Scottish Independence Vote Too Close to Call

ACORN International International

scottish_flag_and_union_jackNew Orleans       The latest poll on the coming vote on Scottish independence says that “yes” voters have narrowed the distance to only 2 points behind the “no” keep-the-union voters after trailing by 10 to 15 points for almost a year. Westminster has announced that they will unilaterally offer a substantial increase in financial autonomy to try to staunch the “yes” tide for independence. ACORN Scotland has taken no position, but members, leaders, and staff have been in deep discussions for months on these issues. This is going to be an election to watch very closely.

In a recent Fair Grinds Coffeehouse dialogue, we hosted Dave Beck and Rod Purcell, both of Glasgow University in Scotland as they discussed community organizing and community development around the world. Inevitably one of the topics of interest was their sense of the looming vote, and since Beck was a native Scot and Purcell an English native, we got a very polite explication of the issues.

Purcell was doubtful of passage, largely because there were so many unknowns. The long list he detailed included everything from the question of banking and currency to access to the BBC radio and TV programs and a score of other critical matters of defense, transportation, social support, and infrastructure. Beck was also doubtful of passage, but took a longer view that essentially believed that were voters to say, “yes,” there were almost two years allowed for reconciliation and negotiation on all of these matters, and he believed accommodations would be made. Given the strength of the independence party in Scottish parliament, he also believed that more autonomy, if not independence, was inevitable.

Listening to the arguments, reminded me of hundreds of union elections where the heart of every company campaign is not that things don’t suck, but the effort to create a climate of uncertainty and fear to convince the workers to vote “for the devil they know, rather than the devil they don’t.” At the same time claiming that “we hear you now, and we’ll do better” is also the familiar company promise piled on top of the uncertainty. By campaigning on the unresolved questions by United Kingdom supporters from Prime Minister David Cameron on down, and offering independence-lite, the pro-union voters seem to have totally embraced this kind of strategy.

The New York Times’ Paul Krugman weighed in against independence, claiming that Scotland was less likely to be a “new” Canada than “Spain without the sunshine.” All of the major UK parties are strong “no” advocates. The labor movement in the UK is also solidly against. Companies are sending all “no” messages. The Queen is reportedly worried about what will happen to the Church. The lineup of forces for a “no” vote are huge, but I have to wonder if that won’t rile many Scots into voting “yes” as a protest against fear and bullying.

I would hate to bet on the outcome, but one thing is clear: Scotland will be more independent and autonomous when this vote is over, win, lose, or draw. The other thing is clear is that this issue will not go away, and when any campaign is that persistent, victory over time is almost inevitable.