Scotland the Feart

The referendum has come to an end, bringing with it a victory for the No campaign. Those who fought hard for independence have been sent homewards to sulk again. In the wake of the result we are left with many questions, wondering why a No vote was triumphant.

The infamous “I’m feart!” cartoon published in The Herald newspaper after the referendum in 1979


A word that has been used regularly though this campaign is ‘fear’. Using worry and concern was fundamental to pro-Union camps that relied on a desire of voters to avoid risk. Could what Salmond labeled as ‘scaremongering’ be the driving force behind a lack of result for Yes? To answer this, it is worth first asking what there was to be afraid of.

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The threat of losing the pound was played throughout the debate.

The most obvious cause for concern amongst many voters was the drawn out issue of currency. Salmond brought forward the intention to form a currency union with the rest of the UK after separation. Darling and others seized upon this, leaving the First Minister seemingly reckless in his intentions. Although the issue was addressed more confidently in the second debate between Salmond and Darling, the rhetoric of the first debate likely lingered, putting voters off supporting Salmond’s vision.

Standard Life said they'd move to England, despite having made the same threat if Scotland voted for devolution in 1997.

Standard Life said they’d move to England, despite having made the same threat if Scotland voted for devolution in 1997.

Another concern for the electorate came from independent institutions. Pro-Union groups revelled in declarations from respected businesses that stated they were opting to move away from Scotland should Yes win. Businesses like Standard Life were quick to suggest such intentions earlier in the year; others, such as RBS, were more vocal in the last few weeks leading up to the vote. (Note the link between the fear of currency issues and the threat of financial institutions leaving.) Such foundational institutions disappearing would have been reminiscent of the losing of services during the recent recession. It is likely there was a worry amongst voters that Scotland could not have filled the space left by the institutions after gaining independence.

Trident, the UK's nuclear deterrent is based in central Scotland.

Trident, the UK’s nuclear deterrent is based in central Scotland.

Scotland’s potential membership with foreign groups may have had an affect on some voters. NATO was dismissed by critics who noted the conflicting stances on nuclear weapons, contradicting Salmond’s anti-Trident argument. The EU was another issue, fought from many fronts. Most notable is the Spanish Prime Minister’s emphasis on the power of a veto that EU countries could exercise in the event of a new state joining. Likely demonstrating political muscle in front of hopeful Catalonia, keen to declare their own independence, the statement was a focal point of the debate. EU membership thus appeared an uncertainty.

It was also argued that the Scottish Government could trade off their fishing territories for a favourable acceptance into the EU. The fear of a loss of a major industry may have alienated voters – especially those on the North Eastern coast that rely so heavily on fishing income.

Perhaps the Yes campaign was just louder.

Perhaps the Yes campaign was just louder.

Also worth considering is that the No victory may have always been a guarantee. Perhaps the vocal Yes support was enough to intimidate the No support into not expressing themselves as openly. Mentioned over the last year was the passion displayed by Yes voters. Some gained a negative reputation, on and off-line. It may be suggested that a fear of open expression meant that the No support could never really be publicly judged in the way the Yes support could. It seemed to many of us that Yes would win, judging by the Obama-esque display of Yes support in windows and on the streets. Perhaps the No support kept quiet out of a fear of being targeted by the passionate Yes.

That is not to say, of course, that had they expressed themselves they would have been targeted: rather the concern that it could have been a possibility may always have been present in their minds. One only has to consult historical elections throughout world history to verify such a concern. Maybe the No victory was always there, keeping themselves to themselves.

Though scare tactics played a major role throughout the campaign, it cannot be said to be the only factor driving a No victory. Traditional links with the rest of the UK will have been important to many. British heritage and family ties are also set deep in minds. Also is party allegiances that conflicted with the prospect of independence.

In this post-referendum period, we are likely to be drowned in statistics and analysis. Much will be said about the pros and cons of conduct on both sides. Regardless of whether it was the leading factor in No’s success, scaremongering was present in this campaign, bringing a negative edge to a positive political exercise. One can only hope that it was not the only aspect that ended the dream of the Yes campaign.

  • Jonny Alpha

    Pro-Union won.

    Whatever the reasons, Pro-Union won. That means that the majority in Scotland are Pro-Union. So that means that Pro-Union won.

    • Thank you for your assistance in pointing this out. If it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t have understood that 55% voted No. We will be sure to put out an urgent bulletin and never encourage discussion about the subject ever again.