“Scotland’s Impending Disaster”


That’s how one reader puts it:

I am an American and I love Scotland and Scottish culture. My father is from Scotland, my grandfather served as an officer in a famous Scottish regiment, The Black Watch, and he was given an award for bravery posthumously by the King of England in WWII. I am involved with Scottish charities in the US and have been a Trustee representing one of the largest Scottish charities here in the U.S.

Sometimes when dealing with the home country, I’ve heard my fellow Scottish-Americans mutter, “The smart ones left”. I can’t help but feel this may be true, as the “Yes” vote seems an increasing possibility.

Who rules who? The last three prime ministers are Scottish or of Scottish descent. The Scots have historically been a force at the Bank of England. Scotland is subsidized by the rest of the U.K. and, unlike the English, they have their own separate parliament. In fact, it makes (barely) more sense that England would tell Scotland to leave at this point, rather than the other way around.

This isn’t the thirteenth century or even the seventeenth century. There’s 300 years of cooperation and prosperity with the English. Where was Scotland before the Union in 1707? It was broke! That’s why they agreed to join. The U.K. assumed their debt and gave Scotland access to their markets to trade. I hope they like independence, because they’re coming out the same way they went in.

Oh and by the way, the only people the Scots like to fight with more than the English are with each other. You can see it now with the violence and intimidation (mostly by the SNP it seems) as the vote gets closer. And if there’s a “Yes” vote in Scotland tomorrow, get ready for a Shetland Independence vote as well. Huge economic incentive for these folks with a big slice of what’s left of the North Sea oil. We reap what we sow …

Another is also worried:

While we wait for the Scots to decide what they want to do, it might be worthwhile to consider the ramifications beyond Britain.

I have seen a couple of people speculating about the implications for various places in Europe: Catalonia, Northern Italy, etc.  And no doubt there will be an impact there.  But what nobody seems to be talking about (at least in my limited browsing) is the impact beyond Europe. The Middle East and Africa are full of countries that are completely artificial constructs, with no relation to the reality of the nations (or tribe, or ethnic groups, or what-have-you) on the ground.  If Scotland can become a separate country, why not Kurdistan?  Why not Somaliland?  Etc., etc., etc.

How will Britain, or any other country that recognizes Scotland as a separate country, justify not doing the same for others?  How will they justify the last half century norm of treating virtually all national boundaries (Bangladesh and South Sudan being the only exceptions I can think of) as set in stone?  Will China decline to recognize Scottish independence, lest it be used as justification for considering independence for Tibet or Xinjiang?

If it happens, there is a huge can of worms being opened up, not just for Britain but for the entire world.

Another reader:

I like many in Northern Ireland, England, and Wales are waking up to the possibility that a part of our identity may, in many important and resonant ways, cease to exist by this time tomorrow.

The British aspect of national identity in Northern Ireland is, as can be expected, complex. Between the hardline orange unionists and the revisionism of Sinn Fein that sees British influence as nothing but negative, there are many in the province who hold a kind of conflicted affection for being British.
It comes less from a conflict of national identities than a kind of hierarchy.

I would view myself, first and foremost, as Northern Irish, possessed of a mongrel mix of Celtic traits that borrows from Irish and Scottish influence. Because of this, I have no issues with being described as Irish. But both Irish-ness and British-ness seem inaccurate designations that prompt a “yes, but” rather than a “no, actually”.

If Scotland secedes, our closest cultural link with the rest of the UK will disappear. In the short term, this will lead to a crisis in political Unionism that, frankly, will be an entertaining watch. Over the long-term, a referendum on a united Ireland will be inevitable. The Scottish debate, while notably mature by Northern Irish standards, has so far failed to present a positive case for Britishness beyond the financial implications for the Scots. I would fear that a national conversation in Northern Ireland would be dominated by the extremes of both sides, leaving the rest of us, with complex identities that can love Radio 4, value the NHS, and still despise the England rugby team with a jihad-like passion, out in the cold.

Follow all of our Scotland coverage here.

(Photo: A pro-independence supporter blows a “Yes” balloon during a rally in Glasgow’s George Square on September 17, 2014, ahead of the referendum on Scotland’s independence. Campaigners for and against Scottish independence scrambled for votes on Wednesday on the eve of a knife-edge referendum that will either see Scotland break away from the United Kingdom or gain sweeping new powers with greater autonomy. By Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images)

Who Would Replace Cameron?

