Why it will be Yes pt 2 – Do Scots really hate the Tories?

I want to reiterate that this is a blog about the ideas of the referendum, not a political attempt to persuade people. I don’t want to change your vote, if your vote is right for you. I want to clarify thoughts in my own head and hear your thoughts too. It’s a very emotive subject, but I trust my friends and my readers to be generous in their thoughts and comments.

Ask anyone who is passionate about the referendum the question “What are you voting for?” and they might give quite a list. I know what I’m voting as I am – for a Scotland which is part of the country I love which leads and inspires the rest of the UK, as it has done in the past and indeed today. I’m voting for togetherness and stability for generations to come; I’m voting for evolution above revolution.

I want to think about what is at the root of the Yes that people are voting for. Yes is an easy word to sell. No is trickier. It feels better, brighter, happier, to vote Yes. Of course it does. Who wants to be part of a “no” campaign? It makes you feel good to say Yes. The positive issues which Yes are promoting are very tempting.

A Scotland which is truly democratic, ruled by the people that Scotland voted for.

A Scotland which can use its vast wealth to lift people out of poverty.

A Scotland which can be free of Tory rule for ever.

But underlying those positive images is what I feel to be negative ones. In fact, all of those statements are negative thoughts, dressed up in the summer print frock of a shiny Yes. Those statements above are really saying

We are not currently democratic

Our poor are suffering needlessly

We are unfairly governed by a tory party we did not vote for.

Added to that, the leaders of Yes are offering reassurances that things will not change – we’ll keep the pound, we’ll keep the Queen, we’ll stay in Europe, we’ll keep the BBC. Whatever your views of the validity of those claims, they are offering that much will stay the same, much will change – and the main change is self governance from Holyrood, rather than from Westminster.

It’s a big question, as to whether Holyrood is more democratic than Westminster, and I’ll come back to that, but the main motivation for many of my fiends voting Yes seems to be liberation from Tory rule.

“We hate being governed by the Tories” is a common statement to hear. But to vote because of the negative effects of a Tory government is short-sighted, when you consider that Scotland has far more Tory voters in it than one might think.

In 1979, Thatcher’s first election victory, 31% of Scottish people voted Tory. The next election it was 28%, as was the next. Tories have never got less than 15% of the overall vote. 15% is certainly more than enough, under proportional representation, to hold a balance of power in a coalition in Holyrood. My suspicion is that with every Holyrood election under independence someone will have to do a deal with the tories. 

What does any of this matter?It does matter if your reason for voting Yes is a dislike of conservatives, because there are plenty of them in Scotland. Perhaps the conservatives in Scotland seem less threatening than those in Westminster, but they are there, and possibly hold a balance of power.

The real questions (for me) are whether Independence will

  • make generations of Scots better or worse off
  • Make us more or less democratic
  • Change the Scottish character for better or worse
  • Make us better moral agents in the world.

 As I said in my previous post (and I don’t want to bang on about it, I’m not evangelising here) I think the answers to those questions are that a mobilised, pollitically engaged Scotland can do all of those things better as part of the UK – the only question mark being the “will it make us more or less democratic”, which as I said I’ll leave until later.

So let me end with this – there is no doubt that the referendum campaign itself has been pollitically engaging and passionate. It has meant more people than ever before are able to vote. It has meant people demand of their politicians the answers to their questions – rather than the answers to a question the politicians want to be asked. An engaged, aware, sometimes demanding Scotland can do wonders for the rest of the UK, and for itself. Whatever the vote, I think it matters hugely that this does not diminish and dissipate, with a simple x on a piece of paper.

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About frpip

Priest, Dad, A long way away. You can call me Father Father Father.
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2 Responses to Why it will be Yes pt 2 – Do Scots really hate the Tories?

  1. Mike Mc says:

    Hi Pip, I agree with you.

    I agree with your previous post (though I have not yet given up), and with this one.

    The whole thing about “kicking out the Tories” has been one of the disappointing aspects of the debate. There is this idea promoted that the Scots are different – more left wing, more interested in social justice, etc. I think this is a romantic idea with broad appeal just now, giving hope to those whose lives are a struggle, and giving many others a salve for the conscience; that even though things are like this today, we all wish them to be otherwise, and have the opportunity to say as much though this vote. “I’m not sure who voted for all this stuff we have now, but I’m sure it wasn’t me”. The easiest way to go about this is to give the “other” a label. Make “Tory” a euphemism for everything bad, label everyone voting no a “Tory”, and you are done.

    But there is a danger in using party political labels to indicate political sentiments, as what parties stand for changes over time. It has indeed been interesting to look into some of the numbers. For example, roughly as many Scots voted for the coalition parties in the 2010 Westminster elections as did for the SNP in the 2011 Holyrood ones. In terms of voter numbers in Scotland, the Tories only lagged the SNP by 3.2% in 2010. A survey in 2011 by Prof. John Curtice and others showed that whilst Scots do feel slightly more strongly about typical left-of-centre issues than rUK, the gap is small and it has narrowed since devolution. For example, on the question of free university education for all, the number of Scots supporting that is a minority at 20%, only slightly higher than rUK. And an ICM survey for the BBC in 2007 showed that the part of the UK with the largest percentage of people who thought then that the UK had been right to join the Iraq war was – you guessed it – Scotland.

    I am not trying to score any points; I am sure there are many polls and surveys, and we all pick the ones to make our cases. And I can see a logic in wanting to set things up such that all decisions are taken within a certain boundary, if that is indeed what you want, and if that is what you end up doing.

    But what I think you are saying, and what I agree with, is that this polarised division into Scotland vs the Tories is wrong. There are differences of character across the UK, but they are less than what we have in common, defy such cheap and superficial labels, and I am not sure I could hope to pin them down. I do believe that they provide a wonderful blend today that may be lost.

    The whole atmosphere right now reminds me of the eve of Blair coming to power: a sense of political momentum, of excitement, and of hope. And yet many who felt such things then find themselves bitter and disappointed today, within the space of a mere twenty years.

    The focus of my thoughts has changed over the last few weeks, and I think if I have to state the reasons for my vote today, they are now less about the arguments of economy or defence or what have you. I do have views on those things, but what has come to the fore for me is that my family, my friends, and the society I feel I am part of is spread across the UK and not confined to Scotland, and I hate the idea of splitting up the assets, the liabilities, and yes, the challenges, so that, for example, “we” get this and “they” get that. There is no “we” or “they”. Clearly, there is for many. But I hate the idea of trying to create and amplify such divisions. As in your previous post, I would rather live in a Scotland that influences the UK for the better, and vice versa.

  2. Ade says:

    Really enjoying reading your blog old buddy. I agree with you 100%. And this is from a bloke who was born in England, moved to Scotland and fell in love with it, considers it home, and is now unfortunately exiled back down south to the land of his birth where he feels like a foreigner!
    Ade

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