More noise than signal


I start writing this one week out from Scotland’s independence referendum, where as you may have heard Scotland narrowly decided to remain in its dysfunctional co-dependant relationship with the rest of the only-accurate-by-five-percent “United Kingdom”. As you can probably gather from the outpouring of bitterness, I was on the 45% side of that decision, and the scant consolation of the next few years of “telt ye so” helps very little with the inescapable feeling that we’ve voted to go down with the ship.

No matter what poll you look at, the takeaway was that the fears of the old outweighed the hopes of the young, as the cynical juggernaut of Project Fear and its wildly inaccurate claims were allowed to go unchallenged by a lop-sided, “No” dominated media. It’s difficult to see the repeated refrain of “don’t risk your pensions” as anything other than an attempt to intimidate the elderly, and it’s especially disappointing that no outlet challenged the basis for this – given that by the Department for Work and Pensions’ own admission, they’d be obligated to pay out pensions exactly as they would have done. It has, after all, already been paid for by a lifetime of work. I’m sure there’s an articulate case for remaining tethered to Westminster’s system, but the most repeated ones were all nonsense.

Anyway, if the “Yes” camp’s reaction has been a sense of sadness and disappointment, you’d expect the “No” supporters to be jubilant. I suppose they were, in their way, as the scum of the earth descended on George Square, starting running battles around Glasgow and, with a keen sense of situational irony, giving Nazi salutes from in front of a war memorial. Classy stuff, and all from behind a “No Thanks” banner.

We shouldn’t tar everyone with the same shitty brush, of course. There are some “No” supporters that aren’t the biggest fuck-knuckles to walk this Earth’s face, but you can’t dodge the fact that they’re on your team. UKIP are on your team. The BNP are on your team. The National Front are on your team. The Orange Order are on your team. Very marginally less disgustingly, the Tories and the Lib Dems are on your team. All of the daily mass media are on your team. The bankers are on your team. The Chinese government are on your team. Does that sound like a team you want to be part of? Does that sound like a team that’s got the same interests and aspirations as you do? Does that sound like a group of people, to use the term loosely, that has your best interests at heart? Hey, I’m as libertarian as the next guy. You can hop into bed with whomever you feel like, but you’re the person that has to look at themselves in the mirror the morning after.

An altogether more boring but no less disturbing reaction occurred in the politisphere, as the much lauded “vow” to deliver more powers to Scotland immediately started to fly apart, with the various parties fracturing off over the scope of what’s to be done. It’s almost as if, rather than being a comprehensive, detailed plan of action, this was merely a last ditch attempt at placation from an opposition backbench MP who’s so disinterested in government that he’s appeared at a mere 13% of House votes. It’s perhaps too early to say that the vow that, we have to assume, steadied some wavering voters is going to tear itself apart in subcommittees and then get voted down by angry Tory backbenchers, but I’m not going to be in the least bit surprised at dropping another “telt ye” bomb.

Meanwhile, it looks very much like we’re about to start dropping actual bombs as we start Yet Another Iraq War, but this time also with bits of Syria, which means we can soon add Bashar al-Assad to the list of people on our team. Yay, us. So glad we’re still punching above our weight on the international stage, killing off more people with armaments that cost enough to keep one of our burgeoning number of food banks running for a year. This is the direction that 55% of Scotland voted for. It’s a minor tragedy for us, and a soon to be pretty major one for those soon to be declared “militants”.

The final battlefront is, of course, by far the least important, as the cauldron of Twitter stirs up the usual amount of shite. Twitter has long been the single best place for the poorly informed to sling reckon-bytes at each other in 140 characters, guaranteeing the maximal amount of misunderstanding and upset on all sides of the argument. This is why every topic on Twitter, regardless of importance, devolves into Youtube comments.

The latest attempt at hashtag clicktivism, or whatever buzz-worthy slogan is being used today to describe digital time-wasting, is a One Scotland campaign, where a generous interpretation would be an attempt to move forward with the issues facing Scotland. A rather more grounded interpretation would be that they’d rather we weren’t talking about referendums at all.

This will, of course, fail miserably. Independence has been on the Scottish political agenda since 1707, and it’s not likely to be removed soon. This is many people’s lifetime political goal. Not the same person since 1707, of course, but suggesting that we ignore what’s just happened is madness.

It’s also a highly undemocratic way to attempt to stifle political opinions, and the rationale for it is transparently false. People can work together without having to homogenise opinion, and there’s simply no need to do so. After all, despite the political landscape being dominated by the referendum for the past few years, Scotland appears to have avoided burning down, almost as if Holyrood can chew on more than one policy at a time. Who’d have thunk it, etc.

We need to talk about this result, probably for years. It’s huge. And hugely divisive, by it’s very nature. The fourth biggest city in the U.K. doesn’t want to be in U.K. That’s a thing we’ve found out. We have to think about what that means for everyone, and it’s much too complex a topic to move on from, or indeed capture your thoughts on in a snarky tweet.

Frankly, I’m not even going to touch on the other side of the this pulling together business, which would mean working with people who’ve been demonising us for past two years, with such constructive arguments as you’re liars, you’re cybernats, you’re bullies, you smell of wee, and such like. To an extent that’s just the internet talking, dragging everyone down into the filth, but it’s not the sort of behaviour that makes reconciliation a particularly attractive option.

The biggest loser in all of this is difficult to predict – there’s a great many people who will be losing. There’s a solid argument that it’s Scottish Labour, though. It’s widely acknowledged that they’ve led a hopeless campaign, continuing under the hopeless leadership of Johann Lamont. Clearly, they’re now refusing to learn from their supposed-to-be-unachievable crushing at the last Holyrood election and are locked into their blinkered path of focusing squarely on bashing the SNP. They have been rewarded for this laser-like focus by losing traditional support base in areas such as Glasgow, and by vastly increasing the SNP’s membership.

This is just another step in the continual lurch to the right that’s removed the Labour party from anything that would be remotely familiar to its founders, a party of austerity and cutting child benefit. Their continued tone deaf approach to their support will, I predict, leave them facing real problems at next year’s election. They have already alienated enough of their support that the phrase “anyone but Labour” is starting to be heard. That’s the real reason for the One Scotland campaign, to attempt to ameliorate the coming maelstrom. There’s quite a lot of people who aren’t likely to allow that to happen.

It’s crazy what you could’ve had.

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