2014-09-20 09.02.53

Not perhaps entirely fair - it is a cartoon, after all - but I liked it (nicked from the Times, if you were wondering). I also feel somewhat critical of Salmond: with his shiniest toy taken away he's chosen to walk off and leave others to sort out the mess. Perhaps. Is there a mess to be sorted out? (Timmy thinks there is but his analysis is poor) Right now it seems possible, with everyone desperately excited. That will probably soon pass. I was just going to leave you with The Gods of the Copybook Headings which has many relevant lines; and everyone can read their own mottoes into the words.

But looking for "what's news" I found the Economist which offers me a rather different perspective on recent events:

If Mr Salmond leaves the nationalist movement larger and more prominent than ever before, he also bequeaths an uncertain future and unresolved tensions. Many in it were privately critical of the SNP’s role in the Yes campaign. It failed to think through fundamental issues, like which currency an independent Scotland would use, until much too late in the game. It wasted time and effort bickering over the merits of NATO membership. For the first months of the campaign, it did little to build a coherent and organised Yes operation.

That the Yes side went on to give the unionists a run for their money was thanks to the intervention of various civil society and other non-SNP forces. These—Common Weal, Women for Independence, Radical Independence, National Collective and others—brought verve and energy to the cause. Not bound by the discipline of the pro-union campaign, they could each make a different pitch to different sorts of voters. Students queuing for the cinema were given leaflets explaining “how to disarm a nuke” (the answer: vote Yes to force Britain’s deterrent from Scottish waters). Parents waiting at school gates got literature on childcare. Flats in blue-collar areas received fliers outlining the many ways in which the union had failed them, entitled: “Britain is for the rich. Scotland can be ours.” By the final weeks before yesterday's referendum the SNP was relatively peripheral, particularly in areas of Scotland like Glasgow and Dundee where Yes was strongest.

The aftermath of the referendum into which the Yes campaign and, until his resignation statement, Mr Salmond were today thrust is therefore fractious. What now for this sprawling political patchwork? A large, leftist part of the movement is at best indifferent towards the SNP and at worst furious at its complacency and poor organisation. Senior figures from this scene were preparing to denounce the first minister in the coming days. Some alleged that Nicola Sturgeon, his more left-wing deputy, had made it known that she shared their gripes. Did he jump, or was he pushed?

Perhaps Ms Sturgeon, who will surely replace Mr Salmond when he formally steps down at the SNP’s conference in November, will be able to draw the wider left-wing movement into the party. She is probably better-placed to do so than he would have been. But your correspondent would not be surprised if instead the movement split. The SNP is a small-c conservative party, with traditions and image to match. Can it really accommodate the thousands of environmentalists, socialists, trade unionists, students, single-issue campaigners and others who poured time and energy into the Yes campaign? Their commitment to the cause will not go away overnight, or even over a period of months. This evening the emergence of new, left-wing nationalist party seems possible; maybe even probable.

Until the results of last night, Scottish nationalism under Mr Salmond was more powerful and concerted (on the surface, at least) than it has been in living memory. Soon that may seem like a long, long time ago.

I've bolded the bit I found particularly interesting. The reportage I've seen up till now was very much party-focussed, and had given the SNP the most prominent role in the Yes campaign. The alternative proposed here is intriguing. Nicola Sturgeon looks a bit like Aunty Angela, don't you think?


* Anglicans beat Catholics where it matters.

More like this

What mess people go on about is basically what the media and politicians think is a mess, rather than anything the public think is a mess, or anything Salmond can actually do anything about. Resigning just now could be seen as running away/ bowing out gracefully when his attempt fails/ leaving whilst the going is good/ choosing the time to leave so that his ego is buffed by all the platitudes spoken by everyone.
You'd think he has died or something. But I can't tell you which of hte above options is actually correct without kidnapping him and having him interrogated by some proper trained army or police interrogators.

As for the Economist, I note the excerpted bit doesn't mention the reason there's all these hippies and wastrels wandering about persuading people that maybe a nicer society would be nice. The reason being that New labour is still a neo-liberal party committed to only slightly less painful austerity (which doesn't work and which many, many respectable economists agree doesn't work) than the tories.

Also Ms Sturgeon has been married for several years. Maybe she keeps the Ms for political use?

