Barely a week – indeed, barely a day – has gone by over the last year or so without some angry, confused and hurt-sounding Unionist pundit or politician churning out yet another article on the theme of “WHY AREN’T YOU GRATEFUL THAT WE SAVED YOU FROM INDEPENDENCE, YOU APPALLING PLEBS?”
As far as the No side are concerned, the oil-price slump is a slam-dunk game-ender which finally conclusively proves that Scotland is too wee and too poor to run its own affairs, and their uncomprehending bewilderment as support for a Yes vote not only fails to disintegrate but keeps increasing even as the oil price sinks lower and lower has been quite a phenomenon to behold.
So we were interested to see today’s Sunday Times report a YouGov poll done for the comedy grumpy-old-white-guys support group (and spectacularly unsuccessful tactical voting enthusiasts) Scotland In Union, and somewhat miss the point of the results.
The first finding there is a revealing one, because it illustrates the often-forgotten fact that normal people spend a great deal less of their time thinking about politics than commentators do. But it’s the second one we were struck by.
Because if we were writing that article, we’d have replaced the word “nearly” with the word “less than”. The fact that fewer than half of Scots believe independence would leave Scotland worse off – 17 months after a referendum in which 55% of them voted No and more than a year into a massive oil crash – is a remarkable statistic.
The barrage of media coverage of the oil “crisis” has been utterly relentless, with no presentation of the positive side whatsoever. But despite what the press thinks, the general public aren’t morons. You can’t tell them they’re better off when they’ve got less money in their pockets, and vice versa.
You can trumpet all the growth figures you like, but if all the proceeds of that growth are going into the hands of a tiny minority while most people’s wages go backwards, those people will notice and they won’t be happy about it.
But it’s not even that. We can’t speak for the whole independence movement, but as far as this site is concerned the primary reason for independence is democratic. Scotland should get the governments it votes for, and if Labour lose the 2020 election – as everyone expects it to – then since 1979 Scotland will have had to endure Tory governments it rejected at the ballot box for a shocking 72% of the time.
That matters not just in principle but because Scotland has different problems and needs to other parts of the UK. It’s not a matter of independence itself making the country richer or poorer by itself, because it won’t. But it ensures Scotland can elect a government which will shape all its policies for the benefit of Scotland, rather than suffering (along with other areas) as the needs of London take priority above all else.
That’s the point that’s endlessly missed by idiots who obsess over GERS figures and fantasy oil revenues as if an independent Scotland would do everything the same as the UK does now. It’s a point that pundits can’t seem to get a handle on no matter how often they’re told. It’s a point that’s never aired on TV. But as the polls keep on showing, it doesn’t escape the Scottish public.
The price of oil could fall to $1 a barrel and it wouldn’t change a thing, but that doesn’t mean Yes/SNP voters are brainwashed cultists or fools. It means that they know you can prove whatever you want with figures, and that at the end of the day the only way you’ll get the best outcome for yourself, your family and your country is if you run things for yourself rather than hoping to scavenge someone else’s crumbs.
It seems safe to say that if the Unionists haven’t managed to understand that by now, they’re never going to. And it’s the reason that one day, not too far from now, they’ll lose, and their bewildered, hurt and angry expressions will stay that way forever.