties going all out together to make things hard.

    I had the strong feeling a lot of people around me felt similarly, that it was a breath of fresh air and they liked it. In 2011, we saw the results of that.

    I suspect the morning after a Yes vote will be similar. A lot of people who nervously, reluctantly voted yes, or who voted no with a heavy heart will find themselves inexplicably happy and excited. We’ll start the process of building a new country, and all the possibilities will open up. There are plenty people ready to hit the ground running on that.

    Attempts to shift people backwards at that point could backfire very badly, in the same way the 2007 result became the 2011 one for the SNP. Taking that first step into any unknown can be very hard but once you’ve done it, you don’t generally want to go back.

    • Cath,

      I think you’ve hit the nail on the head in terms of what happened in 2007 and 2011 and what is going to happen in 2014. The experience you describe happened for so many people and is part of a much bigger society-wide shift than any one individual. I remember the conversations at the school gates that gave us the 2007 election results. Its those same conversations happening now that are likely to lead to a ‘Yes’ in 2014, and it is likely to surface in the polls very late on, because changes such as this are not ones you advertise or shout or even really acknowledge, until you have to (which is in the few weeks running up to the vote).

      But this points to a bigger question, which is how do we enable the same kind of shift in relation to the near-complete capture of the political and now – they hope – judicial system by corporations (see Monbiot’s article on this: How can we wake ourselves up from the slumber and realise it doesn’t have to be like this, and – given climate change – can’t carry on being like this if we’re to have a future?

  22. […] over on Derek Bateman’s blog, describes perfectly the emotional side of this […]

  23. I believe some in Westminster/Better Together are getting rattled.

    Personally? If we win the Yes vote, I think we’ll get our independence.

    I think – for all his faults – Cameron is genuinely, romantically pro-Union. If we say Yes, his pragmatism will come to fore and he’ll wave us off.
    Partly it will see off some Labour seats, address the West Lothian question, and also see rid of a few pesky Lib Dems, too.

  24. […] former host of BBC Radio Scotland’s Saturday morning political review program, speculated on his blog about how the U.K. Government might react to a narrow win by pro-Scottish independence […]

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