The whole thing was fishy whistful thinking and for that Salmond and Sturgeon deserve to be smoked.

Other than fish puns the ongoing issue is going to be federalization of the UK, esp wrt England. There is going to be an English Parliament and regional government because the other proposal, to bar Welsh, Scots and NI MPs from voting on England only stuff would cripple any national government, but yes, the Tories want that. They are going to get killed in 2015, but may hold a majority of the English seats with Clegg and the wimps.

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 20 Sep 2014 #permalink

I have used Ms as a single woman, married woman, widow and divorcee. Nothing political about it but I don't see why my marital status is anyone else's business.

I agree with Eli on federalism becoming the main issue once the smoke clears and everyone's calmed down a bit. An English parliament in Birmingham or thereabouts, and the abolition of the House of Lords, doesn't present too many issues to me, and we could still maintain a functional UK legislature that doesn't open itself to accusations of bending any rules when individual British MPs are excluded from legislating. It doesn't help the discussion by calling anyone an English MP or Scottish Mp. They're all British MPs and Scotland has its own MSPs who actually are Scottish.

The problem all you weirdo federalists forget is that the north of englanders had the chance to vote for their own assembly, and rejected it. Federalism is a stupid idea in a country that's been a recognisable country for pretty much a thousand years. I really don't see what the issue is with the WEst lothian question - just stop Scots MP's voting on devloed matters, simple. That new labour are a bunch of morons is besides the point.

Guthrie, the problem is you could have a UK government that had no majority in votes on devolved matters. Worse if some of those devolved matters were votes of confidence.

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 21 Sep 2014 #permalink

Rory Stewart, the Wesh border MP, was running scared there for a while - best toss a rock on his geological melting pot of a cairn:

Dear Friends of Hands Across the Border,

Thank you all very much who came yesterday. We saw 2 year-olds, and 92 year-olds carrying worn peridotite stones from the summit of the Black Cuilin in Skye, quartz form the cairngorms, Shropshire Slate, millstone grit form Derbyshire, and a sharp-edged brown flint from Kent. There were miniature pebbles form the Tyne and Thames, and a stone the size of a table-top from the exact line of the border. Some had been painted with Saltires, others inscribed with poems – others just bluntly stated “Old Red Sandstone Perthshire” or ‘Christenberry crag”. By the end of the day the rocks lay six layers deep, forming what will be the foundation of the Auld Acquaintance cairn. The music came from the pipe-major from Langholm, an English piper from Dumfries – accompanied by a Scot with a piccolo, and finally from a man in full Jacobite fig, who was still piping six hours after we had begun.

My favourite moment, however, was at two o’clock, when almost five hundred of us – Welsh, Kentishmen, Cornish, Ulstermen, Highlanders, Borderers, and Cumbrians, linked arms, to sing Auld Lang Syne. That powerful, linked circle three deep, has now defined the perimeter of the cairn – which will be 150 feet in circumference. (See photo). The sun, the gentle movement of the river Sark, under Thomas Telford’s union bridge, the number of families, all emphasised the peaceful solidarity and friendship that has grown across the border over the last three hundred years. We came from four nations, and dozens of counties, but built the structure, together like one extended family.

Now comes the hard part. It will take, hundreds of thousands of stones to build the sides of the cairn, over the next few weeks. Please, therefore, if you haven’t come, come soon. If you were with us yesterday, please come back and donate a little time, helping to build the structure. If you were prepared to volunteer a day over the summer, working on site that would be particularly welcome – gloves, and burgers will be provided.

And please pass on the message to friends from anywhere, and from any political persuasion. It is not intended to be a party political event – yesterday we had the Shadow Scotland Minister Russell Brown (Labour, Dumfries and Galloway) working alongside David Mundell (Conservative, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale). The historians Simon Schama, David Starkey, Max Hastings, and Antony Beevor, the philosopher AC Grayling, the General Charles Guthrie, and the writer Alain de Botton have all contributed stones to the cairn.

Finally, if you would like to meet – and work alongside - the explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes, or know anyone who does, he will be working with us on site, next Monday, 28 July, in the afternoon. He will also give a short speech, reflecting on stone, rock and the union, and would be delighted to meet anyone who is there. We will also be joined next Monday by the great climber Alan Hinkes OBE – the first British man to climb every peak over 8000 meters. And we are inviting climbers, mountaineers, and explorers from across the United Kingdom to join us for what will be a challenging afternoon.

