Scotland: the post-referendum phase

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 24.09.14

When the context was the referendum in Scotland that took place on September 18, the
word “change” was a misnomer; the exact word was “independence”, especially as related
to the referendum’s wording of the question: “Should Scotland be an independent
country?” No doubt, independence is a way to bring about change, but change is not
confined to independence only; it can be brought about without seeking independence.
Hence, the point was not change.

The strategy of seeking independence in the name of change speaks volumes about the
kind of politics played in Scotland. The referendum was a case study for understanding how
people could be incited by sheer nationalism to meet political objectives. Of the 10 reasons
given for an independent Scotland, supported by the Scottish National Party (SNP), nine
appealed to either ethos or pathos. Only one appealed to logic, which was that after
seeking independence, the main source of income for Scotland would be the money earned
from oil extraction (and sale) in the North Sea. Currently, the money goes to London.

The SNP was founded in 1934 and, in 1999, the Scottish parliament was formed. In the
2003 elections to the Scottish parliament, the SNP gathered 24 percent of Scottish votes,
won 25 seats and became the second largest party in parliament. However, in its electoral
manifesto in 2007, the SNP made a commitment to the Scots to hold a referendum in 2010
for independence. Consequently, the SNP was able to gather 33 percent Scottish votes,
won 47 seats and became the largest party but remained short of a simple majority in the
Scottish parliament under the leadership of Alex Salmond. The referendum was delayed. In
the elections of 2011, the SNP gathered about 45 percent of Scottish votes, 69 out of 129
seats and gained a simple majority in the Scottish parliament. Consequently, the
referendum was held.

It is understandable that Salmond, leading the SNP, made hectic efforts to increase the
representation of the party in the Scottish parliament and to prepare Scots for the
referendum. However, it is not understandable how Salmond or his party thought of
breaking the equation of interdependence with England to create the independence of
Scotland, as interdependence once established leaves little room for independence. In the
case of Middle Eastern countries possessing oil wealth, other avenues to produce wealth
have not been exhausted. Unfortunately, in the case of Scotland, most if not all other
avenues to produce wealth have been exhausted. For instance, there is no more ship
building or coal exploration there. Scotland has been deindustrialised. The Scots were
made to believe that the Centre exploited all the resources of Scotland to its advantage and
now only oil resources are left. Hence, it was time to take control of the oil resources and
live an independent life, at least according to the SNP. It was as if Scotland was always the
giving hand. Nevertheless, the interesting point I allude to is that if the oil wealth of Scotland
were taken out of the equation, there would have been no referendum.

The dangerous aspect of the referendum was that the SNP was able to mobilise the opinion
of about 45 percent of Scots in favour of voting for independence, though it failed to secure
independence. This was again despite the fact that Scotland lacks skilled labour and
literate Scots. The referendum laid bare an interesting divide in society. The general trends
were that, in the context of the socio-economic domain, the upper and the upper-middle
classes mostly favoured staying with the UK whereas the majority of the lower-middle and
the lower classes voted for independence. Secondly, in the context of age, mostly middle-
aged and old voters favoured staying with the UK whereas the youth mostly opted for
independence. Hence, there were two main groups seeking independence: people from the
lower-middle (working) and lower (labour) classes and the youth. What was common
between them was the lack of foresight and maturity to understand things in a broader
perspective. Another thing common in them was that they were vulnerable to exploitation
through sloganeering. This is what happened.

A dilemma here is that the working class is still not fully literate and the new generation
refuses to even attend schools to become literate at all. The SNP has tried its best to make
them learn about information technology and send their children to schools. The central
government has also subsidised higher education in universities for Scotland, despite the
fact that English students enjoy this privilege in neither the UK nor Scotland. Another
dilemma is that the labour class is not skilled to do tasks other than those that they are
used to doing. No doubt, the SNP exploited the consequent frustration of the working class
to its advantage but the same put the central government in trouble because it pledged to
devolve more financial powers to Scotland. Under the heat of ‘independence’, the central
government also overlooked the fact that the Scots now generally like to be more brawny
than brainy. For such a trend, no job sector is available to cater to their needs. Over the
years, the SNP has promised Scots that they will be able to sustain their living through
selling oil in an independent Scotland. This is where the catch lies and this is where the
foundation for the next referendum exists.

When this writer wrote the column ‘Pakistani students and Glasgow — a case study in
racism’ (Daily Times, July 3, 2013), not many people believed it. Now the result of this
referendum indicates that out of 32 constituencies, Glasgow was one of the four
constituencies that voted yes for independence. The reason for the hate crime is obvious.

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