Daniel Berman predicts a Yes vote would be bad news not only for David Cameron, but also for other prominent Conservatives:

Cameron’s successor will be chosen for a very specific task; leading the Conservative party into the elections due next spring, not for the next two, three, five, or ten years. As such there are a number of considerations that may well lead the leading factions to settled on someone less prominent.

The first will be the nature of their ascension. Cameron’s fall will be interpreted as a judgement on Cameron’s tenure as leader, and the entire policy of his government. At the very least it will be seen as a repudiation of his handling of Scotland. The Chancellor, George Osborne is associated with both, and his recent entry into the Scottish campaign, the only senior Tory to do so, will reinforce that impression. This does not mean that Osborne or the Cameron faction will be without resources or prospects. Just because they cannot win a leadership contest in 2014, does not mean they would necessarily be unable to in 2015 or 2016. As such they have every interest to delay the issue of a permanent leader as long as possible, while also preserving as many existing MPs as possible in next year’s elections. The current MP intake is far friendlier to Cameron than any of their potential replacements will be. Both goals can be accomplished by backing a lesser-known right-winger as leader.

Is Britain Doomed Regardless?

Gordon Brown’s stirring speech against Scottish independence:

But, even if Scotland votes no tomorrow, Cassidy wonders if the union can survive:

For, although the unionist side seems likely to win this round, in the longer term the impact of the referendum could well be disastrous for those who want to maintain the status quo. About the best they can hope for is a federalized Great Britain that retains the word “United” in its name but is, for most intents and purposes, two separate countries. And even that outcome may prove to be unsustainable. Indeed, the English, who today are lamenting the possible dissolution of their beloved union, may well end up kicking the Scots out of it. …

Imagine what will happen if there’s a “no” vote, and, over the next few years, “devo-max” is enacted. “At that point,” Janan Ganesh, a columnist for the Financial Times, notes, “MPs representing Scottish seats at Westminster, who are overwhelmingly Labour, will be voting on legislation that scarcely affects their constituents. Anybody who thinks this will be allowed to stand does not talk to enough Tory MPs, many of whose private views on Scottish independence already range from insouciance to glee.”

Nora Biette-Timmons suggests that, either way the vote goes, it will strain the union:

Some Conservative Party leaders, for instance, are urging Westminster to revoke the voting rights of Scottish MPs over English-only legislation if Scotland ultimately chooses not to secede on Thursday. Others are calling for more dramatic constitutional overhauls of the United Kingdom. “While the majority of us would like Scotland to stay in the UK, a large majority of us in England now want devolution for our country too,” John Redwood, a Conservative MP from southeast England, wrote in the Financial Times on Wednesday, on the eve of the independence vote. This devolution, he argued, could take the form of an English Parliament as well. “What has emerged from the Scottish referendum is the idea of a federal state, with much greater power being exercised in the constituent nations of the union,” he noted. “What is fair for Scotland now also has to be fair for England.”

And the Tories might even be able to compete with UKIP on that platform. More Dish on Scotland here.

Passions Running High In Scotland


So what else is new? But Brenda Kutchinsky, a Scottish No voter, argues that the independence referendum has unleashed a “collective madness”:

I am as passionately Scottish as anyone who is planning to vote Yes, but I am being made to feel as if I don’t deserve to belong in my own country. … One of the region’s wealthiest businessmen, Charles Ritchie, has dared to speak out against both independence and the alleged bullying behavior of the Yes campaign. In the past two months, his company has reportedly received two hoax bombs in the post and one live bullet in a box of matches. I have heard that the police are now investigating this terrible matter. Two weeks ago, I summoned up my courage and put a No Thanks poster in my window, against the advice of friends who said it would open me up to abuse and possibly even a brick through my windowHow ridiculous that I should be worried about the consequences of expressing my opinion to people among whom I have lived happily for 15 years, but this is the climate of fear in which I am currently residing.

But Leonid Bershidsky emphasizes that in a global context, “both the secession and anti-secession campaigns have been courteous, nonviolent and affable”:

“Within the set of civil wars, secessionist wars are not only the most common, but are additionally among the longest and bloodiest types of warfare,” Bridget Coggins, now at the University of California at Santa Barbara, wrote in her 2006 doctoral thesis, based on a database of the secession attempts from 1931 to 2002. Of these 275 attempts, 195 were characterized by violence on at least one of the sides.