The cairn is behind the ‘First House in Scotland’ toll-house at Gretna (just South of the Gretna Gateway). Directions can be found at

The reportage I’ve seen up till now was very much party-focussed, and had given the SNP the most prominent role in the Yes campaign.

Which just goes to show what an appalling job most of the media did of covering the whole business.

[Wouldn't surprise me. Just as they like to focus on personalities - because it simplifies things - they're also likely to focus on the contributions from known actors - like the SNP. Do you have any examples of commentary that did better? -W]

If Mr Salmond leaves the nationalist movement larger and more prominent than ever before, he also bequeaths an uncertain future and unresolved tensions.

Might be useful to consider the example of Quebec, which had two referenda on independence (1980 and 1995), both resulting in "No" votes. It's been almost 20 years since the second one and things are a lot quieter now. I don't think Quebec has any appetite for a third referendum in the foreseeable future.

Eli- I don't understand what you mean, you american you.

Russell - Rory Stewart is the MP for Cumbria, i.e. Scottish/ english border.

Ned - the question about Quebec is, has it's situation relative to the federal government or whatever you call it, changed? Here in the UK there is a non-zero chance that the Tory bastards will want to punish Scotland. I think it's pretty low, but nevertheless it is there, and one of the things driving yes votes is an awareness of the neo-liberal agenda of the 3 main parties.

"a country that’s been a recognisable country for pretty much a thousand years."

Well, perhaps since 1603 but definitely since 1707. That's a few years short of a thousand, though.

"The reportage I’ve seen up till now was very much party-focussed, and had given the SNP the most prominent role in the Yes campaign."

That's because they took the most prominent role, starting with the SNP government negotiating the arrangements of the referendum then blowing about £3 million of taxpayer's money on producing and publicising a massive "white paper" on "Scotland's Future". A government wish list which listed all the ways the negotiations might turn out for the best, and essentially formed a referendum manifesto. Assuring Scots that the best currency option for everyone was "Sterling (pegged and flexible)" and that we'd still get BBC programmes like Eastenders, Dr. Who and Strictly Come Dancing.

The campaign itself repeatedly featured statements by Salmond and Sturgeon in a disciplined duo which contrasted very effectively with the various rather disorganised competing voices of Better Together. A well funded and presented SNP advertising campaign full of slogans, like all the billboards with "Scotland's Future in Scottish Hands" showing a baby's hand held by a loving adult hand. Aww.

Of course they were glad to have support from their green and trotskyist allies, even if these sometimes went off message when allowed a word in edgeways.


Rory 's seat is Breton Beacons

Sorry if I'm a bit foggy as to where the Welsh border may be nowadays, but BB was where John Maddox rusticated ,and I beleved him when he called it Wales

By Russell Seitz (not verified) on 22 Sep 2014 #permalink

Russell, according to the Wikipedia the Rory Stewart who has organised "Hands Across The Border" is Conservative MP for Penrith and the Border constituency in Cumbria.

Around 1,000 years ago at least parts of Cumbria were Brythonic, the old north of the Welsh, but it's not in modern Wales.

J/ Bowers - I was referring to England, which aside from some contretemps with SCotland over the precise location of the border, and of course conquering Wales, has pretty much had the same borders since the Norman invasion. ANd I still don't get why people would want to split England up into smaller units.

Dave s - I challenge you to find any trotskyists in Scotland these days. Rather a lot of people were more old labour style voters who are fed up with new labour economic neo-liberalism and selling off public services.

Russell - please do some research. Rory and I happen to have the same surname, and for various reasons I've been kept aware of his career for a number of years now, so I know something of which I type. And the internet agrees with me.

