Independence Day?

I wouldn’t dream of ‘telling’ anyone in Scotland how they should vote in today’s referendum, and it’s a well known fact that up to 80% of music blogdom is made up of midddle aged Scottish folk, some of whom I count as my friends, but I think I’d like to at least ponder on the subject for a few minutes.

From a British point of view my feelings have always been that we should stay together, that union makes us stronger.

But… I think if I was Scottish I’d be voting Yes. There’s a clear dissatisfaction with the relationship and the impression that Scotland has long been ruled by English governments- not alongside or with but by a London-centric (Tory) English elite. Counting Tory MPs in Scotland in recent years would take less than two fingers. The arguments about rising prices in supermarkets following independence and whether Scotland would still get the BBC and other similar ones seem to be the workings of Cameron and his friends suddenly panicked that the polls have been getting too close for comfort (and that took them by surprise didn’t it?). The Better Together campaign has been arrogant throughout, patronising and, from watching down here, hasn’t really engaged people. And while Alex Salmond doesn’t do much for me, Alistair Darling does less.

For Cameron to become ‘the Prime Minister who lost the Union’ would also be fun to watch- he’s managed to avoid any of the controversies and policy disasters of his government sticking to him personally and he’d have to wriggle really hard to get out of this one. Although the prospect of the Tories getting an easier ride in what’s left of the UK general elections due to the absence of Scottish MPs is a concern for any of the left in the three countries left behind.

It also seems increasingly clear that anything other than an overwhelming No victory, which seems unlikely, will lead to a significant shifting in the relationship, even if the Better Together campaign wins. If 45-49% of Scots vote to leave, then something has to change regardless. The opportunity to stick one in the eye of the political elite, one that will really hurt not just a piffling mid-term by-election result, is something that I can imagine motivating a lot of people, whether they’re nationalist or not. As a writer pointed out somewhere recently, Scottish nationalism doesn’t necessarily mean what nationalism can in England- it’s about self-determination. That a desire for a fairer, more equal society has been a major part of the debate is also encouraging. In England many people seem to have lost sight of that and blithely go along with the widening gap between rich and poor.

It’s also been really good to see so many people getting interested in a political issue, expressing opinions and discussing and arguing (even if as JC argued over at The Vinyl Villain this week some of the debate has been childish, sloganeering and intolerant). Compare the whole thing to electoral turnout a recent general elections. Since the 1980s people have turned away from politics and politicians in apathy and disgust (and it’s the politicians fault this has happened, they’re responsible for that not the public). In Scotland well over 90% of people have registered to vote and 16 and 17 year olds have shown they can grapple with political issues too- well, what a surprise! Maybe the bottom line is that this is what happens when a large number of people, who feel ignored for years, suddenly feel empowered.

Comsat Angels, Sheffield’s finest, from 1980. I am friends of a friend with the guitarist of Comsat Angels. DJing at a party I played this song when he walked into the room. The guitarist turned around and walked straight out again. Ooops.

Independence Day