Yes They Can?

Scotland Ballot

Dave Brockington suspects “the current polling is overstating the estimate of the yes support.” Tomorrow he expects “at least a four point (i.e. 52% No, 48% Yes) victory for the unionists”:

We do have empirical evidence to make some reasoned, if imprecise, estimates regarding the don’t knows. As the ICM poll released yesterday still reports 14% Don’t Knows, this remains a significant chunk of the potential electorate. The literature on direct democracy, specifically referenda and initiatives in the United States (the literature about which I’m most familiar), suggests that in a yes / no dichotomous decision, the No option has some of the advantages of incumbency. I strongly suspect that of the DKs that do turn out to vote, they will break significantly to No. This makes sense. Given this is the most important and far reaching election in Scotland in a lifetime, if a voter has yet to make up their mind 48 to 96 hours before the election, the odds of them sticking with the safety of the status quo rather than the riskier unknown of independence is compelling.

But, if tweets are any indication of votes, Yes still has momentum. Mark Gilbert explains:

Karo Moilanen, a visiting academic at the university, has dissected more than 1 million tweets in the past month. The “yes” campaign has generated more than 782,000 missives, compared with 341,000 for those backing the “no” movement. Both camps saw a dive in activity yesterday, though those backing the Scottish nationalists were still twice as active as the unionists

Dan Hodges thinks the referendum has already exposed the fact that the union is essentially a mirage:

In Scotland we see that just under half the people are toying with turning their back on the United Kingdom for good, and the other half are demanding almost total autonomy as the price for remaining within it. In England there are growing calls for similar autonomy via an English parliament, regional parliaments or even individual city parliaments. In Wales support for independence is now nudging twenty per cent, and there are similar calls for the devolution of more powers and a reassessment of the funding settlement. In Northern Ireland people are currently refraining from murdering each other, which apparently represents a great success. If this is union, what exactly would fragmentation look like?

Jack Shenker frames the independence campaign as part of a tectonic shift in British politics:

What the Scottish independence referendum has exposed, unexpectedly but enthrallingly, is not so much a vein of support for nationalism, or even for independence in its own right, but rather a vein of political imagination that upends everything we’re usually told about politics today. It’s exposed a rejection of gradualism in favor of more ambitious, and even radical visions of change. As young musician Becci Wallace puts it, “it’s opened up so many people’s minds and given them a voice they didn’t even know they had.”

The hope for many is that regardless of the referendum outcome, this mental gear shift could seep across the border; as indicated by the rise in England of the self-styled “anti-establishment” U.K. Independence Party, which tacks firmly to the right, a hunger for alternatives to the political status quo can be discerned right across the British Isles.

Ishaan Tharoor highlights Thatcher’s role in all this:

Critics point to the dark corners of her foreign policy and say Thatcher’s epochal transformation of Britain — her systematic privatization of the country’s industries and wars with labor unions — hollowed out Britain’s industrial base and deepened inequities.

It’s a legacy that many in Scotland have invoked as grounds for wanting to leave, including Alex Salmond, leader of the “Yes” campaign. “That overwhelming desire among the people of Scotland to escape the economic and social bedlam of the 1980s was actually the result of the approach of Margaret,” Salmond told the BBC in 2013. “She set the ball rolling to make Scottish self-government a huge priority, and that ball is still rolling fast now. So in that respect, people should reflect that in some ways, she was the handmaiden for a return to Scottish democracy. Not what she intended, but nonetheless what happened.”

Alex Massie wants No voters like himself shown some respect:

Chafe against the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland by all means, imagine a different, more glorious future all you want but at the very least – and it should not be a large thing to ask – recall, just for a second, that your opponents are not motivated by a willingness to sacrifice Scotland or do her down or oppress her or lead her to some kind of dystopian future.

Deep down most Yes voters know this. Deep down they know that if Scotland is a half-decent place to live today it will remain a half-decent country on Friday even if Scots vote No. If it is large and smart and rich enough to be independent it is also – must, in fact – be large and smart and rich enough to remain a part of Britain.

Confidence, in other words, is a two-way street and while there are a hundred, even a thousand, reasons to vote Yes or No it remains the case that many Scots are confident enough in our collective future to vote No.

Part of the deal for the Scots in 1707, after the failure of their own colonial venture in Darien, was to join in England’s imperial and commercial expansion, for glory and profit. They were not cheated on this. Scots played a quite disproportionate part in the British Empire, from its trading-houses to its battlefields. Glasgow became the shipbuilder to Empire. Hong Kong was created by Scots. But that’s gone now. Cameron can still offer occasional battles to the shrunken Scottish regiments; his oath of vengeance on ISIS was not just theatre. But generally, Britain is now just another peaceful European welfare state, cultivating its gardens like Candide. There is no wider vision or ambition to stir Unionist blood, not even building Europe, an unpopular project. So why can’t Scotland be its own cosy welfare state like Denmark or Slovenia? Catalans and Basques are asking the same question, with potentially graver consequences for Spain.

Previous Dish on Scotland here.

(Image: A sample ballot from the U.K. Electoral Commission via The Atlantic.)