It’s been ages since I wrote a blog, and I’m launching straight into a discourse on politics, but I’m not one for avoiding issues so here goes…
I’m a Scottish resident, living in Dumfries & Galloway, and was originally born in Manchester in northern England. So I’m fairly well placed in terms of looking at Scottish independence from an only-just-south of the border perspective. And yesterday I had an interesting conversation about politics in general with a chip shop owner in Lancashire as we drove home from an event in England. He was scathing of the current political climate which seems to be making London richer at the expense of everyone else, and very sceptical of any career politicans, especially those who run Westminster at the moment. But he seemed desperately afraid of Scotland leaving the union.
And a friend who currently lives in England but who has previously been an Edinburgh resident made a ‘joke’, which wasn’t really a joke at all, begging us not to leave them alone with right wing, semi-facist, politics that have begun to make themselves heard in England.
I think that there’s a real element of fear among people who have socialist or left-leaning politics in England, and among people in the north of England who feel divorced and excluded by Westminster, that Scotland’s departure from the union will cause massive political upheaval that would leave them with even less of a voice than they have at the moment. I think the political scene in the north of England has a similar demographic to much of Scotland, with a much larger left-wing perspective than southern England has, and strong scepticism that their vote and their voice are rarely, if ever heard. It’s these same desires, to allow the left to have a voice, and to feel that your vote really does count towards how your country is run, which I think drives many yes-voting Scots to wish to do so.
The same feelings that drive around 50% of the already-declared Scottish electorate to want to vote Yes are those which drive northern English residents to hope, wish and pray that the no-vote is the stronger one. If anyone asks me what I think the results of the referrendum will be, I always answer the same… “it’ll be 49% to 51%, but which way around I cannot predict”. It is going to be a very close vote no matter how much spin you try and put on the numbers. And it is going to rely just as much on the decisions and political situations in England as it does on what the Scottish politicans say.
I think that the UKIP gains in English councils and in Europe will push some undecided voters to the ‘yes’ vote, especially if those new politicans start spouting anything that looks, sounds or smells too right-wing for the Scots. I think any decision that Westminster makes between now and September will be edited and carefully thought through to see if it could have any impact on Scottish opinions of the current Condem government (which, lets face it, are low enough already). I think that too few people will actually read both the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ literature and make an informed decision.
And I also think that politicans on both sides of the independence debate have lied to us – the task we have as voters is simply to decide which side has lied more.
If Scotland does become independent I am hopeful that in the short to medium term, Scotland will be a wealthier, fairer nation. Long term depends on oil wealth and no one can predict what that will do.
But as for northern England, I cannot begin to predict – maybe disheartened apathy will rule the day, maybe people will be fired up to act, demand a regional assembly, maybe people will vote to get rid of the far right as soon as they can. All I do know is that many look north to the country that borders their county with a combination of dread and longing.