As the polls tighten it’s been a week of charm and threats in the Scottish Referendum campaign writes Steve Beauchampé.
“Darling, I know can be dominating, but I promise to give you more space and be less possessive, I can change, we can make things work, we’re a team, better together. Please, please, please just don’t leave me!”
“But woe betide you if you do leave…I’ll ruin you financially, you’ll never work again, I’ll take all of your friends, I’ll make your life hell, I’ll see you in court – and remember I can afford a better lawyer than you!”
The British Establishment can be a thoroughly unpleasant bunch when cornered. Right now they feel cornered, horrified, terrified, panicking that the sureties of power and control that they have held for several centuries, and which they complacently expected to hold on to after the referendum on Scottish independence, might be less certain than they believed.
So on one hand, and with all the sincerity of Jimmy Savile in a children’s hospital ward, they turn on the charm. Firstly, the three main English political parties belatedly confirm offers to devolve a limited package of powers to Scotland (even though many Scots have already passed judgment on independence via postal voting). Prime Minister David Cameron demonstrates his love of Scotland by flying the Scottish Saltire above Downing Street (and urging everyone else to fly it too). Meanwhile the mainstream parties bring out every political big hitter they can muster (other than toxic Tony) to plead for national unity. Move over Darling indeed!
Yet at the same time most other arms of government, supported by their pro-Unionist cheerleaders in the media, financial sector and business world rapidly up the ante by threatening the Scots with all manner of grief if they dare to break with Britain; a run on Scottish banks, a financial crisis lasting years, exclusion from NATO, the EU, the Olympics, the introduction of border posts, immediate withdrawal of some parliamentary representation.
Then there’s the ratcheting up of emotional pressure and use of the ‘Blame Scotland’ card, with claims that a Yes vote would downgrade Britain’s status, power and prestige on the world stage, threaten our permanent seat on the UN Security Council, provide a boost to our competitors and – almost treasonably – piss the Queen off something rotten.
Destroying the Union, alarming and upsetting the Queen, it’s a campaign of intimidation and shaming that may yet work. Or perhaps it will result in enough Scots thinking, like many who instigate divorce, that they’ve had enough and while sure, things may get tough for a few years, this is a price worth paying for the freedom to determine their own future, make their own mistakes and prove to their ex, and anyone else who doubted them, that they can and will survive.
We’ll soon know, but whilst the three mainstream party leaders head north today to love bomb Scotland, SNP Leader Alex Salmond and his colleagues increasingly play the anti-politics, anti-Westminster elite card so successfully deployed in recent times by UKIP
Whatever the referendum result it seems that significant change to the United Kingdom’s acutely centralised, London-dominated political, economic and cultural structures could follow. I hope so because the British Establishment has had this coming. Keeping everything of national importance in London, siphoning off billions for South East public infrastructure projects, the arts and sport whilst starving other regions of investment by comparison, has helped foster resentment and turned the capital into something increasingly akin to a city-state.
Even the use of terminology such as ‘the regions and ‘the provinces’ insults and patronises us, creating a divisive and superior mentality. Whichever way Scotland votes on September 18th both Wales and Northern Ireland will seek further devolution, whilst calls for an English parliament will increase. In all of the hoopla caused by the sudden realisation that Scotland and England really might be on the cusp of a divorce, and whilst acknowledging that Whitehall would cede its powers only reluctantly, perhaps the more federal governance structure that Britain so urgently needs may soon be several steps closer.
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