[Do you have any examples of commentary that did better? -W]

Not really. Being fairly close to the whole business (and an active supporter of / participant in many of the relevant organisations), I wasn't relying on second- or third-hand commentary, I was getting it all direct from the various campaign organisations themselves. Of the more mainstream journos, about the only one who really seemed to get it was Iain Macwhirter at the Herald, who I've long regarded as one of the best journalists on the Scottish political scene, even before he came over to my side on this issue. And even he didn't really write that much about the diversity of the groups campaigning on the ground...

guthrie, my "trotskyist" was an unwise generalisation, probably from ancient memories of the Millicent Tendency. Perhaps there are two Rory Stewarts? Or are you getting him mixed up with Roger Williams, LibDem MP for Brecon & Radnorshire?

What I've seen as an outsider is activists getting their friends and acquaintances in a community motivated to get registered and support Yes.
Worthy in getting people involved in he political process, rather worrying in the clear belief that The Truth appears in the new social media that seem to have been a significant part of Yesist campaigning.
The Truth including the oil strata in the Clyde which have been kept sekrit as oil wells would interfere with Trident, but which Independence would bring on-stream in quick order to fund enhanced benefits.

Dunc, I bow to your superior knowledge of the diversity of campaigning groups. What's interesting is where the Yes cause succeeded, and the nominally SNP favouring areas where it failed.

The Yes campaign seemed to offer (sometimes contradictory) fantasies for all, with the clear implication that the voters couldn't be trusted to rally to The Cause if it involved any likelihood of hard times or sacrifice in the short term. So the more trusting Yes voters were in line for disappointment if they'd succeeded, and they may hold on to these fantasies in their disappointment at being outvoted.

Fun factoid for James Annan and Jules H if they're reading this: the constituency of Rory Stewart includes High Street, or at least most of it.

Dave S - no, there is only one Rory Stewart (cue echo), MP, for Cumbria. This is information easily available to anyone with a working internet connection or a subscription to the Telegraph or Times newspapers. If anyone is getting things mixed up it is the fellow who said Stewart's constituency was on the borders of Wales, which wasn't me.

As for the militant tendency, I imagine they are in the Scottish socialist party or various other such organisations. The internet suggests there is a Socialist Party Scotland which voted yes and has Trotskyist origins, but really they don't have the numbers, as I said above, of more importance are disgruntled labour voters, how do you think Scotland has swung so for the SNP in the parliament over the last decade when before it was a labour stronghold? Not because there's more Trotskyists, but because labour voters are turned off by policies which are similar to Tory ones.

On the other hand I could be completely wrong, but have yet to see much information that would suggest I am.
Mind you Ken Macleod suggests in the comments of this post that far left groups have managed to persuade the former labour voters out to vote yes, whcih would be an interesting mix of both ideas:…

[Thanks for your comment. But you seem to have got the wrong post; this one is about politics. I've moved it to here for reference -W]

By Climate Scientist (not verified) on 23 Sep 2014 #permalink

The Yes campaign seemed to offer (sometimes contradictory) fantasies for all, with the clear implication that the voters couldn’t be trusted to rally to The Cause if it involved any likelihood of hard times or sacrifice in the short term.

I'm not sure that's entirely fair. The referendum was about a constitutional question, rather than a policy question. It's perfectly reasonable for various different people with very different policy preferences to argue that changing the constitutional arrangements would offer each of them a greater opportunity to pursue those preferences, no matter how diverse they may be. For example, the Scottish Green Party's vision of energy policy in an independent Scotland is rather different from that of the SNP, yet it's perfectly reasonable for both to argue that bringing energy policy under the control of the Scottish Government increases their ability to advance their respective agendas, with the understanding that how that actually works out in the end (in terms of specific policies) depends on the composition of future parliaments and a lot of political horse-trading.

And of course those campaigning for change are going to focus on the positive possibilities rather than the risks - that's simply how political campaigning works. Nevertheless, almost everybody I spoke to over the course of the entire campaign (and that's quite a lot of people) was perfectly clear that independence was going to be a lot of hard work, with risks as well as opportunities, and that the transition period in particular was likely to be difficult. I know a number of people who voted "Yes" despite believing that it would make them personally worse off. I think you may be relying on an overly-simplistic view of the campaign, delivered by a media that completely failed to grasp most of the arguments or accurately portray the real debate.

Russell: Roger Williams is the (LD) MP for Brecon & Radnorshire (Wales). Rory Stewart is the (Tory) MP for Penrith & the Border (Cumbria, England).

By Quiet Waters (not verified) on 24 Sep 2014 #permalink