Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Scotland decides

I stayed awake listening to the radio in bed until 5am this morning as the results came in of the Scottish referendum.

The result at 55% -45% in favour of the Union, and with victoroes for Better Together in  28 out of the 32 council districts is sufficiently emphatic to give stability and set a new frame of reference for debate about "Devo-Max", and how to resolve the "West Lothian question."

Vote share of winning result across council areas

Image:BBC News

The article from which this map is taken, which has other maps illustrating Scottish voting patters in the EU election and other aspects of political demography can be seen here.

Looking back over the campaign, and especially over the last fortnight, there are serious questions to be asked - though some may well be avoided given the result. Despite attempts by some journalists and  spin-doctors to contextualise the point, the Prime Minister pretty clearly made amistake in insisting on a Yes/No referendum rather than allowing for a third option of increased powers for the Edinburgh parliament and government - what has now been achieved in effect - and indeed in agreeing so readily to the holding of a referendum. Other countries, both in Europe and further afield appear amazed that the UK allowed this situation to come about. Further there is the fact that the question was framed in such a way as to give the Yes choice to that of breaking the Union.
The panic last week by all three pro-Union parties at Westminster indicates the extent to which they were caught off-guard, and had dismissed the issue as a minor one until almost too late. The Better Together campaign may have won, but they failed to offer, in the view of several observers writing in the papers, avery positive or enlivening vision. That such a thing could be offered by the Yes Scotland people should have been obvious - think of the depth of the Scottish sense of identity and loyalty that the Scots are happy to call upon, and that could be mobilised for the Papal visit in 2010, never mind historical travesties such as Braveheart....

For the Labour party there is the fact of having been complacent over voters loyalty - the four areas that went to a Yes majority should be solid Labour territory, even if they have SNP MPs and MSPs, such as Dundee.

Those on the Yes campaign who appear to have fallen into bullying and threatening tactics did no credit to their cause, and indeed I suspect did it real harm as stories on intimidation were publicised. This does of course point to the commitment of enthusiasts, and suggests, as commentators pointed out over the night, an anti-establishment politics that fuels UKIP and other non-traditional parties. 

The high turn-out has been commented upon, but I think the unique nature of the question at issue may account for that. It does suggest that the electorate can be energised, against the trend of boredom with established politics.

The legitimate concerns of the Scots can, hopefully, be met Devo Max - but could not that have been achieved without the stresses of recent weeks and the very real risks, in some cases short-lived, but others which potentially threatened if there had been a Yes victory. We have come close - how close may well be a point of debate - but still close enough, to a break up of the United Kingdom - and the worrying thing is taht our politicians did not see the danger until almost too late, and the English media and public paid it scant regard for much of the time and for many people.

No comments: