Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Scottish Independence Vote!

By Stephen Wilson

(Moscow, Russia) - 
              'Don't leave us. We love you' plead an almost desperate British Prime Minister after arriving in Edinburgh in an attempt to woo Scottish voters who appear to have become more inclined to vote for Independence on September 18th. According to some reports, the publication of a 'You government internet poll', for the first time, revealed that as many as 51% of Scottish voters would vote for independence from England in the coming Referendum. The revelations of  the poll sent those in Westminister into a state of 'panic'. The Queen was reported to be very worried. 

              Meanwhile, in Moscow, many Russian journalists appear to have been jubilant and       pleased with the news. Maybe it will humble the British interference in Ukraine! If the Scots do in deed vote for independence, it would mean David Cameron would lose his job and a constitutional crisis might arise.

              An earthquake would erupt, not only humiliating Britain but psychologically, profoundly and utterly shattering it.

              Why all the fuss you might think? Can any credence really be granted to what might be a freak opinion poll? Judging by the mood of some, opinion polls can be taken seriously.

              While all the previous pollsters have never put the 'Yes' vote above 38% (except one by the Panel Base ICM which found 48%) the You government found 51% said 'Yes'.

              One analyse of the polls would suggest as many as one third of Scots are 'undecided' though others consider the figure to be only one out of seven.The Scottish nationalists appear to be elated, euphoric and excited about the findings.

              Professor John Curtis, a lecturer in political science at Strathclyde University is not so complacent. He tends to be more cautious and guarded about jumping to rash conclusions. He is my former teacher of statistics and research methods and has been observing the polls for maybe more than 30 years. He stated, 'Opinion polls have a profound influence on the atmosphere of a campaign. If they suggest one side is well ahead, the media loses interest. The politicians get less space and perhaps air-time while some voters decide that the result is a foregone conclusion and might as well stay at home.

              If on the other hand the polls suggest the result will be a close one, the media gets excited. The campaign gets more coverage and voters are persuaded it might be worth turning up to vote  after all'.

              Yet people have short memories. An opinion poll which suggested that over 50% of Scots wanted full independence before the General election in 1992 was discredited by
the fact the Nationalists obtained abysmal results.

              Mairi Koroleva, an academic who is a specialist in Scottish culture stated, 'The You government poll might just indicate two things; that most people who use the internet and are young tend to vote for Independence'. After all, the survey was conducted via the Internet. So since the sample of the population may or may not have been fully representative of the Scots (it is too small a sample and its methodology of relying on the internet does less justice to the older Scots who don't use the internet and tend to be in the 'No' camp we can't be complacent.) In other words, it is too premature for the nationalists to open the champagne bottles!


              What the polls do seem to more accurately reflect are how deeply divided the Scots are on many issues. Scotland is plagued by deep divisions between the rich and poor, north and south, those with socialist leanings and those with liberal. For instance, my own family is divided over whether to vote for independence. My mother claims 'It will lead to bad relations between England and Scotland and a lot of trouble for us. What currency would we use?'

              While two of my brothers ae going to vote 'Yes', my younger one is so unsure he is wavering between voting 'yes' and 'no'.

              The recent 'you poll' has injected some excitement into what has been a rather dull, dreary and predictable affair. One Scot complained in a recent television debate 'Is that all Scots care about, their financial affairs?' For the debate often resembled an argument between two accountants trying to show how they could better balance the books. In other words would we be better or worse off by 500 pounds each after independence?

              Why is the 'yes' vote more popular than anticipated ? There are a number of reasons. The 'Yes' vote has campaigned very professionally and convincingly. It is difficult to see how they could have conducted the campaign any better. The rising support also indicates how many Scots feel alienated by a government who never listens to them and always attempts to privatise just about anything. The Scots don't want to endorse an  unbridled free market nor do they want to pay for their health and education. In fact, they
envy Norway and Denmark's generous welfare state and ask 'Why can't  we emulate it?' Other Scots resent the fact they are asked to support unpopular oversea wars and want to pull out of NATO .' Look how NATO has ruined Ukraine and Iraq? Why do we have to be part of it?' This disaffection and antipathy to Britain's pro-American and NATO policies is not understood or respected by officials in London.

              Many Russians welcome the break-up of Britain. They offer all kinds of reasons. For example, one student, tired of hearing self-righteous sermons from David Cameron over Ukraine, stated, 'It would teach Britain a lesson'. Other reasons given are much more pragmatic.' It would be easier for Russians to get a visa and visit Scotland. The Scots are less hostile to Russians than the English'. I'm not sure that claim can be sustained. It may turn out to be wishful thinking than anything else.

              So it appears that Ukraine is not the only state which has deep national problems. Although the United Kingdom might or might not fall apart on Sept. 18, the           British government still has to make more of an effort to listen not only to disagreeable voices from Russia but also north of the border. Even the United Kingdom can't be fully taken for granted.

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