Although that suggests rather a lot of peaceful disengagements, many derive from Britain’s relatively nonviolent dismantling of its empire after World War II — a policy orchestrated, at least partly, by Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who was of Scottish descent. Ask Chechens, East Timoreans, Sudanese, Kosovars, Eritreans – or the leaders of the countries from which they fought to split – about playing by the rules; the word “massacre” figures prominently in the histories of these independence bids. … Comparing Scotland with Chechnya or Crimea may seem far-fetched, but Northern Ireland during the so-called Troubles was a hot spot on a similar scale, and its own secession referendum in 1973 was boycotted by the Catholic population. Passions in Scotland, by contrast, run no higher than they would during a local soccer match.

Bershidsky sees the relatively calm campaigns as evidence of the status quo’s soundness, asking “What would a division solve that negotiations within the current scheme of things can’t?” Tom Rogan argues that it’s in the Scots’ economic interest to vote No:

Consider a few statistics. Scottish exports account for only 6.3 percent of the U.K. total, whereas England accounts for 74.1 percent. While Scotland has a slightly higher total employment figure than England does, it has a bloated public sector (22.1 percent of total employment vs. 17.4 percent in England). The Scottish work force is also less productive than its English counterpart. Most disconcerting: Measured per 10,000 adults in the U.K., Scotland has fewer businesses than Northern Ireland and Wales, and a staggering 21 percent fewer than England. The business community has been clear about its view of the referendum. Even the Royal Bank of Scotland has threatened to leave Scotland if independence occurs. In short, the Scottish independence movement has subjugated itself to voodoo economics.

But the prospect of independence sends Suzanne Moore into paroxysms of enthusiasm:

Surely if this “political reformation”, as John Harris described it, happened anywhere else, we would be calling it a velvet revolution and marveling at democracy in action. It may well be fierce, shouty and messy, but these are undeniably voices from below and we should listen. The SNP, once conservative and narrow-mindedly nationalist, has turned itself into something that can harness progressive forces. … All this fretting about neighbors becoming foreigners is a denial about who we already are. Rather than post-national identities, post-sovereignty is the aim. Open borders, mobility and federalism could have been offered through devo max – but they weren’t, so now we have the entire establishment yelling “no, no, no.” So I say yes. Take a leap towards self-rule. One can be on the side of change or against it. The thing is, change is here now, whatever happens. Finally, thankfully, yes.

More Dish on tomorrow’s vote here.

The View From Your Window


Quebec, Canada, 10.46 am. A different reader writes:

I covered the referendum in Quebec in 1995 for Harper’s (pdf), and particularly the aftermath. It’s difficult to convey the intensity of the passions that were stirred up in the final days before the vote – and the deflated and bewildered sense of disappointment separatists felt in the days after their narrow loss (50,000 votes out of 5 million cast). The slogan for the Oui/Yes side was AND IT ALL BECOMES POSSIBLE – which described both the promise and the menace that was lurking just beneath the surface. The ugly slurs about the the No side winning because of “money and the ethnic vote” that the Oui leader made on the night of the loss perfectly match the ugliness that is emerging in Scotland.

There is no easy way to break up a country, even one as civilized and seemingly docile as Canada. Quebec dodged a bullet in 1995. I hope Scotland is as lucky.

Is Britain’s Security Council Seat In Jeopardy?

Elaine Teng takes the question seriously:

Strictly speaking, the Scottish referendum should not affect Britain’s Security Council seat, but reform of the U.N. is increasingly in the air. Currently, there are five permanent Security Council members who hold veto power (the U.S., France, the U.K., Russia, and China), and ten rotating members elected by the General Assembly to serve two-year terms. There’s a general consensus that the Council should be expanded to 20-25 permanent members, but that’s when things start to get tricky. Which countries should join? India, a nuclear power home to a fifth of the world’s population? Germany and Japan, two of the world’s largest economic powers who contribute more to the U.N. budget than any country other than the U.S.? Nigeria, to give Africa a seat and correct the skew of power towards Western countries? Should France and Britain’s seats be combined into a single European seat to better accommodate the changing political realities?

