(But a quick word to all the Scottish journalists who we know read this site – had a single one of you had the courtesy, wit or basic journalistic initiative to actually contact us and ask us for the tables directly, we’d gladly have given them to you 24 hours before your competitors. Just a wee tip there.)
We know our chums at “Better Together” have been looking forward to this one for days, so we won’t keep them waiting any longer.
When the poll was in the field and its questions became public-domain information, the No camp clumsily attempted to use the next two questions as mockery. But although we deliberately worded one of the options in a frivolously comic manner (at one point we toyed with the idea of using “Daleks”) for the purposes of heavy-handed satire, the actual subject matter could barely be any more deadly serious.
Because these two questions are aimed straight at the heart of whether Scotland spends the next half-century looking after its old and ill and vulnerable people, or suffering the unending agonies of austerity in order to pay for useless weapons of mass destruction so that politicians can enjoy hollow delusions of imperial power.
Q: Which of these do you think represents a significant threat to Scotland in your lifetime?
Tick as many as apply.
Being attacked by Russia: 3%
Being attacked by China: 4%
Being attacked by Iran: 5%
Being attacked by North Korea: 7%
Being attacked by terrorists: 34%
Being attacked by space monsters: 4%
Conservative governments elected by the rest of the UK: 52%
None of the above: 24%
So let’s just put those in order of what frightens Scots the most:
1. Conservative governments
3. North Korea
5. Space monsters
By an enormous margin, the greatest threat to the wellbeing of Scotland in the eyes of Scots is having more Tory governments it didn’t vote for imposed on it by the voters of England. (Remarkably, 9% of Tory voters agreed, perhaps because even Conservatives realise the dangers of unpopular policies being constantly imposed by governments which have been rejected by Scottish voters.)
The vast, worryingly under-supervised nuclear capability of the former Soviet Union and the huge military and economic might of China, on the other hand, are both less frightening to Scottish voters than SPACE MONSTERS.
We included space monsters as an option, of course, because advocates of the UK’s nuclear “deterrent” constantly justify it by saying “Oh, sure, so there might be no imaginable military threat to us at the moment, but you can’t say what the world situation might be 30 or 40 years from now”.
That’s fair enough, but by that token you have to include space monsters too, because nobody can say for sure that we WON’T be attacked by invaders from another galaxy by 2053. It’s an awfully long way off, and in 1973 we hadn’t even predicted the iPhone, for heaven’s sake. Can we REALLY say there definitely won’t be space monsters?
Alert readers will have noted that the only other perceived threat that even reached double figures was that of terrorist attack, which is not usually thought of as a menace deterred by nuclear weapons. (They certainly didn’t deter the 9/11 attacks or the London bombings, for example, both perpetrated on nuclear weapons states.) But it seemed only fair to ask anyway.
This time we’ll give the answers in order straight off:
Q: Which of these threats do you think the siting of nuclear weapons in HMNB Clyde (Faslane) provides Scotland with a practical defence against?
Tick as many as apply.
None of the above: 58%
Being attacked by North Korea: 18%
Being attacked by Iran: 17%
Being attacked by terrorists: 16%
Being attacked by Russia: 14%
Being attacked by China: 12%
Conservative governments elected by the rest of the UK: 8%
Being attacked by space monsters: 5%
The first thing to take away from that result, obviously, is that the people of Scotland would sooner use nuclear weapons on the Conservative Party than on invading space monsters. But the other striking conclusion is that a large majority of Scots think that nuclear weapons are no use for defending us against anything at all.
(Even 48% of Tory respondents ticked “None of the above”.)
At first it seems strange that people think they’re a more effective deterrent against North Korea and Iran than China or Russia. Do Scots really think North Korea or Iran are just itching to invade/bomb Scotland (why?) but are only dissuaded by our nukes?
But actually it’s a perfectly rational and sensible analysis. As we’ve explored on this site before, the truth of the matter is that the UK’s piddly nuclear armament is barely capable of making a fleabite on either of the vast Eastern powers. The single Trident submarine that’s on patrol at any given time could – unless destroyed by enemy action first, obviously – certainly kill millions of people, but Russia and China have both survived the loss of tens of millions of their own citizens at various points in history.
In so much as a nuclear war is conceivable at all (given the planet-wide environmental implications), the UK is simply not a strategic factor to either of the two giant nations. Iran or North Korea, on the other hand, could both be effectively wiped from the face of the Earth even by the UK acting alone. But even then, over 82% of Scots don’t think our possession of Trident is what’s stopping them from invading us.
(We expect it’s mostly the 14,000 treaties they’d have to renegotiate if they took over.)
None of this ought to be news. No less an authority than Tony Blair admitted in his autobiography that Trident was militarily useless and purely a prestige issue for UK governments. Former Tory defence secretaries have described it as “a tremendous waste of money”. Even the USA is urging Britain to forget about renewing it and spend the money on conventional forces instead.
Yet every UK party remains committed to spending over £100bn on a replacement Trident system, just in case those space monsters might really be lurking out there somewhere, waiting patiently for us to drop our guard. (And why not? It’s no stupider a notion than North Korea nuking Scotland.)
There is no democratic means within the UK to rid Scotland of an incredibly expensive white elephant that almost nobody wants, yet which necessitates brutal cuts in public services. The people and their governments seem to be on different planets. Readers might be forgiven for wondering who the war is really against.