Wednesday 24 September 2014

Scotland's Vote 26: Fear did not win

Referring to the No campaign as Project Fear started off as a clever bit of marketing by the Yes side. It has become something dangerously close to an article of faith.

Some independence supporters now put forward this reasoning:
  1. The No side is Project Fear.
  2. Anyone who votes No is a coward, at best.
  3. Scotland's chance at independence was lost because of a lot of No-voting cowards.

For example, Irvine Welsh wrote (emphasis mine):
The no voters should take a bow: they delivered the UK establishment a reprieve the enervated, confused and weak campaign of their masters certainly didn't deserve. They have bought time for the union, and many of them, people who will habitually support the status quo at almost any cost, will simply be relieved.
The prominent Yes campaigners Wings Over Scotland are less circumspect:
... if the Scottish people willingly allowed themselves to be frightened and cowed they have nobody but themselves to blame.
In the language of the school playground: If you voted No, you're nothing but a great big jessie.

Source: USA Today
Or as The Simpsons' Groundskeeper Willie put it:

There are the freedom loving heirs of the Highland tradition, and those that enjoy crawling like worms beneath British boots.

It must be said, the No campaign often lived up to this caricature. They spent a great deal of time talking about the dangers of independence, and not much articulating hopes and dreams.

Project Fear was a clever slogan, but that's all it was. We are not schoolchildren, and unlike Willie we are not fictional characters, so it's time for a reality check.

The Yes campaign wanted Scots to be afraid. Very, very afraid. Of all kinds of things, such as:
  • Cuts to UK public spending in the name of "austerity"
  • Privatisation of the NHS
  • The Conservatives winning an overall majority in 2015, and calling a referendum on EU membership followed by a UK exit
  • Betrayal of Scotland by the UK Labour Party
  • UKIP gaining power, alone or in coalition with the Tories
  • Boris Johnson becoming Prime Minister
  • The bedroom tax, or equally unfair policies in the future (the House of Commons having voted to repeal the bedroom tax itself two weeks before the referendum)
  • Posh southern English Tories having power over Scotland, under any circumstances.
Some of these fears are more reasonable than others. The point is, Yes exploited fear just as much as No. This is fine. Fear has its uses; and before you make a decision of this magnitude, thinking long and hard about the dangers is no more than sensible caution.

What worries me is that independence supporters are constructing a myth, in which there were no respectable reasons for voting No. Any No voter is at best a coward, at worst an evil bloodsucking Tory who laughs at poverty and suffering.

To put it mildly, this is not constructive. As the Scottish National Party MSP Marco Biagi recently said:
Like being stuck in quicksand, if the undoubtedly ongoing energy of the Yes movement is now used to flail against the reality of our situation we will sink still further. Insulting the 55% is a sure way of turning them into the 65% - or more.
Yes voters are not the only Scots with courage and integrity. Time will tell if independence supporters are willing to grasp this fact.

A few years ago, Groundskeeper Willie also said:
Brothers and sisters are natural enemies. Like Englishmen and Scots! Or Welshmen and Scots! Or Japanese and Scots! Or Scots and other Scots! Damn Scots! They ruined Scotland!
There is a long history of division, resentment and hatred within Scotland. If erstwhile Yes campaigners believe even more of it is needed, that is their prerogative.

If I were an evil oligarch, observing from my luxury penthouse in London and hoping to divide and rule the people of Scotland, resentment and recrimination are exactly what I would want.

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