Independence could accelerate these conversations, especially since the Scottish referendum comes just two days after the opening of the U.N.’s General Assembly on Tuesday. Should Scotland become independent, the position of the new, much smaller Britain on the Security Council might be called in to question. (An independent Scotland would apply for U.N. membership, a process that should be relatively smooth and straightforward.)

Stewart M. Patrick dismisses such speculation:

This is not going to happen. The near-certain outcome, if the Scots unwisely choose to go it alone, is that the authorities in Edinburgh will immediately recognize the UK government’s UNSC claim. A newly independent but closely integrated Scotland has everything to lose and nothing to gain by disputing the UK’s permanent seat. (Nationalism may be “political romanticism,” in Isaiah Berlin’s words, but even the most starry-eyed Scots understand that a country of fewer than six million has no permanent slot on the UNSC). Perhaps more surprisingly, the attitude of the remaining permanent four UNSC members will be identical: they will quickly recognize the rump United Kingdom as the state entitled to permanent membership.

Scotland Is Not So Easily Broken

The Final Day Of Campaigning For The Scottish Referendum Ahead Of Tomorrow's Historic Vote

Whatever tomorrow’s result, Alex Massie anticipates that the Scots will make peace with the result:

There will be a deep sadness in many places if Scotland votes Yes and, in other parts, some raging disbelief if she votes No. How could it be otherwise? This may be a wee country but the matter of Scotland is nothing small. Some folk will leave if we vote Yes and that, I think, will be a great pity. Others will react poorly to a No vote but at least cling to the consolation that losing a battle is not the same as losing a war. The nationalists have known defeat before and coped; they can do so again. Their faith will remain. It will be harder, I think, for Unionists to accept the song is over.

But hatred? Real hatred? How can we really hate our opponents? We may think them sorely mistaken but we can also agree – if we try to remember to do so – that they are not motivated by baser motives than we are ourselves. They are our brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters. Our neighbours too. To hate them is in some sense to deny a part of ourselves.

In that respect we really are all in it together. Today, tomorrow and Friday too. Come what may. Be not afraid. It is, probably, going to be fine. The little white rose of Scotland, so small and sharp and sweet, will still bloom.

Peyton Craighill interprets the polls:

The most recent poll using the most robust methodology will generally offer the best picture of where things will end up. In this case, that would be the phone poll from Survation completed Sept. 12 that showed 42 percent in favor of independence and 49 percent opposing, with 9 percent unsure. The survey reached respondents on both land lines and cellphones.

The 9 percent who are unsure in the Survation poll are a critical group. If they do turn out to vote on Thursday, their choices have the potential to sway the vote one way or another.

Tim Stanley would be unsurprised by a Yes victory. One reason why:

Historically, turnout in Scottish elections is low – in about the mid-sixties. But this time around some 97 per cent of Scots have registered. Now, why would someone go to the effort to register for the first time? To vote negatively (NO) or to vote positively (YES)? A local journalist put it to me that many of those new voters will be working-class Scots motivated by national passion. It’s unlikely that they’re fired up by David Cameron, Ed Miliband or the prospect of Devo-Max (which sounds like a reunited Eighties pop group).

Isabel Hardman visited both campaigns:

Which was the better operation, Labour No or the Yes camp? The two sessions I’ve attended in the past two days will not be entirely representative of their respective national campaigns, which unlike a stick of rock will vary depending where you cut. But the Labour lot seemed more organised, presumably because Labour is an experienced ground war party, while the Yes troops today were more enthusiastic and passionate. Even ‘No’ voters congratulated the two men on their impressive campaign.

Yes don’t have the media on their side – only one paper has come out in favour of independence – so their focus is so much more on grassroots support. Perhaps this makes them appear more sincere and energetic.

Peter Geoghegan is befuddled by Westminster’s mistakes:

The choice tomorrow didn’t have to be binary, but the third option – more powers for Holyrood without full independence – was left off the ballot paper. Then on Tuesday, just two days before the vote, Scotland woke to news that ‘devo max’ was back on if they voted No. The specifics of the additional powers seem both vague and unworkable, but the medium was more important than the message. The pledge, which could effectively usher in federalism across the UK, was delivered not after months of discussion, or even in person by the prime minister. Instead, ‘the vow’ was splashed across the Daily Record. If Westminster thinks that the front page of a tabloid is the best way to talk to Scotland in 2014 then it really has learned nothing from the referendum.

Ewan Morrison takes the Yes campaign down a notch:

In truth, the Yes camp is a ragged collection of factions all seeking power for themselves – a bigger slice of the political pie in a much smaller country. The unity and positivity behind the singular Yes has masked the divisions on the Yes side, between Greens who want no more drilling and the “it’s-our-oil” men; between steady state anti-capitalists and “business for Scotland”. There are even within the Yes camp factions of the old left that have long been pushed out of modern politics. The chanted “Yes”, it turns out, is as much about silencing the dissent among the ranks of Yes followers as it is about silencing opponents.

How will so many disparate and vying factions manage to create a better, more “positive” Scotland? We could have had an answer to this if months back the Yes factions had actually made concrete plans for the future and recognised their divisions, but instead they chanted the mantra of fantasised unity: Yes Yes Yes. This is why the word plastered all over our country has come to mean absolutely nothing. It’s an illusion of positivity. A hope about hope. A pure advert, selling us something we don’t need, something that does not even exist – a post-political dream of a new nation untroubled by the conflicts of the past or grim realities of the world beyond. Say it enough times and you start to believe it. Yes Yes Yes. Say it and see it too many times, and it vanishes into meaninglessness.

Clive Crook, who thinks Scotland could come to regret independence, nevertheless favors it:

It comes down to this: Scots are bound more tightly to each other — by history, culture and ethnicity – than they are to the rest of the U.K. In this sense, Scotland is, and for centuries has been, another country. Its desire for full nationhood has waxed and waned, but it certainly isn’t new. The union is hundreds of years old, but the things that make Scotland different haven’t been smoothed away, which tells you something.

What has changed in recent decades is that the U.K. has become both less hospitable to the Scots and less necessary.

And Paul Wells’ hunch is that “an independent Scotland would, in 30 years, be doing fine and maybe better than fine”:

And that the United Kingdom, whose history is rich in upheaval, could handle this one with little difficulty. There would be transition costs, and they would be borne disproportionately by people whose means are so modest they have a hard time handling any new cost, but a lot of them will vote Yes tomorrow anyway. That’s only irrational if you assume voters are, or should be, profit maximizers before all else.

All of the Dish’s Scotland coverage here.

(Photo: Ballot boxes are carried to a waiting van as ballot boxes that will be used in the Scottish independence referendum are collected from New Parliament House for delivery to Edinburgh’s 145 polling stations on September 17, 2014 in Edinburgh, Scotland. By Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

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.)

Cameron Close To Tears – And Resignation?

An impassioned plea from the prime minister:

Has he been on the hustings in Scotland, taking his case to the people? Not exactly:

Sadly, only a small number of Scots got to hear his appeal [last week] directly. That’s because the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom wasn’t actually able to walk the streets of the United Kingdom to deliver his message. He had to stay safely within the confines of a small building for his own security. Yesterday, Ed Miliband, the man who would be the next prime minister of the United Kingdom, also tried to take his case for the Union out onto the streets. And he was chased from those same streets by an angry mob.

You can see the chaos when Miliband tried to walk the streets of Edinburgh here. And, yes, they yelled at him, calling him a “fucking liar” and “serial murderer” (!) to his face. Some of that is from the usual thuggish suspects – but the atmosphere in the campaign has gotten ugly in the past week or so. The one thing that my friends in Britain tell me about politics right now is that there’s enormous discontent with all the major party figures. They seem like a distant metropolitan clique, cushioned in super-safe districts – not real representatives of actual people. That’s why UKIP has had such success. Here’s a UKIP candidate explaining why he quit the Tories:

Lawmakers become lawmakers mostly by working in the offices of other lawmakers. It’s a club. Recent research found that over half of Labour candidates in seats where the party stood a good chance of winning in the next election had already worked in Westminster. Instead of using primaries to select candidates for parliamentary seats, party hierarchies parachute in those whom they favor. Politics has become an exclusive game played by insiders, little more than a competition between two cliques, at the top of the Labour and Conservative Parties, to decide who sits on the Downing Street sofa.

Sound familiar – as we contemplate a chance of another Bush-Clinton match-up? And as a deeply unpopular party nonetheless has a structural lock on the House? This is not just about independence for Scotland. It’s about democratic accountability. And Westminster has clearly failed to represent that for large swathes of Scots.

Daniel Berman dismisses the idea that, should Yes prevail, Cameron will lose his job because “he would be the Prime Minister who oversaw the end of the Union.” Cameron’s problems go much deeper than that:

Cameron’s greatest error was in his decision to pass the enabling legislation for the referendum. Much as he showed little to no interest in Scottish affairs in any other aspect of government, he outsourced the management of the referendum process to an interested party in the form of the Scottish government in exchange for cosmetic concessions regarding language. Predictably then, Salmond government proceeded to do everything in its power to rig the system in their favor, moving to disenfranchise nearly 800,000 Scots currently resident outside of Scotland, nearly 20% of the electorate in a nation of five million, nearly all of them likely NO voters. If YES were to win narrowly, or in in all honesty by anything less than 55-45 or so, it will be able to be ascribed to this decision. It is one thing to hold rallies in Trafalgar Square, as happened this Sunday, and at which the government was also MIA; it is entirely another to actually do something about this disenfranchisement which never could have taken place if the administration was conducted jointly with Westminster.

As a consequence there is a real case for treating the referendum as a test of Cameron’s leadership. Of course this would not matter if he were popular within his party, which he is not, or if the same complaints could not be applied across a range of issues, which they easily can. The main reason Cameron will be in trouble then is not solely to do with Scotland, but because in a context in which his entire modernization line has been fully discredited as a path forward for the Tories, the political circumstances will have changed.

A spell has been broken. No one knows what comes next.

The Perfect Political Storms In Britain

Scotland Seats

The Economist explains how the Scottish National Party (SNP) came to power in Scotland:

The disadvantage of first-past-the-post systems … is that by raising the threshold of parliamentary dominance, they contain the possibility of sudden, violent shifts in political power in the event of individual parties crossing that threshold. Despite its conservative electorate, SNP had espoused a centre-left creed since the 1970s. With Labour in government during the 2000s, it began to win over working-class voters, but had to compete for them with the Liberal Democrats. The 2011 Scottish election, however, was a perfect storm: blue-collar voters disillusioned with Labour, a Labour leadership complacent after decades of dominance in Scotland, the Liberal Democrats now in government and suddenly unpopular. The SNP obtained a good (37%) increase in vote-share but a spectacular increase (152%) in seat-share on the constituency list. It could form a majority government and set about making plans for the referendum.

And, if the referendum succeeds, it will throw off the normal balance of power in the rest of Britain. Many political analysts have predicted, given Scotland’s liberal bent, that the Tories will benefit (after Cameron is forced to quit, I suppose). Elaine Teng is skeptical:

Even if David Cameron managed to stay at the head of the Conservative Party, 2015 is surely Labour’s year, in part because Scottish voters will participate in that general election regardless of the result of the referendum. The actual separation of the Unionwere it to occurwould be scheduled for March 2016, so the Scottish MPs would be elected as usual in May, take their seats in Parliament, and then leave in the spring of 2016, when their positions are abolished. Scotland’s participation all but seals the deal for Labour.

But what about after Scotland officially leaves? The Tories still wouldn’t have a guaranteed majority. True, Labour would lose 41 seats that they have been all but guaranteed; the Tories would lose only one. But the Tories have an additional factor working against them: United Kingdom Independence Party (Ukip), the far-right, anti-European Union, anti-immigration party that has surged to prominence in the past few years is already beginning to split the Tory vote. A Guardian analysis of 2013 local elections showed that in many districts, Ukip took enough votes away from the Tories to ensure that other parties won. And that wasn’t an isolated incident:A YouGov study showed that the Tories are losing six times more voters to Ukip than Labour, who are also gaining seats from the struggling Lib-Dems.

This is true, as far as it goes. But an independent England, Wales and Northern Ireland will be far more favorable territory for the Tories in the long run. It would be like removing Texas from the electoral map – giving the Democrats a new, structural edge. But the forces that have led to a possible Scottish secession have also led to the same feeling in England. Why should the English not determine their own future as well – instead of being bossed around by Brussels? Its possible England, post-secession, could withdraw from the EU – especially with its bigger conservative share of the vote – while Scotland tries to negotiate a way to stay. As I said: fascinating.